From Holiday 2011
By Ken DeBarth, PA-C


Doc18 copyDuring the dark days be­tween Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will all be bombarded with advertisements, songs and carols, and movies and TV shows about this won­drous time of the year.

We will see images of horses pulling sleighs up to the front of brightly lit mansions bedecked with wreaths and lights. We will see large family groups gather­ing in big kitchens, happily get­ting along and smiling together. There will pictures of generations of well adjusted, prosperous fam­ilies gathered around a dining room table decorated by Martha Stewart, loaded down with more food than any one family could eat at one sitting.

We will see ads showing clean-cut men sipping a beer while watching a football game. There will be examples of beau­tiful and rich people sipping champagne from crystal flutes. There will banquet tables with stylish people sniffing wine in matching goblets.

There will be songs EVERY­WHERE from just after Hallow­een until Christmas advising us “to have ourselves a merry little Christmas”, to take the sleigh “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house”, and to roast “chestnuts by an open fire.”

But for many people this is not a time of joy in the world. While the assault of sounds and images of what a proper holiday should look like goes on, many people find themselves caught in a different reality.

Not everyone sips fine wines and champagnes during the holidays. Some drink too much. Some act badly after drinking too much. Many suffer and remem­ber the consequences of this dur­ing this time of year. In Pennsyl­vania, where I grew up, all liquor and wine are sold in state owned and operated stores, appropri­ately named “State Stores”. The busiest single day of the year, the day when more alcohol is sold than any other, is Christmas Eve.

Popular culture tells us that it is a time for family gatherings, that everyone should be happy. But not all families get together or get along. Not all of those who do get together do so happily.

For some there is the painful separation from loved ones by death. Grief is a constant com­panion of those who have had loved ones die. It can be espe­cially strong during the holidays when the fading memories and the lost expectations are brought to the surface by the barrage of holiday “good cheer”. Mourning is a continuous process and can be intensified by images of fam­ily groups in commercials and movies.

winter scene copyThe friction between what we are told we should have and the reality of our lives is never greater than the time between Thanksgiving and Christ­mas. The pain that this creates leads to sadness, depression, and worse. Ask anyone who has worked in an emergency room—the worst shift of the year is Christmas Eve.

You see there really aren’t any families out there like the ones you see on the TV. Not ev­eryone has big kitchens, happy families, and lots of gifts and food. Some don’t have gifts. Or kitchens. Or families. Or food.

While it is carefully ignored by TV advertisers, script-writ­ers and song writers, for many, this is a sad time. It is a time of loneliness. It is a time to grieve those not present through death or distance. For an aw­ful lot of people, this is not “the hap, hap, happiest time of the year”.

If you find yourself among the many for whom the holi­day season is lonely or pain­ful, reach out. When we are in emotional pain, we tend to iso­late from others. We tell our­selves that we shouldn’t bother people, we should be strong or that we aren’t worthy of help and support. The best advice is don’t feel your feelings alone. If you are in emotional pain, talk to someone—a clergy per­son, a trusted friend or relative, or a medical provider. Share your unhappiness and pain. You are not alone.



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