Holiday Blues: Coping with Depression and Loneliness This Season

Holiday Blues: Coping with Depression and Loneliness This Season

Perhaps you’re too young to remember Elvis’s Blue Christmas, but you may find yourself fighting a serious case of the holiday blues this season. The pictures of families and Thanksgiving feasts on your social media feeds may have left you even more lonely or hurting inside. Your expectations have so often been disappointed – or worse – during past holiday seasons that now you have no idea how to face Christmas without being overwhelmed by the blues.

Failed expectations in the past can certainly give your Christmas a blue color. So can family conflict or drama, painful memories around past holidays, loss of a loved one, and more. Hallmark movies, commercial images of family and decorations and gifts, Christmas lights and music, and even our Christian holiday traditions sometimes paint an unrealistic picture of celebration when our world is so broken.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate! In fact, the darkness around us makes it even more important that we take time to focus on the birth of a Baby and the hope He brings for both our present and our future. But how do you do that when you’re struggling with feeling blue?

The First Christmas

We associate Christmas with joy, and we should! But the first Christmas was even more full of drama and tragedy and risk and pain.

  • For Jesus, it meant leaving the physical presence of His Father and entering enemy territory as a helpless Baby. It meant embarking on a journey where He would be misunderstood, hated, and eventually killed.
  • For Joseph, it meant the shame or embarrassment of embracing a woman pregnant with a Baby who was not his own son, and leaving his hometown for years.
  • For Mary, it meant the shame and embarrassment of giving birth while unmarried, the pain of being misunderstood by almost everyone, and the pain any first mother knows in childbirth.

Remember that Jesus voluntarily stepped right into the middle of evil, holding nothing back in the quest to rescue you and me from that very evil. It’s shouldn’t be surprising when we often experience wounds from the crossfire during the final phases of the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness.

When I deliver a baby I often say to the new parents, “A new baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” And as a baby embodies the promise of new life, so the bigger message of Christmas and the birth of The Baby hold promise of our new life in an even larger dimension.

Making it Practical

That may sound nice, but what does that mean when you’re facing Christmas without the money to celebrate as you would like, or the loving family it seems others have, or the spouse you loved but now is gone? Can you do anything about the holiday blues?

The most important thing is to make a conscious choice about how you will respond this holiday season. For example, you cannot change the dysfunctional family you came from, but you can choose how much time you spend with them now. You cannot erase the loss from a loved one who is gone, but you can celebrate old memories and make some meaningful new memories. You always have choices.

Here are several practical suggestions for getting through the holidays without succumbing to the blues.

  • Take care of your body. Our integrated human nature means our physical wellbeing affects our emotional and spiritual wellbeing also. Limit the holiday junk food and drink you take into your body. Get adequate rest most days. You’ll feel better as a result.
  • Sometimes say NO. You don’t have to buy a gift for everyone on your list, attend every holiday event you’re invited to, or decorate every inch of your home. Choose the most important people, events, and traditions you want to make part of your Christmas and let the rest go. I promise the New Year will still arrive even if you miss that holiday party.
  • Choose the people you invest in. There may be people among your family and friends who only add to your frustration, pain, or unhappiness; give them an hour if necessary, but not days of your time and energy. Other people lift you up simply by being in their presence; maximize the time and effort you invest in these relationships.
  • Make some new memories. Painful memories are a huge part of holiday blues. Embrace those memories that are important to you, and then move on. You can choose to make some new and meaningful memories. Pick out some new Christmas decorations, learn a new Christmas song, or go to a new Christmas program this year.
  • Focus on giving. There is little that will lift your spirits more than helping someone else. And there’s always someone in worse need than you. Find that person or people, and do something for which they cannot repay you. Truly make it about them, and you’ll find your own spirits lighter as a result.
  • Give God your memories and expectations. Let Him have your past, your present, and your future. Use this holiday season as an opportunity to spend some time in His presence. Talk to Him about finding a new level of the healing He has available and learning a new dimension of the future He has for you.

Make some thoughtful plans now to limit your vulnerability to the holiday blues. In this world we cannot expect any season to provide unmixed joy, but we can choose to focus on and maximize how we celebrate those things that are good.

Yes, “A Baby Changes Everything!” (Click the link to listen and watch the song and story.)

Your Turn: What makes you vulnerable to the holiday blues? What steps are you going to take this Christmas season to keep from falling into the blues? Leave a comment below.

Tweetables: The Christmas season leaves many people vulnerable to the holiday blues. Planning intentionally now will help you get through the season with more joy and less blues. Here are six ways to do that.  Tweet that.

