top of page

It's the most wonderful time of the year... Not!

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

It's the most wonderful time of the year.. with grief and depression and go-broke intention... the most wonderful time of the year! Not.

Christmas songs. Twinkle lights. Trimming the tree. Candy canes. Presents. Santa Claus. Snow. Caroling. Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Holiday cheer. How can it not be the most wonderful time of the year?! The holiday season. (Sigh!). We all hold onto our very own personal holiday experience. Just like a birthday or an anniversary, the Christmas trolley comes round the bend every year. Granted, it used to come around the bend after Thanksgiving dinner was cleared and put away. Now it seems, that before pumpkin spice is even mentioned, the stores and the magic land of Facebook & Instagram already blow up with 'Ho.Ho.Ho!' and Christmas countdowns. It is even becoming more socially acceptable to put up a Christmas tree and hang those twinkle lights before you even carve your first Halloween pumpkin. Studies have shown.. or so I hear on the radio, see on the news, or find shared on social media- that getting a jump on Christmas actually lowers your stress, improves your mood, and gives you an overall spiritual spark that has been missing throughout the year behind you. The year that was really hard, I might add. (As a side note, this post was written around this time one year ago- before Covid even entered the picture). I would have to admit that I myself sit somewhere in the middle between roaming the Christmas aisles before pumpkin spice -and- Thanksgiving dinner before putting up the Christmas tree. I like to know and see that Christmas is coming, that everything around me is going to turn Christmas lights & candy canes... but I also want to take my sweet time to enjoy each holiday with its own colors, smells, traditions, and festivity. Just to be clear, I do not hold judgement against anyone that wants to get a jump on the holiday- any holiday (especially this year of 2020). I am a firm believer in doing what we need to do to make ourselves feel good. If a Christmas tree in October warms your spirit and happens to plant a little seed of holiday cheer... well, git it girl! You crank those Christmas tunes! If you sit on the other side of the fence and prefer your pumpkin before your turkey, and your turkey before your tree... well, git it girl! Celebrate the season you are in! There is no wrong way- or wrong time, to start celebrating a holiday. After all, a holiday is really about what it means to you. Every year, no fail, my number one thing I look for at holiday time is the spirit of Christmas. Ya know what I'm talk'n bout. It's that moment when everything around you comes to a silent stop. You sense it in the air... this beautiful, glowing, newness that you just want to breathe in so deeply the it fills your lungs and your heart to overflowing. It's the excitement of a child who can't go to sleep on Christmas Eve (giggle and sigh!). It's seeing Rudolph's shiny red nose as he saves Christmas (Yay Rudolph!). It's the smell of peppermint candy canes, pine wreaths, and cookies baking in the oven (Yumm!). Ah, and the lights (deep sigh)! But what happens if scaling the store Christmas aisles feels like a slow cinnamon-scented death to your soul? If hearing chipper Christmas tunes makes you want to knock that adorable Christmas elf right off his eff*n shelf? If being stuck in holiday crowds, long check-out lines, and grid locked traffic makes you want to snap.your.candy.cane?! And what if all those twinkling Christmas lights, wrapped gifts, and holiday parties make you want to rewrite White Christmas... to Black Christmas? Holiday time can be a very difficult time of the year for some people to face... let alone survive. Holidays have a way of ushering in this season of deep reflection. We reflect back- sometimes way- way back, to when we were young and instead of this magical build up to candy canes, family gatherings, Santa Claus flying in from the North Pole we experienced a trauma filled trip to the South Pole. Screaming matches between our parents. Guilt trips for the money that had to be spent just so Santa Claus could afford to stop at your house. Icy snow balls thrown at family members... with intention to hurt. Family gatherings that always seemed to end with too much holiday cheer, painful separation, and tears left on your pillow instead of snowman kisses. As much as we have always longed to find that Christmas spirit that sparks a child's joy deep down inside, we just feel this deep longing- even a bottomless sadness, that we can't get back those years long gone when we needed (desperately) for Christmas to be the safety zone from the rest of the year. Where everyone would be forced to take a break from hurting each other, hating each other, and just let this wonderful Christmas magic ooze in- even if only for a short time, and make everything- and everyone, feel good, be safe, and have fun like all those Christmas songs promise.

