Merry and Bright
By Resna Marie Brunson, MSC

Once we step foot outside our home, we know the holiday season is upon us. Whether we are grocery shopping, walking through the mall, or even putting gas in our cars, we can not escape the lights, decorations, and music of the holidays. Some of us want to recreate holiday traditions that had a positive impact on us but there are some who want to erase the holidays because they remind us of experiences or traditions that brought us pain and sorrow. For those, the holiday season is far from Merry and Bright. It is not a time to reflect on joyful memories. On the contrary, it can be a time of deep sadness and loneliness due to an anniversary associated with an emotional or physical traumatic event. We move around as if we are in a masquerade, wearing our masks to hide our true feelings/thoughts while watching others embrace tidings of comfort and joy. We seem to breathe a sigh of relief when the holiday ends only to have it begin all over in what feels like just a few months.

Is there ever true relief for those who are struggling during this time? I would like to suggest healing begins when we are honest about how this season impacts us emotionally. It feels easier to play a game of charades rather than explain the reason we are not jolly. We do not want to be fixed like a bulb on a string of lights that is not screwed in tightly. Instead, we want empathy. We are not confident we will be heard and understood so we suffer in silence. Sometimes wounds will remain with us. If we experienced a loss during the holiday season, we will no doubt feel the effects of this each year; however, as we work through the process of healing we can learn to endure through the pain.

Do not ignore how you are feeling. In the previous post, I suggested we have an intentional time to process feelings/thoughts/emotions. This will help us to face what is going on inside us (under the iceberg) so we can avoid being ambushed by a wave of emotions. It is ok to be angry. We may need to use this time to work through our feelings of anger over things done to us and not done for us during past holiday seasons.

Do not have lots of idle time. Planning how we will spend our days in advance (where we will go, what food we will eat, what people we want to spend time with) is helpful. There will always be those who earnestly want to support you during this time and offer invitations to holiday engagements. You may be confident in their sincerity but are not emotionally ready to participate in a large gathering. Having a set schedule makes it easier to decline these invitations.

Do not rush healing. We allow ourselves time to heal from physical hurts. Likewise, grief, loss, disappointments, and trauma need to move through a healing process. And like physical healing, it is individual and there is not a universal time limit to feel healthy and whole. Declaring we will feel better tomorrow may only lead to further discouragement and feelings of hopelessness. It is not necessary to have a deadline.

It is a blessing and a privilege to have a close friendship. The Bible tells us “ a friend can stick closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24). The friendship of Jonathon and David in the Bible was described as such. They “loved each other as they loved themselves.” (1 Samuel 18:3) Having someone with whom you feel safe to reveal your hurt and pain associated with the holiday season is helpful. But for you, there may not be a Jonathon or David. Nothing seems Merry or Bright.

Seeking support for conflicting emotions experienced during this time of year may be helpful. Ready to take the next step.

Resna Marie Brunson, MSC

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