The holiday season is nearly upon us. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years’ Day … and a plethora of emotional rollercoasters. While many celebrate family, Christ’s birth, giving and receiving gifts, parties, and all the trimmings, others are approaching this season with anxiety, heartache, struggling with loss, and wishing the holidays would just get over with.
Celebrations are beautiful times—and needed—for society. Especially given the past couple of years, having navigated some of the most stressful and difficult seasons of modern history, experiencing unprecedented loss and suffering known to this generation, society has a need for something to celebrate. But among those who are ready for a grand event, there are hurting and devastated individuals and families who are struggling to make sense of it all.
Detecting physical ailments is easier than mental or emotional un-health. Until recent years, mental health has been a topic kept behind closed doors and discussed in whispers. However mental and emotional health are vital components to overall physical wellbeing and need to be nurtured, discussed, and brought into the light.
According to Healthline (2017), grief over loss can be magnified over the holidays, causing anxiety. The article reports that one common attribute of one suffering depression during the holidays is social isolation (Kerr, 2017).
Individuals will either excuse themselves from social gatherings, find reasons to not attend, or they will show up and paint on their best face to keep others from seeing their inner pain. While everyone is celebrating, they may be working through their grief or sorrow. Isolation would feel better for many of these individuals. Or so they may think.
According to Timothy Legg (Healthline, 2017), it is okay to excuse oneself from social events. The important note to remember is not to pretend everything is okay. Honestly and openly let those around know, “I’m not up for this right now.”
Josh Wilson sings a beautiful song called “OK” letting us know “It’s okay not to be okay … bring your broken heart … let the tears fall out, and know that Jesus loves you just the same …” The truth is, there is only One person who can handle our pain and our grief. It is never a bad idea to let others know we are broken and in need of help, especially to get through painful days such as loss and depression.
For some, volunteering for homeless shelters, soup kitchens, churches, or some organization that focuses on helping others in need may help to get through the rough days and cheery music on auto replay through the grocery store. If nursing homes would permit, perhaps adopt a resident who receives few visitors or perhaps has no family and spend time with them. Mental Health America encourages people to reach out to others, saying “it’s clearly good for her. But did you know that it’s likely good for you too” (2021).
For those who celebrate, remember there is nothing wrong with being joyful. It is encouraged. Laughter does good like a medicine (Proverbs 17: 22). Let us be aware and watchful for those hurting and seek ways to bring comfort to them and fulfill the words of Paul when he said, “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1: 4).
BIO: Karlene Jacobsen is a registered nurse who has been immersed in family, planning care for aging parents, helping adult children navigate entry into adulthood, as well as spending time in and out of the hospital setting. She has walked beside stressed individuals and celebrated with those experiencing breakthroughs. Through it all, she has found a familiar theme: a universal desire to know we are not alone, that someone understands, and that there’s help and hope. I find pleasure in sharing hope through her writings and being an instrument of peace in someone’s life.
Kerr, M. (2017, February 8). Holiday depression. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays#Grieving-During-the-Holidays
Mental Health America (2021). Help others: How helping others helps you. https://www.mhanational.org/help-others