The holidays paint a picture of joy and happiness for many. Love, laughter, family and friends. For others, it’s a time of sadness and depression. It’s not the picture many of us want to envision, but the reality is that an equally dark picture does exist. As a child, I experienced both.
My Grandmother, our matriarch, died when I was nine and it sent my family spiraling down a world of depression and hoarding. The darkness crept in before her funeral. Disagreements over logistics divided our family for decades – the last thing my grandmother would have wanted. Her life was dedicated to bringing family together, not tearing them apart.
The first Christmas after her death was the first time there would be no tree, tamales or festivities with family. Even though I was barely ten, I could understand a mourning period. It felt normal not to celebrate the holidays that year. The following years were anything but normal. My dad drank more heavily, my aunt and uncle fought, and there were no more celebrations. The hoarding and depression grew worse. We did exchange gifts among our immediate family and for a few years my aunt would bring out a nativity set. I loved it, not for religious reasons, but because we did something together for the holiday. It was a glimmer of normalcy.
After my grandmother died, we never sat together again as a family. On the years that a turkey or holiday dinner was cooked, it was always marked by a huge argument. What I wouldn’t have given for a peaceful dinner. The funny thing is that I knew deep down that my family wanted the same thing; they just didn’t seem to know how to make it happen. We all loved each other; it was just a very dark dysfunctional love.
For every “Happy Holiday” greeting I smile and give, there is a genuine sentiment behind it. Whatever the celebration and belief may be, I hope it truly is happy. I hold a very special place in my heart for those that experience a painful holiday season. Whether by donation, invitation, or action I hope to offer a moment of happiness. When you wish someone a happy holiday this season, consider for a moment that your smile and caring may be the happiest moment they will experience. In that spirit, be genuine and if possible, find a way to make someone’s day a little brighter.