For some, holiday time is a painful reminder of who is no longer with us. We are forced to face a painful reality that they are no longer (and will no longer) be with us to share in the magic of the season, to make new memories or to share in the old traditions. It hurts the heart that they will not be present Christmas morning to see what Santa brings. We gulp the empty air knowing that they will no longer be there to hug... even if just one more time. We feel the space they took up because now we feel the space they leave empty. As much as we want to reflect back on the good memories we feel overwhelmed with sadness. We are filled with an overwhelming sense of loss and pain. We cannot seem to reach the bottom of feeling empty inside. And we long for the 'just once mores'. Just one more "Good Morning". Just one more sweet smile. Just one more comforting hug. Just one more "I Love You". Literally, just one more anything that we know deep (deep) down we are never going to get. Ever.Again. And it is hard. And it hurts. And this empty space is not filled with the magic or the wonder of Christmas. In some cases, that space now left empty, is by a parent who chooses to not be there and you are left dealing with this parent-shaped void every time the holidays come around. This deep longing you feel, it may even have way more to do with the what-could-have-beens than it has to do with recreating the memories that did take place (even if you were only left with a few to hold onto). You feel their absence when you decorate the Christmas tree. You open your mail box to find holiday cards from everyone... everyone, but them. While preparing the Christmas feast, you feel a fresh dose of longing as you set the table- minus one. You watch your kiddos excitement grow by the day for when Santa Claus finally comes- and are painfully reminded that the other parent is no where close to be found, that they will not be there to witness these memory-making-moments that will be a year older a year from now. And it is hard. And it is painful. And it is definitely not filled with the magic or the wonder of Christmas.

For some, the holidays become a rat race of running store to store, chasing Black Friday deals online, building up to Cyber Monday, losing peace... losing sleep... and losing sanity over that 'perfect' gift. You get paid on a Friday only to find yourself flat broke by Sunday. Oh, you've got a trunk filled or a closet bursting with gifts, you just wonder... and you fret, and you lose sleep, over how you are possibly going to push through the next two weeks when you don't even have two pennies left to rub together right now. Or maybe you have been rolling a rather large snowball of debt with your credit cards and that snowball, well it doesn't promise to be melting anytime soon. All of this, just so you can sit back and watch as that mountain of presents gets opened in a flurry of flying wrapping paper... and instead of 'Thank You's' the sound in the air is, 'I want more. I want more!". And just like that (poof) before your coffee has even gotten a chance to get cold, your money is lying scattered on the floor in front of you in the form of shiny new bikes, life-like dolls, Lego sets, dazzling jewelry, make up kits, toy trucks, pajama sets, Barbie horse stables, giant stuffed Teddy bears, ski boots, flat irons, cookware, tool sets... the list literally never ends. Christmas morning has only just begun and you are already exhausted and broke... mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. And guess what?! You will most likely find yourself doing the very same thing all over again when Christmas rolls around the next year. And the Christmas after that. And the one after that... because- after all, it is the most wonderful time of the year (insert vomiting Emoji).

For me, I have found myself in all of the above scenarios at different times. We still have some pictures from when me and my siblings were young and, to be honest, most of those memories exist only on aged Polaroid paper. I do remember some holidays as I have grown older, but mostly just snips and flashes of what was going on around me. I used to carry around this huge gaping hole every Christmas (even into adulthood) and how it felt to sit back and watch other family members around my age open these big beautiful gifts that I didn't even have the courage to ask Santa Claus for myself, while my siblings and I would be handed a pair of knit gloves that we were forced to be thankful for. The kind of knit gloves you can buy today for $1.00 in every color, and it has been 45+ years since those Christmases. As a young child, then as a girl becoming a teenager, I just never knew how to brace myself mentally or emotionally for the pain that would rise up almost instantly and suck the air right out of me. I used to be told I was just jealous and that being jealous and greedy is ugly, but over time as this happened again and again, I realized I did feel a little jealous- but it was only because I wanted to mean that much to someone- to anyone, really. I wanted to know that someone who loved me would take time out of their busy life to leisurely stroll the store aisles solely to pick out a gift meant just for me. That they would take the time to wrap it so gently in colorful Christmas paper with shimmery red and gold bows. And that they would put out this huge effort to make a big production of presenting it to me... for everyone else to see. Although there are flashes of fun and festive holiday times with family gathered together, the memories that stand out most are of me holding back burning tears, being forced to say 'thank you' when I didn't really feel thankful, and dreading that we still had to visit the other side of the family where the same thing would play itself out, yet again.