Beating the Holiday Blues

We want to help you get through the Christmas holiday season with more joy and less blues!

To help you do that, we’re releasing some special episodes of our Relationship Prescriptions podcast. Starting today, each Thursday between now and the end of the year we are presenting tips and prayers for Beating the Holiday Blues.

Here are two great ways to listen:

  1. On our website.
  2. In iTunes or Google Play.


Did this help you? Share with others and help them!

  • Denise Morphy

    My husband died 6 months ago. Everyone I am close to has their spouse and I feel alone. I have my children and grandchildren but the person I want in the whole world is gone and I am deeply saddened. I still ask why God didn’t heal him. I am a church organist. I have many responsibilities at Christmas time. It is so hard to find joy right now.

    • Oh Denise, my heart goes out to you. Last year was my first Christmas after my husband died. I know how painful this time is. May God be very close to you in the way only He can. I pray His comfort envelop you. I’m happy to hear from you any time.

      • Denise Morphy

        Thank you so much for understanding.

  • Natasha Clinkscales

    Hello, I lost my son to a senseless act of gun violence on October 18th of 2015.He was 18 years old. He went to a Homecoming 🏈 Football Game, and never returned home that night. It was devastating, to say the least. He was the youngest of my 3 children. His 20 year old brother attended college at Indiana University, where the game was held. He had to go and identify his little brother. At the time, his father was out of the country celebrating his birthday. So, I as his mother received a call from his sister who lived in Los Angeles, the following day. My ♥ still aches for him. He was a skilled basketball player, who was college bound. The last big event prior to his death was Senior Prom. I Miss him, he had a wonderful, playful spirit. He loved to make people 😁. He had a smile that lot up a room. How do I move forward, knowing that I will never see him again here on earth?

    • It’s not easy, Natasha. It hurts! Healing is a journey. You might find this helpful:
      Moving forward does not mean you forget your son. There’s a sense in which you choose to keep living because God has something for you to do, even while you’re hurting terribly at the same time. I learned to become grateful not for my husband’s death, but for his life and what that meant for me and others. Perhaps you can spend time talking with God about what your son’s life meant for you and others, focus on that, and look for and embrace that aspect of gratitude. It doesn’t lessen the loss, but it makes living forward more meaningful.
      My thoughts and prayers will be with you.

  • rjnvpn

    Hello, I too am grieving. My husband of 43 years took his own life on September 29, 2017. This has been especially difficult because he had a very hard heart and I don’t believe that he was saved. I married my husband while I myself was not living for the Lord. I have only myself to blame for my poor choices as my marriage was not a happy one. Nonetheless, it grieves me that he chose to do this to himself and I am haunted by where he is spending eternity. Although, we had a less than mediocre marriage, I do feel the loss or presence of having someone in my life. We moved to a new town and this happened 10 days later – so all of my good friends are not living near by…….I struggle daily with loneliness.

    • I’m sorry to hear of your loss. Such loneliness is so hard. May God comfort you through this time of grief and this coming Christmas season. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

      • rjnvpn

        Dear Dr. Carol, Thank you so much for your condolences. Your kind thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

    • Natasha Clinkscales

      I am so very sorry for your loss. I can’t even begin to understand what you are going through emotionally. I myself have been suicidal and have been hospitalized many times throughout the course of my life. Today, I am full of God’s Grace and Mercy. I’ve heard it said: Don’t Question God. I have, but my life is a 360 turn around since I gave myself to Him. Stay close to the Lord. I believe that some lost souls will be saved. I hope that you can find comfort in that. I don’t have all the answers. He does and He Lives! He has something planned for your life. Please never give up!

      • rjnvpn

        Thank you so much Natascha. That is comforting.

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  • Neil Fumicelli

    I think I will have a pretty good time this year for Christmas. It was hard last year, but I am happy this year. Jesus healed my broken heart and gave me joy. I do think that my mom will have a hard time since my dad passed away. I pray for her all the time and I hope the pain of losing him subsides. My pastor’s daughter has been doing much better now. I have been praying for her and her husband to be happy together, because I believe that is why she is sometimes upset and mean to others. My mother-in-law just had a heart attack and I feel really bad because I can’t even go pray for her. I don’t think she wants to see me. I still pray for her and her daughter everyday. I guess I can just love them both from afar.

  • Neil Fumicelli

    This year will be my first year doing Christmas without my dad. My mom is doing a great job keeping the family together, I am so grateful to have her still here. I feel so bad for my mom and for all of you women who recently lost your husbands. I will be praying for all of you. There is no love like a husband’s love.