The other side of comfort and joy

Thom talks about the pressure of being happy and celebratory during the holidays.

The price of love is grief.

I bring this up this Christmas Eve in this season of comfort and joy because the season is also bittersweet.

There are few among us for whom the holidays will not evoke some sense of melancholy or nostalgia because life itself is bittersweet and everything is amped up at this time of year.

Even if we are surrounded by family and friends and good times, it might be as simple as the current year not quite living up to memories of joyous Christmasses past.

It could just be a small tradition or trinket gone by the wayside.

But it can also run deeper.

In 2019, this newspaper printed somewhere around 70 obituaries. That is 70 families—which translates to hundreds of individual family members and friends—who will be experiencing their first Christmas without a cherished loved one.

And it’s not just the sadness or loneliness or grief. The pressure of being happy and celebratory, especially if the loss is a recent one, can bring on feelings of anxiety or guilt for not respecting that person’s memory.

In fact, for many people, the holidays can be downright depressing.

According to psychologists holiday depression is a real thing and stems from numerous sources.

People such as myself, isolated by changes in life circumstances, work obligations, geography etc., can be particularly prone.

I’m not complaining or blaming, mind you.

While there are always elements of life beyond one’s own control, most of my current situation is attributable to my own failures and/or choices.

I also fall into the category of people who find the crass commercialization and hyper-consumerism of the season distasteful, another primary source of holiday depression.

This year I am on course for the trifecta, though. Although not due to death, I am nevertheless grieving a very great loss, one that will be particularly poignant tonight and tomorrow morning.

I will undoubtedly reminisce about the good times and the bad.

I will undoubtedly have moments of denial, sadness, bargaining, anger and hope.

I will undoubtedly ask myself if the price of love is too high.

This is not a cry for help. I do not anticipate falling into a deep state of depression.

That is because I know the question is one that can only be answered by time.

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

For me, this Christmas, the jury is still out on that old chestnut.

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