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When It Doesn’t Feel Like the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When It Doesn't Feel Like the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I can remember when Thanksgiving and Christmas were the best of times. The holiday season was full of family, laughter, fun, and the food—my goodness—the food is a whole other topic of discussion; it was always a feast for the ages. Game nights went early into the next morning. Cookie plates seemed to be replenished instantly. I never felt more loved and cozy than at the holiday season. Family time was everything. The joy of the season and the magic of it all was real to me…until it wasn’t.

I am not someone who lives with clinical depression, but I believe that situational depression is just as real and it can bloom from the most tragic of circumstances. When I was 19, I lost my Nana. She wasn’t just my grandma; she was a dear friend who I talked to through constant emails and letter writing. She was also the truest source of holiday joy. No matter how much pain she was in from cancer or the sadness of a half-full table, she made the holidays come alive. When she died, so did my love for the season.

I have lived through seven, almost eight, holiday celebrations without her. I still dread this time of year. The anticipation is gone for me. I can’t seem to find the spirit to celebrate, because no matter how many years have passed, all I want to do is cry and skip straight to January 1. I do not want to see or hear about everyone traveling to see family or having the “best Thanksgiving and Christmas ever.” I do not want to see it, because it reminds me of what I no longer have and will never get to experience again. My extended family does not gather together anymore for the holidays; I could chalk it up to their children being married now and that it would just be too much to get everyone together, but I think it is because it’s just too painful. It is for me.

I can remember when Thanksgiving and Christmas were the best of times. The joy of the season and the magic of it all was real to me…until it wasn’t.

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Last year I approached my parents, and we changed it up because I can’t and don’t want to live in such a deep darkness and blues over what is supposed to be the happiest time of year. As the calendar turns past the date in September when she died, my anxiety builds and erupts into darkness. The last part of the year I am a melancholy soul, but last year things changed. I made some changes. I stopped making our family’s traditional holiday cookie, Carrot Cookies. We did not attend Christmas Eve service like we always did with her. We decided to take on the Icelandic tradition of reading a book on Christmas Eve instead. We have also stopped making traditional holiday food, opting for fajitas or homemade pizza instead.

The best way I can encourage you in your holiday funk is to let you know you are not alone. I am in this with you, and I know there are a lot more of us out there! It’s ok that we don’t like this time of year, even though to many, it’s a horrible confession. Most people look at me like I am crazy when I admit it, and they always throw out some interesting advice.

If you haven’t tried changing up your holidays, I highly recommend it. Start a new tradition, throw out the old way of doing things and do something different. Last Thanksgiving and Christmas was the first round of holiday celebrations in years that I enjoyed. Yes, things will never be the way they were before; Nana is gone, and things are different now. But maybe the holidays can become a different kind of beautiful. I’m starting to believe that joy can exist in the tears and melancholy of my holiday spirit. I am still healing, learning, and trusting that even in the pain there is beauty.

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Hannah lives in a small town turned big in North Texas. Most of the time you can find her wrapped in a quilt with coffee in one hand, a pen in the other, and two cats at her feet.

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