Handling Sadness at the Holidays

The Christmas holiday season is always full of some wonderful family experiences. We get to see our kids perform their instruments in a bunch of musical performances, listen to them sing in church, spend time with family and friends, and work hard on creating family memories that will last for years.

Here is one of my girls playing the violin for an event. (She’s in the middle.)

Kids playing violin

An often overlooked, or under talked about phenomena of the holiday seasons are those feelings that sometimes cause our holidays to be less than merry. In fact, in our small town one of the methodist churches holds a special service for people who are dealing with loss.

For me, even with all the wonderful things that happen during this time of year, there are sad memories that cloud the good memories. We lost a baby when I was 4.5 months pregnant a few years ago and had Joshua lived, he would be 3 years old this Christmas. I can’t help but thinking about that even when I watch my kids decorate our Christmas tree. (This is my oldest and youngest working together to decorate our living room tree.)

Kids Putting Ornaments On Tree

It is tempting and natural during the holiday season, or really any other time, to fall back to food as a source of comfort to soothe sad feelings. I know that I often tried to use food as a soother of emotions, and as a way to push down unpleasant feelings and emotions. Even with all my years of maintenance under my belt, I have to remind myself that overeating won’t fix anything. Nothing at all. Instead, if I overeat due to emotions, I will just be sorry later.

Like I told a friend of mine just the other day who was telling me that she just wanted to “stuff her face” with chocolate during the holiday season because it was the first year she was without her mother – “All the chocolate in the world won’t bring your mother back, and the temporary fullness of chocolate will quickly fade, leaving you once again to face the raw emotions you are feeling.” (This is something I often tell myself.)

I know this post is not all “joy and cheer,” but I just wanted to encourage you that if you feel a bit blue this holiday season to remember that one of the best things you can do for yourself is to take care of yourself emotionally by having friends and family to share experiences with, take care of yourself physically by exercising and eating right, and take care of yourself spiritually.

Any thoughts?  Diane

20 thoughts on “Handling Sadness at the Holidays

  1. jeanette says:

    Thank you Diane for this post and keeping it real. I lost my dad a few months back and also have lost a son at birth 30 years ago. No matter how much time wether its recent or long ago we will always have to deal with some sadness and sorrow and eating just to make us feel better is not the answer of course, but it’s what we want to do. I also keep telling myself during these times a hundred times a day'”Just stay the course” as I know that if I stay, it all goes downhill from there.
    Your daughter is lovely…I love Christmas time of the year and I am watching a marathon of Hallmark Christmas movies this week-end…lol.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thank you for sharing that Jeanette and for your sympathies. In my logical mind it seems as though I should be able to just deal with the loss and move on but it is a lot more complicated than that.

      I like your “just stay the course” mantra. Mine is “never go back.” It helps me focus on what I need to do in order to stay healthy and remember that food doesn’t mask emotions.

  2. Hope K says:

    My son plays the violin, too! He started when he was five, three years ago, and about a year ago I started playing, also. Right now I’m learning “Joy to the World.” I’m hoping he and I can do a duet for Christmas.

    I’m sorry about the loss you endured. I, too, had a miscarriage about 2 1/2 years ago. The pastor’s wife at my church was pregnant at about the same time I was. I look at their little boy and I feel a pang of loss, even though I am happy for them.

    Christmas used to be very hard on me. I have bipolar disorder, and summers tend to be my manic time, and winters are usually my depressive time. My disorder seems to be seasonal. Before I got good treatment and started working on dealing with the side effects of my medication, one of which is weight gain, I thought I hated Christmas. But it was just because I was in my depressive state and felt overwhelmed by holiday responsibilities. Now that I am getting so much better (and have lost 43 pounds!) I am starting to love the Christmas season again, like I did as a child. I like seeing Christmas through the eyes of my son. It’s like reliving my own childhood. Enjoying Christmas again is my own personal Christmas miracle.

    Happy holidays, everyone!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thanks for sharing that and I’m sorry for your miscarriage. I think people underestimate how much of a loss it is. We have had a total of seven miscarriages. . .

      I play clarinet and piano and all seven of the kids play an instrument. We have five string players, a piano/clarinet, and a pianist. It’s a lot of fun for them to play together!

      Congratulations on the weight loss and finding a treatment plan that has made a difference for your holidays and your life. That really is a miracle!

  3. Kim says:

    I always think that the holidays can actually be a very hard time for many people – whether they are dealing with the emotions of a loss or just don’t have family to be with and are lonely.

  4. Dr. J says:

    This was the first Thanksgiving that my whole family got together since my mom died! It was very emotional for me to be in my parent’s home that first day, but my dad had left just the right amount of my mom’s memories in view so after that first day, home felt like home again.

    Gratefully, food was never part of this for me.

    • Janis says:

      Oy, that’s a toughie. Sorry to hear about your loss. 🙁 I remember how strange the first few holidays were after my dad died.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m sure that must have been hard on a lot of levels Dr. J. Loss is never easy and those next steps are not something you can prepare for because each person’s path is different. I’m glad your family was able to be together for Thanksgiving.

  5. PlumPetals says:

    Lovely photos!
    I’ve been feeling rather listless lately and I can relate to those feelings of wanting to just eat away my depression/anxiety. Staying busy is key, but even if I’m not eating, the emotions do weigh me down.

  6. Lisa says:

    Great topic. Sadness and depression are hard–they are often a black hole that is very hard to get out of and food is a comfort. Overcoming that is huge.

  7. L says:

    Grateful for this post, Diane. I have a friend who just lost her “adopted” son at 21. She is obviously very sad and no doubt will continue to be through Christmas. I know there are many others out there that will have to grapple with the feelings of sadness this Christmas and my heart goes out to them. My step father died on Christmas days many years ago–wow, almost 30 years now–and my mom still deals with the sadness every holiday season. Not easy, but overeating doesn’t help. Thank you for giving us a lot to think about with this post, and a way of processing the feelings of others that might be tinged with sadness this year. Saying a prayer for you today!

  8. Leslie says:

    Your blog has been a gift to me all year long, Diane! Thanks for your honesty and for sharing a difficult memory so we can all gain strength in how you continue to deal with it. I’m practicing maintaining where I am right now through the holidays, rather than gaining the 5 pounds I usually do. It’s realistic and is working for me. Come January I’ll be back in full weight loss mode. Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season!

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