By now almost everyone is aware of what is called the “holiday blues” – waves of sadness that overtake people who have: experienced losses in their lives on or around holidays; or who have become acutely aware of the people, finances, or relationships that have disappeared or never existed.
Our tendency when we encounter these people can be to do one or two things that are not helpful.
The first is to try to fix them or cheer them up. We offer suggestions on how to get rid of the feelings. Or we try to distract them, as if they were children that need to be redirected. Or we offer lame platitudes that only make them feel worse.
The second is to distance ourselves from them as if they carried a contagious disease. And in some ways they do. It is hard to be around people who are sad without us also being infected or affected. It can be especially difficult during a season that is naturally joyful for us, or where we are having a hard time accessing the spirit for ourselves.
We, as a culture, don’t seem to deal well with grief in ourselves or others. There is a tendency towards denial of our limitations, whether dealing with our or others lifespan, our accomplishments, our capabilities or other forms of personal power. But we are limited, and when we come up against one of these barriers, there is loss involved, and where there is loss there is sadness. We feel our powerlessness and lack of control and we grieve.
So what do we do when we find ourselves with friends and family experiencing the holiday blues?
We come alongside. We just sit with them and listen to them. We offer the warmth of our presence, our smiles and our touch. We offer them a safe haven and let them grieve.
What if we are the one going through the sadness?
We need to not isolate from people. We need to seek community and get involved. We need to let people comfort us when they are willing. And we need to look outward and try to focus on others. Nothing seems to lift our spirit like serving others in some capacity.
One way to change negative associations with the holidays is to build new, positive memories. We can initiate new rituals (like participating in volunteer efforts) and respond affirmatively to invitations to gather.
So where is the joy?
We can turn to God in prayer. We serve a God who understands our pain. Jesus experienced great loss and pain during his time in the world. He knew He could not leave us alone in our suffering and so He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell with us and comfort us. He promised that He would turn our mourning into dancing.
2 Corinthians 1: 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.