Dealing With Christmas Blues


It is that time again; the winter solstice is around the corner. The word “solstice” is derived from the Latin for “sun standing still.” This solstice, a pagan precursor to Christmas and other seasonal holy days, denotes the return of the light and a decline in the darkness.

And for most of us, that return of the light in all of its figurative and literal glory is a very good thing. We human beings thrive on light; we find an imbalance of darkness overwhelming and depressing. We revel in the flicker of candles, the twinkling of lights and the lightness of our spirits as we deck our halls, trim our trees, plan surprises for the children and find thoughtful ways to gift a loved one. We beam; we sparkle. The light begets light; the light begets love.

Isn’t it all grand? Isn’t this the most wonderful time of year?

Actually, no. Not for everyone.

For some, the holidays are nothing more than bah humbug. They relish the role of Scrooge. They find the nonstop loop of Christmas carols anything but jolly; they are ready to strangle the next person who sings “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

They find themselves wanting to knife the blow-up, illuminated Santa bobbling away on their neighbor’s lawn and watch it deflate into a puddle of plastic. They grit their teeth and clench their fists with forced merriment at holiday gatherings oozing with eggnog and dream of lobbing bourbon balls at their host’s head.

The stretch of Christmas and New Year’s is an endurance test of their mental health. It’s too much family, too much togetherness and way too much dysfunction. They have shut down all tidings of comfort and joy in an effort to emotionally survive. As the countdown towards New Years continues, they have, more than likely, felt their grumpiness quotient ratchet up to new highs.

Then, there are those whose light has been dimmed by circumstance or fate. These holidays of tinsel and candy-caned merriment are anything but for them; these holidays serve as poignant reminders of what once was. There is an empty seat at the table; there is a loved one in a dangerous place.

There is the interminable wait for the test result, the lost job or the foreclosed home. There is palpable darkness; there is heartache and heart break, grief and sadness, worry and fear. The holidays are anything but bright.

So, what do you do if you find yourself standing in the dark and not wanting to be swept up in the holiday razzle-dazzle?

Let’s talk strategies to help you get through without self-destructing or curling up into a fetal position and waiting for it all to be over:

Be gentle with yourself.
It should go without saying, but it is always necessary to say. For it seems that when we hunker down into survival mode, we often start beating up on ourselves for not being enough–good enough, lovable enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, rich enough, thin enough, fill-in the-blank enough.

The suggestion here is that you take the love, warmth and connection of the season and apply it yourself. That’s right: start loving yourself, feel a little warmth as you connect with you. When it gets right down to it, isn’t it a basic requirement that we accept ourselves? And in that acceptance, wouldn’t it stand to reason that we would want to be compassionate and understanding towards ourselves?

And being compassionate means knowing how to protect yourself. No dangerous or toxic situations for you. No hostile confrontations. Treat yourself like the precious being of light that you are. Life is tough enough; you don’t have to become your own enemy. You can, instead, choose to become your advocate, your friend and your own rock-solid connection.

Give yourself the gentleness and consideration you would give to a dear friend. In other words, give yourself a break from the rigidity; allow yourself some latitude to do what is right for you. Serve your soul; listen to your heart and, above all, don’t forget the gift that you are. There is no one, I repeat no one, on the planet that is just like you. There is no one with your genetic coding, particular repertoire of skills, accumulated wisdom and backpack of experiences.

If you accept the metaphysical, you are here for a reason. Your presence matters in the great jigsaw puzzle of life. You raised your soul hand and said, “Yes” to this moment and time. Allow your gentleness and concomitant protectiveness and self-advocacy to nurture that yes until you are ready to step out of the corner and into a beam of sparkly light. And, please, take as much time as you need.

Hope. Peace. Cookies.
With a bow to Kate Spade, who wrote that great combination of words on one of her lines of Christmas cards one season. These three words made me smile when I saw them — and they made me think.

We all need hope — it is, indeed, the very flicker of light that allows up to put one foot in front of the other. A little bit of hope can go a very long way. If possible, allow yourself a smidgen of the good stuff. It is high octane and can really help get you headed in a better direction.

As for peace, that’s another given. We need peace on every level, the personal to the global. What better way to survive the season than to cease being at war with yourself or others? This makes me think of the old song lyrics, “All I am saying is give peace a chance.” How about it? Are you willing?