As I grew older and had kids and a family of my own, I thought Christmas time would take on a whole new meaning. That just maybe all those young years were finally behind me, that the gaping hole I had carried around every holiday would lose it's grip on me. That is not what happened. There were a couple of Christmases when my small family traveled over the mountain pass, in very dangerous white-out conditions (I might add), with a drunk at the wheel, no less... just to spend time with my extended family for the holidays. We would spend money we didn't even have on presents we couldn't even afford. We would make a pact to cease fire in our marriage over those couple of short days spent away from home. And we would jump in, feet first, with a little forced holiday spirit. Those two Christmases that stand out in my mind, I remember presents being stacked so high around the Christmas tree that no matter where you sat in the house, all you could see were presents. One of those two trips, I was told furniture even had to be rearranged just to accommodate the mountain of presents. Don't get me wrong, I have never believed the meaning of Christmas comes from the presents (or the amount of presents) but those couple of Christmases spent over the mountain, it quickly (and painfully) became apparent that those piles & piles (& piles) of gifts... were intended for their family. And it would bring that old pain right back to the surface, although as time did pass and I grew older, it wasn't just pain that I felt. I realized there was also a hot ember of anger mixed in. Maybe it was my Mama Bear being woke up ready to protect my kids... or maybe it was my six-year-old me finally ready to not stay silent... or maybe it was harsh truth thrown in my face that I was ill-equipped to handle... or just maybe it was all of the above, but it took me years (many years) to fully understand the impact those early Christmas years had had on me. Holidays had always felt like a mine field, I never knew where to step without fear of being blown the f*ck up. It is entirely possible that the turmoil, abuse, and violent rage playing out in our home spilled out into Christmas- no matter where we went, how far we traveled, or how holiday broke we became. I wanted (and needed) holidays to just feel peaceful, serene, and maybe even a little magical. And when they didn't, well that old hurt would show up promising to be my loyal companion, once again. It broke my heart when I looked back on all of those wasted moments that could have been filled to the brim with new memories, new traditions, new meaning for my small family. Don't get me wrong, we did try our best to make our Christmases special- but I think we (or more so I) tried too hard to attain what the 'perfect' Christmas was supposed to be, rather than just to soak in all the magic that was going on around us. The magic of Christmas music, trimming the tree, sharing good food, laughter, playing board games, building puzzles, decorating Christmas cookies, wrapping presents, building snowmen, reading Christmas stories, and waiting for Good Ol' Saint Nick to pop in. Allowing myself to be swayed by that old hurtful Christmas bullsh*t stole my focus, my peace, and my holiday joy. A lot of really crappy things happened, and the truth is, they can't be taken back. They are too far in the past. A lot of even crappier things happened in the midst of trying my best to give my own kids the Christmas magic I felt I never got. We lived through years with their father destroying Christmas presents in drunken rages, loudly and adamantly stating fact that he was being forced by their mother to use money he didn't have to buy 'her' kids something they wouldn't even be grateful for. We spent most holidays forced to walk on egg shells scared that if we were too excited for Christmas... or not excited enough, that those eggs shells would crack (or be crushed to smithereens beneath our feet) and that alcohol-fueled violence would take place. Many Christmases a nice holiday meal would end up splattered against the wall, thrown on the floor or dumped in the sink, and the kids and I would end up eating silently alone trying to navigate the unknown of if tonight the guns would come out, if he might decide to swallow too many pills, or if he would choose to get in his truck and leave us sitting there- only to later return to the table smelling more alcohol-infused and acting like nothing had just happened. Even today, nineteen years later, with now 7 years of personal recovery and healing behind me, it is still difficult to walk back through those old memories. The most painful, although there are times I have questioned why it was in fact the most painful to recover from, is the Christmas he left us. I spent weeks that turned into months in such a dark depression. I had to watch my kids trying to recover from the pain of their parents separation being handed to them as their Christmas gift that year. It was a hard and painful time for all of us to get through, and the following Christmases proved to only be marginally easier as time passed. Eventually we were able to find our own 'normal' and to create Christmases that had new meaning and new traditions, that felt safe, and we were able to laugh again, and feel ready to create new holiday memories.

If you find yourself, or your kids, somewhere in my story of dysfunctional family- I am so very sorry you had to go through that. Alcohol and violence are not supposed to be part of Christmas. Or part of family. I hope that you have found peace with the past and now can allow yourself to enjoy the holiday season, that you have taught your children how to embrace new traditions, to grow a new love for the holidays, and to have a reaffirmed belief that they (and you) are far more valuable than any or all of the gifts that can fit under or around the tree come Christmas morning.

And if you find yourself in my story with go-broke intention and unable to enjoy- truly enjoy the holidays because you are slowly killing yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and financially... every year, I encourage you to slow down, to take a step back, and to discover for yourself what the true meaning of Christmas and family is for you. Maybe all of that time, energy and money can be better spent a little at a time throughout the year. Maybe setting limits and having a holiday budget might give you back some peace and relaxation. Maybe you could consider a family outing as part of everyone's Christmas gift, or start a new tradition of making homemade gifts for one another. Ideas are endless on ways to take the craziness our of Christmas and to bring the magic of memory making back in.

And if you are someone who finds yourself feeling the loss of a loved one, my heart hurts for you. It is so very painful to face each day with them gone, and Christmas time can become a culmination of all of that loss and loneliness. The loss of a loved one can come in many forms- through death, through the end of a relationship, through divorce, through distance, through illness... no matter the form, it makes the loss no less painful. I encourage you to take the time you need to to grieve your loss. Grief cycles do not end and they can show up in any order-at any time, this cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The holidays can be hard enough to get through without feeling loss, but I encourage you to reach out to your friends, to your family, to your church, to organizations in your area that are there to help you to navigate the waves of emotion... or lack of, that you are experiencing. If you allow yourself to open up, even just a little bit, most likely you will cross paths with someone else who is trying to survive a loss in their life. And you might just find a little Christmas magic in that (insert heart Emoji).

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page