Dear Vicki: This is supposed to be such a joyful time of year, but try as I might I always end up sad and depressed around the holidays. I think of family and friends who have passed away and miss the holidays of my childhood. I am an adult who, for most of the year, is very content in her singlehood and happiest alone, but this time of years makes me question whether the effort I put into my legal career at the expense of relationships is wise. I know your blog is about relationships, but do you have any suggestions on how I can get through the holidays. I act like all the fuss is a colossal waste of time, but in all honesty, a small part of me wishes I wasn’t so automatically dismissive. I don’t expect to be joyful, but it would be great not to be so down. Signed: Sad in Sycamore
Dear Sad: Bless you for reaching out. The holiday season is a complicated time of year for all of us. If we were lucky, we had parents who tried to make the holidays as magical as possible for us. We likely didn’t see the sacrifices they made to do this, or the responsibilities they juggled to manage it all. Even if we were this lucky, few of us ever enjoyed the kind of highly idealized holidays that the advertising world seems to insist is normal these days. Yet when we admit that we just don’t have the time, energy, or means to meet the expectations they create, we feel like failures.
And for those of us whose holiday experiences centered on friends and family, the inevitable loss of loved ones does put a damper on every holiday we celebrate. I want to assure you that these are all normal reactions and responses to the procession of life through the years. People come into our lives, and people leave. There are wonderfully magical times, and times of sorrow and loss. That is life at its most basic. But that doesn’t mean we are destined to be victims of the past. There is much we can do to manage our response to the holidays, so let’s look at ways you can make a difference for yourself this year.