You may have already been asked by many a supportive colleague, or pharmacy cashier if you are ready for the holidays. From the moment the Halloween decorations come down, time compresses and speeds up and it's easy to get sucked into the noise and anxiety like a bird gets sucked into a plane engine.
When we are dealing with loss, it adds another layer of injury to the stress of this time of year, because it looks like most of the people around us are busily preparing for warmth and connection and overeating in the presence of a bunch of people who adore them.
That's a painful story that I tell myself and have for years. And I know that it isn't universally true, but for some reason I feel like a personal wound of mine is simultaneously amplified and also somehow invisible while people prepare for holiday traditions.
I am estranged from my family of origin, for a host of very good reasons. Still this is the time of year when I find myself having to explain my circumstances to people who are otherwise well-meaning and think they are asking an innocuous question.
It's so important to remember that many people are suffering invisible pain and grief from losses that we may not know about. When my business was still finding it's footing, I felt the sting of my lack of family, as well as the fact that I was no longer married, and Christmas was a very stressful time for me because I felt pressure to find ways to be joyful and provide magic for my young child with very little money, and even fewer social obligations. Sitting in what felt like a very empty family room with my small selection of toys for him and nobody else to witness him opening them stung. And felt somehow like a judgement on what we deserved. It stood in stark contrast to what I saw around us, where people rushed from one family meal to another, and where gifts and food piled up.
I know a lot of the magic and expectations around holidays are mythology and perpetuated by the retail powers that be, but the pain that some people experience isn't dulled just by knowing that.
Right now, people you work with, go to yoga with, volunteer with, and say hi to while walking the dog are quietly processing their grief and pain, probably in isolation. Some people are dealing with the pain of lost relationships, death, illness, job loss and other painful and sometimes shameful feelings. It can be hard to share these thoughts with the people around us, for fear of sucking the joy out of this time of year for someone else. In case misery does love company we keep it inside and maybe some of us secretly wonder what we did to deserve to be in this particular circumstance.
In writing this little post I am hesitant to publish it, for fear that I will dampen someone else's joy, or chasten them for not considering what others might be experiencing. That's not my intention at all. And for those of you who are struggling with those thoughts, I am with you. Please share your feelings with someone you trust. Please know that even though you may feel alone, you are far from it. And please know that the way you feel isn't permanent. My life and my holiday experiences have been changing in the last few years, and I can't believe the ways that my net of loving family has grown and continues to grow.
Below are some resources that may help you if you find yourself struggling with dark emotions this holiday season. If you know someone who needs support, please share this with them.
Peer Support Kitchener-Waterloo
Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council
K-W Counselling Walk In