A Sad Person's Guide to the Holidays

It’s December- which means holiday cheer is in full swing! Music and parties and lights and laughter. The time of year happy people seem to kick up their happiness a notch or two (or ten!). It’s easy to talk about this side of the holidays- the joy and cheer and the happy people. Because who doesn’t want to talk about the good stuff. But there is another side to the holidays that also deserves some attention… the sad person’s side. The version of the holidays of those who are grieving a loss. Maybe it’s a loss of a loved one, or a job, or a relationship. The opportunities for grief are endless. Sad people and the holidays are completely awkward together. I say that as a former sad person myself. The grief and sadness are both magnified and hushed. Being surrounded by the exaggerated happiness of the holidays is a perfect reminder of exactly what is missing in a sad person’s life. 

If you are not a sad person this year, I hope these words inspire you to find empathy for the sad people in your life. They are not relatives of The Grinch. They do not want to steal Christmas. They are just very very sad. They are hurting. Be kind and gentle with them. Love them despite their sadness.

If you are a sad person this year, my heart is with you. This is for you. You matter. Your experience matters. And you deserve a little encouragement and hope about the people, dreams and memories you are grieving, while the happy people go on celebrating. You can and will get through the next few weeks. 

1.    Remember it’s okay to feel sad (or whatever you feel). Don’t try to avoid it. Don’t try to get over it quickly. Just notice your feelings without judgement. Be kind to your emotions while they are visiting and allow them to leave when they are ready.

2.    Spend time with people (you actually want to spend time with). Being around certain family members or friends (or sometimes happy people in general) can be hard during the holidays. They forget that you are grieving or make genuine (but failed) attempts at making you cheerful, and it can be exhausting. Make efforts to spend time with people you can lean on. Maybe it’s a former roommate or a cousin. Maybe it’s another sad person who understands your need to take a break from the suffocating happiness of the happy people in your life. Whoever it is, lean on them. Let them love and support you.

3.    Show some compassion (to yourself). Sad people can be really skilled at self judgement, which can be magnified when it feels like the red and green universe is conspiring against you. If you catch yourself evaluating the legitimacy or length or depth of your grief, give yourself a gentle reminder that grief is messy. It isn’t supposed to be quick or easy. And there is no right way to do it. Practice treating yourself, talking to yourself and caring for yourself the same way you would a loved one. Would you ever tell your best friend who heartbroken that he/she “shouldn’t be so sad?” Then, why on earth would you say this to yourself?!

4.    Log off of Facebook (and every other social media account). The internet is flooded with selfies and pictures of the seemingly perfect christmas tree and perfect family holiday card and perfect life. These images do not resemble anything close to reality and can feel very isolating and defeating for sad people. Don’t torture yourself. Not even happy people’s life are as perfect as their Instagram page says they are. Find other sources of entertainment such as a good book, an inspirational podcast or a Netflix comedy.  

5.    Do something active. I know. I know!! For a sad person, physical activity sounds about as enticing as eating stale bread. But there is SOO much power, and relief and a whole bunch of other physical and mental health benefits of just moving your body. Go for a walk; get some yard work done; clean the house; dance around to your favorite jams; do some yoga. Do whatever activity you can motivate yourself to do that involves moving around. 

6.    You are allowed to do strange things. You want to wrap all of your presents in zebra wrapping paper because it reminds you of your late wife. Wrap all of your presents in zebra wrapping paper. Be who you are- sad and heartbroken and everything else. Do what feels right and healing for you.   

7.    Don’t apologize. Your loss, whatever it is, it worthy of grief.

8.    Remember it doesn’t last forever. The holidays and the heartache. Neither one lasts forever. The holidays are only for a few weeks, they will be here and gone. The same is true for that feeling you have right now. There is light at the end of the tunnel. 

9.    You are not alone. You are not alone! You are not alone! You are not alone! You need other people around you as much as your need air to breathe. It’s important to talk about your feelings and experiences. You need to listen to other sad people share their grief. Seek out love and support. Join a grief group. See a therapist. Give yourself the gift of healing this holiday season. 

Debi Mattocks