‘Tis the season to be … gloomy?
Feeling low this Christmas season? You’re not alone. Amid cheery songs, festive parties, gifts and good wishes, many lonely people are crying or dying on the inside. Maybe you’re one of them. I was.
During a horrible year, my wife of 20 years divorced me, my employer of 25 years fired me, and I had a cancer scare. As I drove home one night, lovely Christmas music came on the radio. Melancholy aching evidenced the deep pain of abandonment and loss that I was still processing.
Romantic estrangement, family strife, and bereavement can make your holidays dismal. One of Elvis Presley’s most popular songs was “Blue Christmas.” A lonely crooner mourns heartbreaking lost love. Performers from The Beach Boys to Celine Dion, Loretta Lynn, and Jon Bon Jovi have recorded it.
Does even thinking about that song make you depressed? The spoofed “Porky Pig” version could get you laughing. Google will take you there. But please … wait until finishing this short article to search, OK?!
Several factors can produce Christmas blues.1 Hectic activity can bring physical and emotional stress. Overspending can produce financial pressure. Year-end reflection and focus on loss can magnify sorrow.
McGill University psychologist Dr. Michael Spevack notes, “Overeating and over drinking combined with a decreased amount of sleep is also a formula for extreme emotional swings.” Depression can lead to thoughts of suicide, especially among the socially isolated, he says.2
The “empty chair”
Is your family apart this season by necessity or choice? Maybe an “empty chair” reminds you of your pain. Does Christmas “Ho, Ho, Ho” contrast with your deep anguish?
One widow recalled how she felt during the Christmas after her husband’s death: “Little mattered to me. I didn’t want to hear carols. I didn’t want to be cheered up. I didn’t want to look at perky Christmas cards. I wanted the same thing I’d wanted every day for eight months: the strength to force myself out of bed in the morning, to brush my teeth and to eat.”3
One possible influence, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a form of depression the medical community doesn’t completely understand. The Mayo Clinic says genetics, age and body chemistry could be the culprits. Mayo recommends seeing your doctor if you feel down for days and have motivation problems. Symptoms can include changing sleep patterns and appetite, feeling hopeless, contemplating suicide, or seeking comfort in alcohol.4
How can you cope with Christmas loneliness? Some suggestions:
Tired of friends who betray, manipulate, disrespect, or desert you? God won’t. He cares for you, values you, will listen to you and comfort you. You can trust Him. He always wants your best.
One early believer put it this way: “Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?”6His point: God loved us enough to send Jesus, his only Son, to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our wrong, our sins. What a demonstration of love! I can trust a God like that. Then Jesus rose from the dead so He could live inside us and become our friend.
Would you like to meet Jesus, the best friend you could ever have? Wouldn’t Christmas season be a great time to place your faith in Him? You can tell Him something like this:
Jesus, I need you. Thanks for dying and rising again for me. Please forgive me, enter my life, and give me eternal life. Help me to become good friends with you and learn to follow your lead.
1. “Christmas Holiday Depression,” 18 December 2005; www.medicalnewstoday.com.
3. Mary Cartledgehayes, “Blue Christmas – Grieving Through The Holidays,” Christian Century, December 27, 2003; www.findarticles.com.
4. “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” Mayo Clinic Staff, September 24, 2007; www.mayoclinic.com.
5. Stephen Post, PhD., and Jill Neimark, Why Good Things Happen to Good People (New York: Broadway Books, 2007).