• Dalya Shaw

'Tis the Season to be jolly... unless it's not



‘Tis the season to be jolly fa la la la la, la la la la …’ Unless it’s not.


December and this holiday season in general are not experienced by all people equally. For some it is a cause for celebration, joy and happiness, but for many it is a time filled with moments of overwhelming sadness and despair and incredible darkness.


Other than my birthday, Christmas is probably my least favourite time of the year and I know it is the same for thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of others out there as well. The weeks leading up to ‘the big day’ - the 25th December is always worse than the day itself, but this is of little or no comfort for those going through it. It is like wading through thick honey, exhausting, painful and sometimes totally overwhelming. Part of the problem is a lot of society has built this day up to be a mammoth, gigantic, huge, monumental event and yet a lot of people spend the weeks in December in a state of anxiety, depression and a never-ending mess of tears.


While I am on the topic, there are also a lot of people including numerous whole countries that don’t celebrate Christmas at all.


While many of us are checking off lists and planning menus, a lot of others are trying to plan how they are just going to make it through the day in one piece. And it’s sounds crazy because the day comes and goes in the same 24 hours as every other day that passes. Knowing this doesn't always make the feelings any less real. For me, I am always glad when I go to bed on 25th December and I wake up and it’s the 26th. I breathe a silent sigh of relief as I know the day is over and I made it through again and I don’t have to deal with it for another 365 days.

If you feel like this or you know someone who feels like this – I get it and you are not alone!!


Some of you reading this are like what? How can you say that? Christmas is amazing, joyous, and exciting and sure it comes with stresses, but you make it wonderful! I totally appreciate if that’s how you feel and from the bottom of my heart, I am so so happy for you and wish you everything wonderful for your day. But, what I want to tell you is this is NOT the case for a lot of people.


We make ourselves crazy trying to perfect the honey glazed ham or make sure we have the best ingredients in our trifle, yet a lot of people are having 2-minute noodles or nothing at all for the same meal. Oh and they had 2-minute noodles or nothing at all the day before and the day before that too. They can only imagine a food spread so huge with so many choices in savoury and sweets for lunch or dinner and being so full they must sleep and laze around all afternoon. In reality these feelings are so foreign to them. They are just grateful if they have something to put in their stomachs and if it happens to be the 25th of December, okay then.


It is a popular time of year for a lot of people to have time off work. A time where many take the opportunity to rest, relax, take stock and perhaps plan. It is a massive time for thinking. It is a time we traditionally reflect on our last 12 months and wonder what the New Year will bring with its next 12 months. Some will wonder if it will be as bad as the last, some will look forward to it being just as great or better! This thinking time, or for some ruminating, is again challenging for those who see a bleak outlook or who are going through or have come out of difficult circumstances. Sometimes, it’s better not to think and finding a way to not think can lead to it's own set of problems.


And while some struggle for hours or days to find the perfect gift, others struggle for hours or days thinking about how they will get through the next few weeks that crescendo in the day we call Christmas Day. For these people, this day will bring a painful and overwhelming range of emotions and what can feel like an impossible 24 hours. This is their reality.

For some, it is the contrast between wishing for a new TV, or the latest IPhone or Google gadget and wishing for the feelings of sadness and darkness to go away once and for all.


I know someone who spent many years in a fog of drugs and alcohol over the ‘holiday season’ and this time of year presents incredible challenges for them. As soon as the 1st of December clicks over, the demons come out of the closets and remind them of their previous best practiced habit.


It can be a time of temptation and mental anguish for anyone trying to get through this period sober. We have made it socially acceptable to drink copious amounts of alcohol during this period and the tradition of New Years is to … well, drink some more alcohol. So, you can see how difficult this is for the person struggling with sobriety.


For me the build up to the 25th of December is the worst, and you can’t escape it. The junk mail, the decorations, the lights, the before and after sales, the gift ideas on TV, radio, social media, the festive songs, it goes on and on and on perpetuating the already nightmare.


