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  • Writer's pictureSweta Patel

Beneath the Festive Surface: Understanding Holiday Emotions

Rory speaks. Sweta writes. How one addict's story raises questions for reflection for any one of us.

Rory shares why the holidays can be hard for some


When my family and I think about the holidays and the long winter break, it's always with the excitement of catching up with grandparents, hanging out with cousins by the fireplace, laughing and playing competitive games well past midnight, maybe even spending time at a beach with a new city to explore on a mini-vacation.

This time of year is one of my favorites. I take in the snow-covered branches, with holiday music and twinkling lights, as a breath of fresh air.

Until I met Rory, I never fully considered that when others think of the holidays, they may see a dreary, gray world, where the happy music and sound of laughter are suffocating, a stark reminder of what is absent from their own life.

I never fully considered: how the anticipation of seeing family can remind us of our shame, of how we let others down with the life we lived or are still living. Or how in some cases, there may be no family to even turn to, and in others, it may be a toxic environment with nowhere else to go. Or how a person trying to stay sober might struggle with holiday parties, with wine and champagne bottles getting passed around.

And then I think about my students at our alternative high school. While I'm looking forward to the long winter break, some of them might be dreading the looooooooooong winter break. Yet in school culture, there's often a countdown to the holidays (only 9 days left!) and the lingering question: So what are you going to do for winter break?

But now, I think the better question might be: How are you feeling about the holidays?

Maybe with an invitation to share, we might get to know a little of the person's story, a start to a more genuine connection.


For All of Us: Who is a person in your life that may struggle during the holidays? They might be alone, in recovery, facing financial hardships, or enduring some other challenge. How can you support them in creating new holiday traditions that they can look forward to? Whether it's inviting them over for a holiday meal, or going bowling, or ringing bells together, or... what's an idea that you have?


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