And as for cookies, well, they are a personal favorite, but more than that, they can symbolize the sweetness of life, the specialness of the season and, perhaps, an opportunity for sharing with another during these days. Sometimes, a simple cup of tea and a few cookies provide a bit of tenderness that is just enough to make the holiday palatable.

Wherever you are in your heart these days, dear reader, please know that I am offering you a virtual cookie as a kind of communion.

And the angels always remind me of this: You are loved, you are guided and you are protected. It’s a comforting thought, especially when it seems so very dark.

Take precious care, and may you be blessed with grace in a season that is all too tender this year.

Mayo Clinic: healing suicidal grief

downloadWhen a loved one dies by suicide, overwhelming emotions can leave you reeling. Your grief might be heart wrenching. At the same time, you might be consumed by guilt — wondering if you could have done something to prevent your loved one’s death.

As you face life after a loved one’s suicide, remember that you don’t have to go through it alone.

Brace for powerful emotions

A loved one’s suicide can trigger intense emotions.

  • Shock. Disbelief and emotional numbness might set in. You might think that your loved one’s suicide couldn’t possibly be real.
  • Anger. You might be angry with your loved one for abandoning you or leaving you with a legacy of grief — or angry with yourself or others for missing clues about suicidal intentions.
  • Guilt. You might replay “what if” and “if only” scenarios in your mind, blaming yourself for your loved one’s death.
  • Despair. You might be gripped by sadness, loneliness or helplessness. You might have a physical collapse or even consider suicide yourself.
  • Confusion. Many people try to make some sense out of the death, or try to understand why their loved one took his or her life. But, you’ll likely always have some unanswered questions.
  • Feelings of rejection. You might wonder why your relationship wasn’t enough to keep your loved one from dying by suicide.

You might continue to experience intense reactions during the weeks and months after your loved one’s suicide — including nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities — especially if you witnessed or discovered the suicide.

Dealing with stigma

Many people have trouble discussing suicide, and might not reach out to you. This could leave you feeling isolated or abandoned if the support you expected to receive just isn’t there.

Additionally, some religions limit the rituals available to people who’ve died by suicide, which could also leave you feeling alone. You might also feel deprived of some of the usual tools you depended on in the past to help you cope.

Adopt healthy coping strategies

The aftermath of a loved one’s suicide can be physically and emotionally exhausting. As you work through your grief, be careful to protect your own well-being.

  • Keep in touch. Reach out to loved ones, friends and spiritual leaders for comfort, understanding and healing. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen when you need to talk, as well as those who’ll simply offer a shoulder to lean on when you’d rather be silent.
  • Grieve in your own way. Do what’s right for you, not necessarily someone else. There is no single “right” way to grieve. If you find it too painful to visit your loved one’s gravesite or share the details of your loved one’s death, wait until you’re ready.
  • Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays and other special occasions can be painful reminders of your loved one’s suicide. Don’t chide yourself for being sad or mournful. Instead, consider changing or suspending family traditions that are too painful to continue.
  • Don’t rush yourself. Losing someone to suicide is a tremendous blow, and healing must occur at its own pace. Don’t be hurried by anyone else’s expectations that it’s been “long enough.”
  • Expect setbacks. Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide — and that’s OK. Healing doesn’t often happen in a straight line.
  • Consider a support group for families affected by suicide.Sharing your story with others who are experiencing the same type of grief might help you find a sense of purpose or strength. However, if you find going to these groups keeps you ruminating on your loved one’s death, seek out other methods of support.

Know when to seek professional help

If you experience intense or unrelenting anguish or physical problems, ask your doctor or mental health provider for help. Seeking professional help is especially important if you think you might be depressed or you have recurring thoughts of suicide. Unresolved grief can turn into complicated grief, where painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble resuming your own life.

Depending on the circumstances, you might benefit from individual or family therapy — either to get you through the worst of the crisis or to help you adjust to life after suicide. Short-term medication can be helpful in some cases, too.

Face the future with a sense of peace

In the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide, you might feel like you can’t go on or that you’ll never enjoy life again.

In truth, you might always wonder why it happened — and reminders might trigger painful feelings even years later. Eventually, however, the raw intensity of your grief will fade. The tragedy of the suicide won’t dominate your days and nights.

Understanding the complicated legacy of suicide and how to cope with palpable grief can help you find peace and healing, while still honoring the memory of your loved one.

This article was written by the Mayo Clinic Staff.…/end…/suicide/art-20044900