When Christmas Isn’t Merry

Turn on the TV these days and you can’t miss the ads for See’s Candy, Hallmark Cards and unending Christmas specials. As much as the media wants us to believe that this is the “most wonderful time of the year,” for many of us, it couldn’t be further from the truth. As much as each of us wants Christmas to be a happy, loving, family day, the reality is that many of us encounter loneliness, sadness, and discontent.

There’s no one simple reason for why we have these feelings. Some people have no family nearby and can’t afford to fly home. Others choose not to see their families for any number of reasons. Still others are sad because Christmas isn’t as fun as “they” say it should be or as we remember it from our childhoods. Toughest of all are those who are missing those who have died. Regardless, December 25th is coming, and we have to figure out how to spend the day in a way that leaves us feeling as content and fulfilled as possible.

A good starting place is to have as positive an attitude about your day as possible. Rather than focusing on who you’re not with or what you wish was different, embrace who and what you do have and make decisions with them in mind.

Then take steps to start building your own traditions. Perhaps you’ll share a meal with good friends. Cook some of your holiday favorites, and encourage them bring a dish to share. Maybe John will bring the baked beans his grandmother taught him to make, and Lynn will make her special spiced cider. Over the years, the friends with whom you spend Christmas will become your second family, and the positive memories you make will become what you think about when reflecting on Christmas.

Another way to help cope with the hard feelings that can come with Christmas is to reach out and help others. Perhaps you’ll volunteer at a neighborhood soup kitchen or visit a convalescent hospital. Regardless of what you do, you’ll be around others and doing something meaningful. As a nice by-product, you could end up meeting like-minded people you’d want to hang out with again.

Trying to cope with the loss of a loved one is always difficult, but never more so than during the holidays. The best way to remember them is by creating rituals that honor them. If Uncle Max used to smoke a cigar, rain, snow or shine, at 4 p.m. every Christmas, honor him by doing the same. You probably won’t miss him any less, but you’d likely find some peace as you try to enjoy the day.

Regardless of how you spend the day or whom you’re with, anticipate that you’ll be faced with challenging feelings and situations. As easy at it might be to give in and allow them to set the tone for your day, prepare ahead of time this year and make choices that leave you feeling loved and supported. And your Christmas will probably be merrier than you’d anticipated.

5 Responses to When Christmas Isn’t Merry
  1. Stephanie
    December 19, 2011 | 6:53 am

    Great reminders of how to keep the “Merry” in Merry Christmas. Thanks!

  2. Betsy
    December 20, 2011 | 4:21 pm

    Really heartfelt article…..Specially liked the positive thinking part. Very good advice for everyday of your life

  3. Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
    December 20, 2011 | 5:55 pm

    Thanks Betsy. You raise a good point about thinking positively every day. It’s important to connect with those who are important to you, on a regular basis.

  4. Steve
    December 22, 2011 | 3:31 pm

    Very good advice about keeping Christmas rituals of departed loved ones alive.

    • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
      December 22, 2011 | 5:43 pm


      Thank-you for your input. My hope is that you find peace this Christmas, as you remember your loved ones.

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