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Powerful Help for When Holidays Hurt

Emotional pain around a holiday has many sources. The emotions will sideline us if we fail to address them. I was reminded of that this past weekend. Both of the pain and the tools I needed to use.

I got the turkey Sunday. Monday I had a meltdown. The night before my heart had broken into a thousand pieces once again while sitting with my mother in law Ann. After dinner her mood changed from peaceful to disturbed (a symptom of Alzheimer’s). I tried to calm her but was not successful.

It is painful to watch someone suffer.

I leaned my head against her and wept. I whispered a prayer Lord deliver her from this suffering. I felt so powerless.

Ann entered hospice last year, just before Thanksgiving. As we watched her health decline we wondered if she would make it to Christmas. She did. With every passing holiday, we wondered the same thing. And here we are again. Still wondering.

How is anyone supposed to handle a cloud of pain hovering over a holiday?

My Monday morning meltdown carried more pain than the night before. Sobs came surging out of me in waves. Because of it, I remembered the meltdown I had last Christmas. All the old emotions came rushing back. I had been addressing them all year yet apparently, they were still there. What am I supposed to do now?

How am I supposed to handle all this pain?

I stumbled across a line people use attempting to encourage others. They say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. However, I want to pick a fight with that for two reasons.

One is we often have things happen in our lives we can’t handle. The fact that trauma exists is evidence enough. Trauma is by nature something we can’t handle.  I couldn’t handle it when I did the simple thing of going outside my comfort zone for too long. Which led me to write: 3 things you need when leaving your comfort zone.

Trauma is by nature something we can’t handle. Click To Tweet

How much a person can handle is different with everyone. We are not created to handle things alone. The saying is true: no man is an island.

The second thing is God is not the source of our problem. He doesn’t measure out some ridiculous balance of trouble or tragedies to us. They come uninvited in varying amounts to every human that draws breath on the earth.

I know I am not alone in this predicament. Many people hurt around holidays.

It doesn’t matter what holiday it is.

The joy of a holiday does not erase the pain. It usually amplifies it.

Many things cause holiday pain.

Separation by Distance
Unemployment / Issues at Work
Death / Loss
Divorce / Estrangements
Injury / Disability / Disease
Trauma / Tragedy

So I repeat.

How is a person supposed to handle emotional pain at a time when people expect celebration? 

Use these 3 Tools

Identification –The list above is of circumstances. These cause pain but are not the emotion. Emotions often cascade, meaning one can cause or compound another producing confusion. To gain power, you need to identify the root pain. For example, a cause might be divorce or death, but the emotion could be fear, grief, shame or anger.

To do this you will need to give yourself the time to feel the pain. Make yourself aware of the emotions, unpack them, take them out and look at them. This can be scary but it is well worth it. You cannot heal what you will not face.

My Christmas meltdown stemmed from more than one circumstance. I learned this name the emotion thing in connection with one of them, with Ann. I wrote a short story called A Bird Named Payn.

After my Monday meltdown, I unpacked the other circumstances and discovered the root was fear. With that I learned all my emotional work over the last year was not in vain. I just have more processing to do.

I had to identify what is mine and not mine. I can address what is mine. What is not mine I need to release to the one I put my faith in – The Pursuer. The Bible calls it casting your care.

Acceptance – Emotions need validation. They are what they are. Denying them will not shrink them or make them go away. They demand a response. It is what you do with them that will make the difference. What is that emotion telling you? Is it telling the truth or lying to you? Find the truth and embrace it.

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.
Kenji Miyazawa

It was when I embraced Payn that comfort arrived. I had a right to the feelings. Following my Monday meltdown I had to accept that the fear was lying to me. Fear does not predict, it threatens. Fear wants us to feel powerless. There is a perfect love that gets rid of fear. Love empowers.

Fear wants us to feel powerless. There is a perfect love that gets rid of fear. Love empowers. Click To Tweet

Comfort – Tell yourself it is ok to not be ok. Don’t pretend you are fine. Admit you’re hurting. Sometimes people are aware and sometimes they are not. So speak up. Tell someone. Reach out for help.

This may be a simple phone call to a friend or organization. Or if you need to remain anonymous call a hotline. I have a professional counselor to help me. After my Monday meltdown, I made a few phone calls letting certain people know. I also moved my counseling appointment up a week. I used to be a hider. Don’t hide.

If you are not accustomed receiving help this might feel awkward. But you are worth it. Your pain deserves to be healed. Give yourself what you need – practice self-care. You matter.

#TraumaIsPersonal and #healinghappenstogether

Your pain deserves to be healed. Give yourself what you need – practice self-care. You matter. Click To Tweet

Your holiday homework

Find out the root of your pain, own it and address it so it can begin the process to heal and you will have a better holiday!

Grab this free download of the poem. please-see-me-through-my-tears Share it with a friend!

Watch this video and Tell Your Heart To Beat Again.

Then let me know how this made you feel and if there is anything I can do for you. I’m a big fan of praying so if you are inclined, feel free to leave a prayer request.




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10 thoughts on “Powerful Help for When Holidays Hurt

  1. This is beautiful Danielle.Thank you for being vulnerable and not only your story but as your Tagline reads “Connecting people to the Love that heals.” The holidays are often bittersweet for me – as I seek to celebrate the birth of Jesus and share his love, mercy and grace with others. Living life with chronic physical pain (combined with the often resulting emotion pain) certainly makes the holiday season particularly challenging. Although, I seek to live each day with joy – I so often fall short. Thank you for reminding me of the grace of Christ that is for ME and to allow myself to rest in His arms while still journeying forward through the pain. I also loved the song at the end – such a beautiful song which allows me to soak in His love in the midst of pain. Thank you and praying God’s continued blessings in your life during this season and beyond!

    1. Thank you so much Terry. I’m so happy the song ministered to your heart. May you feel wrapped, like in a blanket, in the comfort The Pursuer provides!

  2. I’ve been going through something very similar myself. I also object to the idea that God doesn’t give us more to handle. Sometimes God allows us to experience more than we can handle so we’ll rely on Him.

    1. Thank you for sharing Karla. It is good to know that we are not alone and that we have a faithful one to rely upon! I hope you feel empowered and comforted.

  3. This is really good, Danielle. You are 100% correct about fear. I’ve tended to run away from fear which is a form of hiding, I suppose. Naming and embracing our fears is important, as you said, in order to transform them into love. Sounds like you have a few more meltdowns to go (wink) but you are getting so much better at confronting them head on.

Please share your thoughts!