With the first signs of the holiday season – usually the eve of Thanksgiving – millions of Americans enter a mental and emotional spiral termed the holiday blahs. One survey by the American Psychological Association concluded that while feelings of happiness, love, and gratitude are experienced by many, millions more wrestle with loneliness, stress, grief and depression.
Feelings of loneliness during the holidays are increasingly common, according to a 2017 AARP survey, which found that roughly one-in-ten (or 31 percent) adults reported having felt lonely during the holiday season in the past five years. Additionally, two-in-five (or 41 percent) reported worrying about family members or friends feeling lonely or depressed during the holiday season.
“Depression, grief and loneliness often take a toll on individuals and families – especially when there have been deaths in the family. Especially among Black families, once loved one is buried and gone, the holidays tend to represent a particular type of loss because those who have transitioned are sorely missed,” psychologist Jeremy Roy told the Informer. “The holidays magnify loss, as well, because too often the grieving process is rushed and suddenly during Christmas dinner, when that person’s unique presence is missed, does the loss register.”
Roy said that entire families have fallen apart after the loss of an elder who unified the family and made the holiday season enjoyable.
Others, like Arlinda Grady, who grew up in foster care said the holidays represent a time when not having family makes her feel like a third-wheel or outsider among friends who welcome her into their homes.
“I count it all a blessing to have co-workers invite me join their families, but it kind of makes me feel like I am always intruding… like an outsider watching someone else’s family scenes,” Grady told the Informer. “It is a time when I avoid social media and watching television where all I see are families enjoying meals and laughing.”
So how does one go about guarding their emotions during the holiday season?
Grady volunteers to feed the homeless or deliver food to seniors without a care system.
“I found that my loneliness wasn’t singular; others were also suffering the same feelings of isolation and depression. I decided to be the family that others need – so that in turn, they could be the family I need. Now, holidays make me feel overwhelming joy.”