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150 Lower Westfield Road
Holyoke, MA 01040


7Dec. 2016

When the Holiday’s Aren’t Happy

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” At least that is what the song says!  I know for me, that statement is absolute truth.  I love the warm glow of Christmas lights and the coziness that this time of the year brings.  The controlled chaos of multiple gatherings with family and friends. Laughter filling the rooms and no one in a rush to leave.  The smell of a big meal for those I love cooking and the sights of desserts cooling.

It is my own personal Norman Rockwell experience and I love it.  As much as I love this time of year I realize that not everyone is experiencing all the joy and happiness it can offer.

For some people this holiday is spent in a nursing home or a downsized assisted living center.

They may have hosted parties that were the talk and delight of all their friends and laughed and danced the night away.  Everything looked just so and was welcoming and wonderful.  Now they are sitting in a shared room with someone remembering all the wonders of years past.  No matter how much family visits or how amazing the staff is, it just isn’t the same.  How could it be?

Some people are grieving this year. It is the first holiday season without a loved one.

Children may be without a mother this year, or a wife without her husband.

It could be the first year a family is celebrating without a child.  A light has been extinguished in the hearts of those left behind, replaced with great sadness.  Things will never be the same and they are trying their best to cope.

For some the only Christmas tree they will see this year is from pictures.

They are in the hospital undergoing treatment, or possibly surrounded by nothing but sand with the sounds of explosions and gunfire in the distance.  The hope of the season is replaced with uncertainty of the future and fear.  They long to be home where everything is normal, familiar and safe.

Some people do not enjoy the holidays because they are trapped in a painful place in the past. Something or someone hurt them in some way around this time of year and now it is what they associate the holiday with.  They can’t move past that part of their life. It has become their life story.  The problem is, instead of this story having other chapters, it has ended to them at a traumatic event.  Instead of “to be continued” their story says “the end.”  There is no moving past it.

We all know someone who is struggling right now with the loss of someone, deployment, divorce, illness, financial issues, depression and many other things. So what, then, should we do?  Easy….practice compassion.  Is that not what this time of year is?  Hope, Compassion, Love, Encouragement?  All things we have been given at one time or another.  How amazing to extend those things to others who so desperately need to feel a touch of humanity right now.

Go to a nursing home and visit. Hold the hand of someone there and if they are able, ask them to tell you about the glory days of holidays past.  Let them talk and listen and laugh along with them!

Bring a meal to a grieving family. If there are children, bring some gifts, realizing that not everyone may be thinking straight at this time and some pretty packages could relieve some stress.

Send a care package overseas to a soldier who is missing family. What a great thing to encourage a service person! It is equally encouraging to the family left here to know others care about their family member enough to send something.

If you think you have nothing to offer, let me remind you that studies have shown that a simple hug has HUGE advantages to the body, mind and spirit. It shows caring and compassion and is something that everyone can demonstrate.  Be mindful of those around you who may be struggling and not enjoying like you are.  Ask them what you can do to help, but don’t ask if you aren’t willing to get an answer!  Be the light in the darkness to them.  Showing empathy and love at Christmas is truly one of the very best gifts you can give.  Giving of yourself at Christmas……..I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about!!  Now….go do something!


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