Feeling Sad During the Holidays? Acknowledge, Assess, Assist
The words 'jolly' and 'festive' describe the desired atmosphere of the Christmas season. People are expected to feel 'jolly' and 'festive.' It is the holiday when people set their problems aside, are social and enjoy coming together with family and friends. When I made home visits as a community outreach social worker in dementia care, I marveled at the lengths some of the family caregivers went to decorate their homes to be' festive' despite being burdened with heavy care demands. I fondly remember one such caregiver who absolutely loved Christmas. She had so many boxes full of decorations that filled her home. The holidays seemed to energize and uplifted her and others.....but not all of them.
Not all family caregivers or anyone for that matter share the same joyful feelings around the holidays. People who do not have family, are estranged from family, have families living in other cities or living under difficult circumstances may experience sadness and loneliness at holiday time. On agingcare.com discussion forum, one woman assisted herself and reached out on the site asking
"Is anyone else feeling sad this Christmas?"
"I have this feeling of sadness in the pit of my stomach. I know it is okay to feel it. My mother
is a rattled shell of herself and my brothers are busy with their own lives. It is just my mother and
me, so it feels like I am living in a world of nothingness.......I don't feel stress or excitement -- just
This person was not alone, others responded. One family caregiver replied:
"I can relate to your sadness......I was nearly in tears at work, at lunch. It's hard hearing about
everyone's holiday plans, all their families gathering etc. while it's just me and my elderly
parents, and one with middle stage Alzheimer's at that so she just sits there repeating and not
knowing what is going on........ I never envisioned this future. I thought my grown kids would live in
state, I'd be surrounded by grandchildren and perhaps a new husband along with his extended
You are not alone!
If you are reading this and feeling sad, acknowledge that you are not alone. In my coaching work, I have heard from many people who were sad, lonely and nervous around holiday time for a number of reasons, mainly related to lack of family, family discord, family far away, unpleasant circumstances and so on.
Sadness is an unpleasant emotion that we legitimately feel. It is best not to deny any of our feelings, good or bad. It can be harmful to repress the sadness. It is healthier to assess and acknowledge when you are feeling sad. Upon further assessment, it is helpful to link the sadness with a situation that is bringing on these negative feelings. It may be linked to a situational loss, sometimes a loss that is not so obvious. For instance, the respondent in writing about her sadness acknowledged and linked her emotional reaction to the situational loss of the ideal - her future plans that did not come to fruition - referring to the ideal of her grown kids living in the same city, surrounded by grandchildren.
Often when people are sad, others will attempt to cheer them up. It is important to keep in mind though that there are legitimate circumstances that can make people feel sad along with other negative emotions. Assessing and acknowledging these feelings as informants assist us in staying in touch with ourselves. After relaying her sadness, the online respondent continued writing in offering assistance to the caregiver who reached out. She relayed how she assisted herself by being grateful that at least her mother with Alzheimer's was still physically present and by making plans in preparing a nice dinner. The key is that she allowed herself to be sad but not to let it ruin the holidays. It is empowering to be in touch, rather than losing touch by denying your feelings during the holidays or any time of year.