Holidays can be time of sadness

December 20, 2010

The holiday season is a time for love, cheer and comfort as people surround themselves with family and friends. We buy gifts, window shop, attend church events, bake cookies, cuddle up next to the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and decorate the tree.

But for some, the holidays can be the saddest time of the year. Sadness during festive times is more common than many realize, for those who are sad become easily overwhelmed by the memories of what has caused their sadness. It manifests itself by a frown, a tear or even by what is known as a “melancholy affect,” says Kristy Gonder, M.S., RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

“Sadness often manifests as a lack of energy to engage or to show interest in events and celebrations,” Gonder says. “Such depressive symptoms tend to be magnified during Christmas simply because it is this time of year people should be happy, and those who are sad cannot or struggle to be happy.”

One of the most common causes of sadness is the loss of a loved one, whether it is due to a death or a separation such as a divorce. People cope by going through what is known as the Kubler-Ross stages of grief and dying, Gonder says. They do not progress through these stages as an interdependent unit; rather they do so as individuals and may even regress.

The Kubler-Ross stages are denial (“Not me”), anger (“Why me?”), bargaining (“If I do this, then I will get…”), depression (“It’s hopeless”) and acceptance (“I’m going to be all right”). The acceptance stage is a difficult one to grasp at this time, for it doesn’t feel right for the person to be celebrating while his or her loss is not there with them to enjoy partaking in the festivities, Gonder says.

“Those who are sad are susceptible to being overlooked at Christmas,” Gonder says. “To lift their spirits, spend quality time with them; promote self-care; empower them to see life for all it has to offer; be sensitive, as their loss is very personal and unique to them; and be optimistic. Optimism is contagious when exhibited.”

— Marketing & Communications