When the Holidays Hurt

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” – Polar Express

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” – Polar Express

When everything is supposed to be merry and bright it is hard to remember that for some people the holidays can bring pain.

Why the Holidays are not always happy

  • Grief: It may be difficult from some as they remember those they have lost. Especially if that person is associated with holiday traditions. (See: Grief Part 1 – Sudden Loss and Grief part 2 – Expected Loss)
  • Financial Hardship: The pressure to give many expensive gifts can be difficult for individuals with limited means. This can increase feelings of anxiety and inadequacy as individuals either spend past limits or fail to give as expected.
  • Stress: There is increased pressure during the holidays from extra shopping to extra social engagements. Just passing a mall in the month of December can be a test in patience.
  • Family Conflict: let’s face it not all families get along. For some, there may be added anxiety as they feel forced to spend time with members they have a conflict with. Others may find themselves estranged from family increasing loneliness.
  • Past Trauma: First it is important to remember that bad things can just as easily happen during the holidays as any other part of the year. It is also true that as stress and anxiety rise the potential for certain negative things, such as abuse, can also rise.

Signs someone is having a hard time

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Problems Sleeping
  • Isolation
  • Acting Out

Ways You Can Help

If you know someone who is struggling with the holidays there are some things you can do to help:

  • It is important to be understanding and patient. These individuals may not be willing or able to explain why they are hurting. Sometimes just showing support can help.
  • If this individual chooses to open up remember they are sharing something very personal and it may be very difficult. It’s not important to say the perfect thing, but it is important to be willing to listen and listen without judgment.
  • If you encounter an individual who is highly triggered Guided Breathing and Grounding may also be used. (see: Techniques for Relaxation, Anxiety Reduction, and Grounding )
  • Those experiencing a crisis or are at risk of self-harm are advised to contact a crisis line provided or seek help from mental health services.

(also see: Setting Boundaries During the Holidays )

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Crisis Resources:

If someone you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide there is help.

The Access & Crisis Line: 888-724-7240

California Coalition for Youth Crisis Line: 1-800-843-5200

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255


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