Let’s face it, for many folks, the holidays can be difficult.  Given the media pressure to be happy, it is tough to be blue during the holidays. Amid the hustle and bustle of Hanukkah and Christmas hype there are many folks for whom the season is not joyous or bright.  Adding to the normal strain, is the latest surge of COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant.
Although many of us look forward to Christmas as a time for gifts and to celebrate family and friends, there are many others for whom the occasion is difficult and even painful. Death , divorce, financial troubles , loneliness , depression and failing health are but a few of the reasons which keep many folks from experiencing the full joy of the holiday.  
While we can’t always make things all better when we encounter someone who is blue, being aware of his or her plight can help us to be more sensitive and compassionate in our interactions with them.  
It is important to remember that what folks who are blue really need during this painful time is empathy and understanding. Here are some tips to help you improve your empathy skills and to show more kindness and sensitivity to those you meet during this holiday season : Coping with COVID, Depression and the Holidays. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

1. Don’t assume everyone is in the holiday spirit. When you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, before you say anything, remember that it is possible they may not be in a holiday mood. Largely because of the media hype, we often just take it for granted that Christmas is a happy time for everyone. Obviously. it isn’t. Grief and sadness are bad for business. Thus, advertising creates an unrealistic image of the time and doesn’t pay attention to the experience of those who are blue. So, we need to make a special effort to keep a realistic perspective about the season and not to forget about those who are hurting.

2.  Take some Time and Check things out.  Ask how they are doing. Christmas is about showing kindness to people we meet. Before talking about all of your wonderful holiday plans or experiences, take a moment and ask how the other person is doing.  For example, it is important to know what the holidays mean to a person. Sometimes the holidays are associated with grief and pain.  In order to know , you first have to ask.

3. Pay attention and Stay Focused on the people with whom you speak . After your initial greeting, take the time to really engage . Notice the person’s facial expressions and body language as they talk to you. Take a few minutes, pause your hurried agenda and just be with the person.  You may discover something important .

4. Don’t try to cheer up someone who is blue. When you realize that someone is hurting, there is no need to try to cheer them up. (It usually isn’t very helpful anyway.)  Ironically, attempts to be positive and cheerful can be experienced by the “blue” person as a cut-off which emotionally disconnects them from you. Sometimes the best support for a person who is down is simply to be present with the person’s feelings. Remember, often, doing less is more. The power of empathy stems not from trying to fix a situation but, but instead from its willingness to be attentively and supportively present with someone in the midst of their distress.  

5. Be kind and be prepared to shift gears and just listenRemember, sometimes the best gifts you can give to someone who is blue is your concerned and attentive presence. Taking some time to just be there with them, in a concerned way, is a powerful and healing response.  Simply allowing them to talk without interruption or shifting the subject is a caring and helpful moment. Coping with COVID, Depression and the Holidays. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

The holiday season is a time for love and joy and sharing. It is also a time for unexpected blessings and miracles. Remember that by gift those around you with of empathy, you increase your experience of love and you can be the bearer of love and joy to someone who needs and longs for it.  The strain of the holidays and COVID, notwithstanding, the transforming and redeeming power of love and empathy is not diminished.

Happy Holidays ! 

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC   12 16 2021
Image attribution and acknowledgment from http://incity-mag.com/