When the Holidays are Difficult

While the holiday season can mean joy and celebrations, traditions and memory making, sometimes it can represent something entirely different. Sometimes it brings forth pain, sorrow, depression, despair, and hurt. If this holiday season is a tough one for you, I am so sorry. 

I’ve been there. You are not alone. 

I know that holidays can serve as a reminder of all the things you’ve lost, and make you feel like there is nothing to celebrate. I know that opening Christmas cards and seeing smiling faces staring at you can feel like an assault on your heart. I know what it’s like to seek out the only music station not playing Christmas music, to find reasons why you can’t attend that Christmas party/pageant/event.

So, today I’m going to try and offer some hope. I’m here as someone on the other side who can tell you, without a doubt that it will get better: Joy can be found again.

How I Survived Difficult Holiday Seasons (plural)

  1. Free yourself; do something different. Give yourself permission to set aside any and all traditions from previous years. Often difficult circumstances can be made worse when trying to fit your life into the same box it used to fit in. Things may look different this year. Divorce, loss of a loved one, living in a new house/area or job loss are just a few ways our worlds can be turned upside down. These changes can be difficult. Find new ways to enjoy yourself and give yourself freedom to explore what that means. Maybe you don’t decorate this year, or you go out to eat for Christmas dinner. Maybe you check out a different church service or find new people to celebrate with – a friend’s family, perhaps. Don’t give presents, instead, go on a family adventure.
  2. Start a new tradition. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but never tried? Now’s a good time to start! For me, I loved the family pajama thing, so I started buying new pajamas at Christmas. I also love a traditional Christmas Eve service. My church is more contemporary so I try to find a traditional service to attend. I’ve also spent several Christmases with friends and their families. There is nothing like the distraction of someone else’s family drama to help you forget about what’s going on in your life for a little while. One year, after the loss of a family member, one of my friends went on a family cruise during Christmas. They loved it, and it was the perfect way to take themselves out of (literally!) all the things that painfully reminded them of years past.
  3. Give yourself space to heal. Some things will take years to heal, some things will never be the same. Listen to your intuition and give yourself what you need. Mental and emotional health are important. In this season when we so easily wear ourselves out doing for others, make sure you take time to care for yourself.
  4. Seek joy. I’m not saying this in the cliche way. I’m talking about real joy. I’ve been studying joy this year (more on that on my blog). Joy is not just superficial happiness. It is contentment, peace, gratitude and hope, no matter the circumstance. For me, God has been my healer, comforter, and counselor through many times of difficulty. If you’re looking for joy, my number one tip is to start writing in a gratitude journal every night before you go to sleep.  

Aside from these tips, give yourself permission and the grace to go through this season however you need to. Let go of the pressures and ‘shoulds’ that you or others may be putting on you and freely do what is best for your overall health. Seek out a counselor or other professional help. 

Don’t go through this alone. 

Find someone safe to share how you’re feeling. If you’d like to talk to me, I’m here, too! Leave a comment below and we can get in touch.

Julia Wallace
Julia and her husband moved from Southern California to Texas in 2014. They love exploring their new home state and finding fun things to do with their two sons who were born in 2015 and 2018. She studied Theology and Fine Arts in college and enjoys using that unique combination in daily life! She’s spent many years working at her church with women, children and youth ministry. Before moving to Texas she owned a dance studio where she loved to help people realize their passions and talents in dance and acting. She is now enjoying the daily adventures of Mom life while writing about faith, family life, photography, and healthy food on her blog, SouthernMercy.wordpress.com and on Instagram @jewelswallace. Recently, she and her husband have started on a Foster to Adoption journey and are looking forward to the adventures that await.


  1. Thank you for this. I cried in my car for awhile this morning after dropping my kiddo at school. It’s class party day and I’m so very sad. Funny how sometimes just the right thing comes into your world at just the right time. Time to dry it up, put on some makeup, and make breakfast for 20 sweethearts who are ready to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Their joy will be contagious. I know it.

    • Bri, I’m so glad my words could help you, thank you for sharing. I hope you were able to find some peace in the holiday season and that 2019 brings you some joy. Here’s to new beginnings, moving forward one step at a time and makeup! 😉

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