An Open Letter to Anyone Who Is Hurting This Holiday Season
Maybe you lost someone this year. I did too, and I'm still pretty numb.
The feelings of grief like to take me by surprise. One time, I was minding my own business folding laundry and listening to my six-year-old tell a story about Pokemon in the kind of detail only a child can when I felt the sadness begin to creep up from my belly, and then next thing I knew, I was crying and I couldn't stop.
Maybe you're scared because everything is getting more expensive but you're not earning any more at work and you have no idea how you're going to provide for your family if things keep going the way they are. I understand. I do - that burning feeling in your stomach and the quickening pace of your heart when you start to think about finances. Yeah, I feel that, too.
Maybe you had grand holiday plans but you or someone in your house tested positive for this obnoxious virus that has more lives than a cockroach and now you've found yourself quarantined. I understand (this happened to my family in 2020 and it stunk).
Maybe you were blindsided by the ending of a relationship that you thought was solid. Feels like a slap in the face when you're the last to know that everything you thought was fine begins to unravel. I understand.
Maybe the lack of factual reporting from the news media or the ever-changing words spewed from the mouths of politicians and government leaders have you questioning the legitimacy of literally everything. I understand.
Oh, friend. It can be so easy to allow all of the big uglies of life to pile and pile and pile until they are so heavy on top of us that we don't see any way to get out from underneath them.
Up until a few years ago, the holidays crippled me. I did what I'm guessing you've done - I lied. I pretended like it was the greatest time of the year. I told stories of grand plans and shared beautiful photos and pretended that I was as happy as the world said I should be...but I wasn't.
The grief, the worry, the emptiness, the feelings of inadequacy, the financial uncertainties, the longing to be enveloped in a warm and all-consuming love - I felt it all and then some.
Although I don't struggle as badly with the holidays as I did just a few years ago, my life is not perfect. Far from it, actually, I can't tell you that your life is going to suddenly do a full turn and that everything will be rainbows and unicorns, but I can tell you that a day will come that things won't hurt as badly as they do in this very moment.
I went from having all-consuming holiday anxiety to only feeling (semi-crippling) pangs here and I did it by putting things into perspective. That's right - perspective. Whenever I felt a sadness attack start to come on, I started to count my blessings.
There's a hymn that was written by Johnson Oatman in 1897 called "Count Your Blessings." It took me becoming an anxiety-ridden adult to fully understand and appreciate the song and to realize that applying it to my life really could and did make things better.
The idea is that when life is just so hard and so sad that the thought of facing another day seems impossible, start thinking of things in your life that are good. The birds chirping in the yard, that none of the socks in your drawer have holes in them, that the snowplow finally cleared your street.
The more things you find to be thankful for, the less time you'll spend on the negatives in your life and your burdens won't seem quite as heavy. I can't promise that this will work for you, but what do you have to lose?
The next time you feel like you're going to a sad or dark place, start thinking of the little things that are happy blessings in your life- a cup of tea, a good book, your favorite song.
I don't have a magic solution that will fix the sadness in your life or the things that weigh heavy on your heart. I can't even tell you that it's all going to be okay. What I can tell you is that you are not alone.
And, I care about you.
"Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will keep singing as the days go by."