For anyone that has lost someone close to them, this time of year is almost unbearable. This 'holiday season' is usually depicted as a time of year for families to get together (whether you want to or not, and ironically whether you like them or not), to eat, drink, celebrate and share. I can tell you that for a lot of people out there who have lost their significant other or a member of their family, it is impossible to celebrate and being around families or groups of families just adds salt to the wound.


Last year I lost the most important person in the world to me. A person who can never be replaced by anyone ever. A person who I love(d) like I have never loved anyone before and never will love anyone again. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of this person and miss him and I know that will never change. This is my reality. For me, the 25th December was about my son Ben. Sure, over the years I used to put on breakfast for anyone that was around. My close friends and family members and anyone else who didn’t have anywhere to go was always invited. But mostly I did this for my Ben to show him the example that we don’t need to go crazy just because it’s the 25th of December and it was more important to look after each other. It was just as important to be kind, share and to look after others on every other day of the year as well!


I wanted him to know that it’s okay to be just the way we are, even if it’s different to everyone else. We never went over the top with gifts and whilst I generally gave him what he had asked for, he never asked for much. The meaning behind Christmas was never a religious one for me or our family and I was always amused hearing stories of people making themselves nuts with debt and late-night shopping deals. At the end of the day what was it all for? It was just stuff! Ben and I shared the same feelings on ‘stuff’ and ‘clutter’. This was evident on our last house move. His entire life came down to just a few boxes - and he was very happy with that!


This may all sound like doom and gloom and perhaps you are relating me now to The Grinch, or Ebenezer Scrooge and I completely understand how you feel.


You know what, I really get it! On so many levels I really get it!



But here’s the thing. December 25th is JUST ANOTHER DAY! This year it is a Tuesday, I finally looked that up yesterday as I actually had no clue. And guess what? We have one of those every single week, average 4 a month and around 48 a year 😊. Tuesday in two weeks just happens to fall on December 25th but it can absolutely be treated the same as last Tuesday and the Tuesday in August or February, it all comes down to how you think and what you need to do for you.


I have made it a mission to become a master of booby trapping myself into success especially for days like this and it is a great example. I know that if I don’t have a plan for the 25th it would be a train wreck waiting to happen. That plan might be as simple as not acknowledging the day. Some may call it denial, I call it coping. I do things differently to most, I am sure this will be no surprise for those of you that know me, and I am not suggesting you do the same. What I am suggesting is if this is a painful time for you or someone you know, you need to do what will work for YOU, and no one else!


Why? Because when you go to sleep on the 25th of December it’s going to be over for another year. It’s done! and you don’t have to think about it again until next year or at least until the calendar clicks to the 1st of December in 2019. Who knows where you will be then. Life could look very differently to how you see it today.


So my message is one of empathy and hopefully support. If this time of year reduces you to tears at the drop of an advertising catalogue I get it! If you feel pressure to be a certain way or feel a certain way or if you put pressure on yourself to act a certain way, I get it! If you fall apart when you open your eyes on the 25th of December, for a million different reasons - I get it!



I really REALLY get it!!


So … I am here to tell you that it’s totally okay to feel the way you do and you can get through this! I have done it more than once and I can promise you, you can too! No matter what your scenario is YOU CAN DO THIS. No matter how many times you break down, you can get back up again. No matter what happens between now and the end of the year, IT WILL BE OKAY. There are no coincidences. Sometimes we just need to hear from someone who has experienced some of the things we have, tell us “I promise you it is all going to be okay. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but I promise it will be”.


So here is your message – I promise you whoever you are and wherever you are and no matter what your circumstances are, you CAN get through this and it is all going to be okay! You are stronger than you think and the 26th of December is a brand new day.


Much Love

Dalya xx 💙

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Dalya Shaw

Speaking Services | Writing Services

e: dalya@dalyashaw.com

Brisbane, Australia

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