This is the season of light. Thanksgiving is past. We’ve already done our Black Friday binge-shopping for the year. It’s Christmas!
In this season of sparkling tinsel and twinkling lights, there’s a darker side we don’t always think about, or want to. For many people, this season of togetherness, generosity, and family presents a viciously painful battle.
Many of us are blessed with friends and family who drop by during the holiday season and likely have a house full of loved ones and goodies when Christmas itself arrives. The season is truly full of good cheer–greetings from folks we don’t see often and send us lovely cards, plates filled with delicious cookies brought over by a friend or left on our desk at work, or filling our mailboxes with gifts. There are the invitations to holiday parties, sparkly dresses, and Christmas programs.
Not everyone is so fortunate. Some folks don’t have family nearby or any family at all.
For many people, this holiday season is one they dread. It’s even more full of foreboding if they already struggle with depression or loneliness. Or both.
Christmas and the surrounding holidays celebrate togetherness, family, reunion of those we haven’t seen in months, sometimes years. But what if you don’t have family, celebrations to attend or anyone coming for Christmas dinner? Or no one inviting you to their feast?
Those are sincerely difficult situations to endure. The suicide rate is consistently higher during the holiday season for a reason. With every television commercial or family Christmas movie, it’s a stabbing reminder of what they may not have. Or of what they’ve lost.
For those folks struggling with depression, this can be a particularly challenging season even if they are surrounded by family and friends. We receive lots of letters showcasing the successes of other people’s lives. We’re sometimes reminded of our imperfect lives, unfulfilled dreams, or things we can’t afford. And for many individuals, everywhere they look or listen, they’re faced with painful reminders.
What then can we do to ease the burdens of others? Certainly we can donate to causes that help during the holidays with meals in shelters or at senior centers. Donations are indeed helpful. But can we do even more?
“More” sounds expensive, one more cost for our already stretched out pocketbooks and budgets. But “more” can be free or close to it. More can mean keeping your eyes open for someone who’s lonely: perhaps a neighbor, a coworker, someone at your church. Watch for clues that might indicate their holiday won’t be so happy. Surprise them with a gift and invitation to spend Christmas Eve or Day with your family.
Set an extra place at your table and keep an extra gift handy for last-minute invitations.
Invite them to a party you’re having. Drop over with a plate of cookies and stay for a bit. Visit and share some laughs.
Depression and loneliness are hateful beasts and they attack specifically at times like Christmas when there’s such an emphasis on family, togetherness, and community. But those of us blessed with resources and relatives can reach out to those who aren’t. Phone calls, small gifts, simple reminders that someone cares can make a tremendous impact on someone’s life.
Imagine spending a lonely holiday in the isolation of an empty home with no one to come calling. Then when you’re done imagining it, change it for someone you suspect might be sitting in that empty home.
Growing up, my Mom made about a dozen different kinds of cookies at the holidays throughout the year, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day. For each of those holidays she’d assemble beautiful plates full of delectables. Then when her labor was done, she’d set out visiting. She had specific people in mind that she’d share those plates with:
Irene who was elderly and lived with her adult special needs daughter.
Alice who was also elderly and lived alone and sometimes had trouble getting out of the house, but always enjoyed Mom’s cookies, her yellow flowering currant in spring, and conversation.
My great-grandmother in the nursing home.
A friend who was also a nurse working at the hospital on Christmas.
She gave her time and talent to create the cookies which were always enjoyed by everyone lucky enough to receive them. But her purest and dearest gift was her thoughtfulness. She remembered these friends and family. Her visits weren’t always scheduled. She’d spontaneously drop in on them throughout the year and they knew something very important…they were remembered and they mattered.
When you’re shopping, planning and baking this season, look around. Be aware of who needs your thoughtfulness. What might mean an hour of your time, will make an incredible difference in the life of someone who needs you. It’s not too late: Call someone today, stop over, bring them to your home for your Christmas celebration!
Take care of one another,
Meet Melanie P. :
Melanie Pickett is a mom, wife, writer, blogger, and Jesus girl. Melanie spends most of her time at her own blog, melaniespickett.com where she writes about her domestic abuse survival, healthy relationships, life, and faith. She is busy with her work in progress, her first nonfiction book. Melanie has been featured on BlogHer.com and published on Splickety Magazine, Whole Magazine, Breathe Writers Conference blog, and various other blogs as a guest writer. Having worked in the medical field for nearly two decades, Melanie recently “retired” so she could concentrate on her family and writing career. She is also a substitute teacher. Besides writing, Melanie loves to read, travel, enjoys hockey, playing piano, listening to music, helping and encouraging others, speaking on Periscope and Blab, volunteering, movies, and hanging out and cheering on her very favorite people: her family. Melanie lives in west Michigan with her husband, two teen children, and her pug Gracie and beabrador Lillie. Her favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11 and one of her favorite quotes is: “They call us the dreamers, but we’re the ones who never sleep.”