When the Holidays Aren't Joyful

person holding their head in their hands in a red sweater

The scene has played out a thousand times in movies, books, and television: A family gathers for the winter holidays, cousins and siblings and children greeting one another with joyful hugs at the door of a twinkling house. Inside, a feast has been prepared, presents are exchanged, and the sound of happy music fills the air as snow falls gently outside.

It’s a lovely idea, but this scenario doesn’t match the experience of many people. In reality, the winter holidays may look quite different: perhaps there is no family gathering because a divorce has created a divide, or plane tickets are too expensive to afford. Maybe no gifts are exchanged because layoffs have left a devastating financial hardship in the family. Perhaps those who struggle with seasonal depression simply can’t muster the enthusiasm that feels mandatory this time of year.

In short, for many people, the winter holidays bring a sense of dread, anxiety, and even depression.