The holidays are here again. As I have stated before, many people assume it is a happy time for everyone. We have signs of the Holidays and being happy everywhere. The decorations are everywhere, in stores and in homes. The music seems to be on every station. The parties are happening. The secrets and the giggles. Gets you feeling good just thinking about it, no? I read an article by a psychotherapist, Bea Armstrong, who indicates, like I have, that the Holidays are not a happy time for everyone and why. I have included her thoughts below.

No. Not for everyone.

The holiday season can be joyful AND painful. Holidays can hurt.

And they often hurt because of past experiences. Holidays can remind us of the year that some trauma occurred. And then we can never celebrate the current holiday without awakening memories of Decembers when Mom or Dad or a spouse died. Or a friend passed — way too soon. Or a child had a horrible accident.

Sometimes, we remember alone. Other times those memories are shared with a sibling or a partner or a friend. And that can make them easier. But the sting is still there.

Childhood can also be the source of hurtful holiday memories. Not every child experiences a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade Christmas or Hanukkah. And if our childhoods were replete with scary adults who were abusive verbally or emotionally, or who abandoned us, we might decide that “I don’t do holidays.” And I’ll just “get through” and “be happy when it’s over.”

Sometimes the adults in our childhood weren’t scary….just clueless. They bought us presents that could have gone to anyone, despite how obvious we were about our preferences. Or the color came in a hated pink; or a size that we stopped wearing a year or more ago. When that happens, we don’t feel seen accurately by those who are supposed to care about us. We believe that we don’t matter enough to those people to get it right. To get us right.

This particular holiday might be difficult because our lives are in chaos now. Maybe a divorce is about to happen. Or we’ve lost a job. And we can be struggling to make the holidays joyous for others, for the kids. But we sure don’t feel it. The carols bring on tears of pain more than gratitude as we watch dreams unravel.

Or we’re seniors and find ourselves more and more often alone at the holidays, and unsure what to do about that.

If you are hurting this year, realize that you aren’t alone in that experience. Jealousy doesn’t help, and it’s rarely accurate. Even people who seem to have the best holiday season in tow can be covering up some deep wounds. Naming those wounds and normalizing that helps us feel more connected – to ourselves and to others.

If, on the other hand, you hear someone asking what’s going on for you, then share some of what you are going through. You don’t have to do an exhaustive history, but don’t slough it off either by saying something like, “It’s not that bad. I’m OK.” You’re not. And that is your truth.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience and specializes in treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website or on

2 thoughts on “The Holidays are not Happy for Everyone

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