When Christmas is hard

Update: I originally wrote this post in 2017. And this year.. I have a feeling the holidays will be hard for many of us.

I don’t normally post my personal struggles and feelings. I like my privacy and I want to protect my children. But, I know sharing my own story helps others. And that, ultimately, is my goal.

It’s the middle of December. Everywhere you look, there are sparkles, colors, and smiles. My home smells like pine trees and Christmas cookies. My kids sing carols and are busy making each other presents and cards. It’s the season of joy.

So why do I feel depressed?

Popular opinion says that depression peaks over the holidays, but the statistics don’t back that up. Actually general clinical depression is reported to be lowest during November thru January. But the holiday season can bring a number of triggers that can make feeling festive a little harder than usual.

For me, there are a few triggers. Holidays were a scary time, during my marriage. My ex became especially unpredictable. He was around more, as well, which served to heighten the issues. We got engaged in November, over ten years ago now.

December is also the anniversary of my divorce.

December is also when I broke off a relationship with a man I truly cared for.

December is when my first daughter was born, 14 years ago this year, and there are mixed emotions around that traumatic birth.

December is a hard month for me.

But there’s more to it than that, even.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, holidays in general, all are family focused. The commercials on TV, the songs on the radio and all the advertisements are about getting together with your friends and family. Even the old holiday TV specials are about family bonding.

As a single parent, sometimes I feel left out.

I have few good memories of my marriage, especially over the holidays. But there’s still a small part of me that would like to be able to cuddle up with someone, to share the seasonal treats with them, and mingle our voices in the carols.

For most of the year, I’m quite happy to be on my own, with no desire to spend time with anyone but my girls. It’s just at the holidays, when family togetherness means only one thing, it seems, I can get a little wistful.

It’s not just the family stereotype, but that I split my holidays with my kids. My children don’t spend the entire holiday season with me, but share it half-and-half with their father and me.

And, while I’m always a little saddened by the loss of time, I don’t begrudge my children their time with the other side of their family. Usually, I even welcome the break, and take myself on holiday.

This year is just a little different.

Because this year is my baby girl’s first Christmas. And my older girls will be spending Christmas with their dad.

That’s a little harder to swallow.

I know my baby girl won’t know the difference — she’s all of 5 months old! My other girls aren’t going to care much. They get two Christmases, with all the presents.

It’s just me, feeling a tad bit sorry for myself in this situation.

I can tell myself I’m being silly, for all the reasons listed above. I’m the only one who’s even going to know, let alone care.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel sad over this. And there’s nothing I can do about it to change it.

What do you do when the holidays are hard to bear?

Well, here’s what I’m doing.

First, I’m staying busy.

I refuse to wallow in my sadness and disappointment. I love Christmas, and all that Christmas offers. I’m decorating, I’m singing the songs, I’m baking the treats and making the cards. I’m shopping, wrapping, and planning. So I’m finding pleasure, muted though it may be, in all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Christmas.

Second, I’m letting myself feel what I feel.

If that means I need to pause for a good cry, I take that moment. But then I dry my tears, grab some water, and move on.

Third, I’m giving myself a little bit of extra care.

I’m making sure I take my vitamins. I’m taking the occasional nap. And I’m letting myself linger over my morning coffee before my day gets super busy. I took time off my blogs just to give myself margin for feelings.

Fourth, I’m sharing my feelings with others.

Hence, writing this blog. I’ve said a few things to a few people as well, that I know care for me.

If you’re struggling, and you don’t have anyone safe to talk to, try a counsellor or hotline. Sometimes you just need to talk it out.

Fifth, I’m cuddling my kids just a bit more.

Stocking up on that oxytocin and all that.

And finally..

I’m choosing to focus on the good here and not the bad.

Sometimes its hard to avoid the reminders of what I won’t have and don’t have, but I focus on what I do have. I have a home. My bills are paid, and food on the table, and a laundry room overflowing with clothes.  I have peace in my home. I have the financial security to get everything on my children’s wish lists, if I wanted to. And I can spend my time happily baking and decorating, without anyone to argue with me. My girls are happy, healthy and growing. I have a lot to be grateful for.

Christmas can be hard. 

This single parent life means there are bits and pieces that are more difficult than typical. And sometimes, there’s nothing that can change that. It’s just going to be hard.

But holidays are still fun and special and happy. Even if a little bittersweet, I can still enjoy them. I will still celebrate, even when it’s hard.

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