Weddings. Holiday parties. Birthday celebrations.
They are all supposed to be happy and joyous. But what about when you’re battling depression?
I remember the year my mother died. Only a few months later, the holidays were upon us, and I sat at the foot of the Christmas tree sobbing. “I’m not ready to be the matriarch of the family!” I couldn’t muster up the happiness, joy, or peace we sung about in the Christmas carols. I just wanted to forget the holiday, and forget my grief, and yet I couldn’t.
Everywhere I looked, reminders declared that Christmas wasn’t merry that year.
That wasn’t the only difficult time, but those times taught me many lessons.
How do we handle celebrations when depression weighs heavy in our hearts?
5 Ways to Celebrate despite Depression
1. Give Yourself Grace
I was grieving, and that was okay. I had to give myself room to feel and process and acknowledge my loss; not just the loss of my mother but the loss of how I thought the holidays were “supposed to be.” I learned to do what I could but allow myself to accept a less-than Norman Rockwell picture perfect holiday.
2. Determine the Minimal Acceptable Involvement
Whether it’s holidays with the family, a friend’s wedding, a boss’s baby shower, or some other celebration, determine what you can do to participate without demanding too much from yourself. Perhaps you show up at the beginning of the event before the complete crowd is present, then slip out when the noise or activity level become too frenetic. Maybe rather than an extravagant dinner, you opt for appetizers and desserts to shorten the evening. Be as present as possible, while respecting your need to care for yourself.
3. Ask for Help
Share where you are with your friends and family and tell them what would be helpful. Maybe ask a friend to accompany you to the company Christmas party. Rather than preparing all the food yourself, make it a potluck type affair where others will contribute as well. Determine ahead of time a code-word or signal to let others know when you’ve reached your capacity or need additional support.
4. Remember You Aren’t in This Alone
Depression can feel like one of the loneliest experiences ever. It’s times like that when it’s important to remember you really aren’t alone despite how you feel. God has promised that He not only goes before you but is with you always.
5. Keep Your Focus on Others
Depression can usher in a tendency to be inwardly focused. This makes celebrating even more difficult. Yet Scripture encourages us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. During these times of celebration, keep your focus on others rather than on your own pain. Consider it a gift for them, knowing that if the tables were turned you’d want them to do the same for you.
Depression is painful, and although others may not relate to your pain, there are ways to participate in times of celebration while minimizing the negative impact on you.
If you are struggling, or know someone who is, I’d love to hear in the comments below what helps you. I’d also encourage you to check out some of my other popular posts about depression.
15 Top Blog Posts on Depression
- 10 Verses of Hope for When You Are Down or Depressed
- Depression Feels Like a Broken Heart
- What Not to Say When a Loved One is Depressed
- What to Say When a Loved One is Depressed
- Combat Depression with Truth
- Ask Dr. B: When a Spouse Is Depressed
- Don’t Treat Depression with a Band-Aid
- 10 Scriptures for Mothers Suffering from Depression
- 3 Things Depression Does To Us Spiritually
- 3 Hope-Filled Ways God Limits the Impact of Depression in our Lives
- There is No Shame in Depression
- How to Help a Depressed Loved One
- Is It Exhaustion Or Depression?
- Thankful for Depression
- How to Share About Your Depression With Your Loved Ones
Resources on Depression: Recommended reading on depression
October is Depression Awareness Month. Would you consider sharing this or my other posts about depression to help educate, and let others know they aren’t alone, and there is help, hope, and healing.
Because I treated patients for 20 years, and then went through a terrible bout of depression myself, I felt compelled to write my award-winning book “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study” to help others be victorious and overcome.
May I pray for you?
Father, I thank you that in your word you tell us “for everything there is a season.” For the one reading these words right now, will you hold them close during this season? When times of celebration seem too much to endure, will you remind them that they are not alone—you have gone before them, and go with them. Weeping may endure for the night, but I ask you to bring them your joy in the morning. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
I can relate to the pain of losing my mom close to holidays. She passed on April 10th, just 8 days before my birthday and mere weeks before Mother’s Day. There were moments I didn’t know if I could endure the pain I felt in missing her and just wanting to hug her close, one more time. It was in those moments that I felt Jesus near! He comes at the perfect moment. He kept reminding me of the peace she had even up to the final breath she took. She talked of the Angel Michael being with her and she lifted her arms in the air as if she was climbing. I know without a doubt in my heart that Jesus was there, reaching out to her. It was beautiful, and I’m so grateful the God allowed me to experience it all. It doesn’t take away the pain I feel in missing her, I miss her every moment of every day. But I have the blessed assurance of knowing that Jesus was there waiting to guide her home.
I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure this loss. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I’m so grateful for your testimony of God’s faithfulness to you and your mother. Sending hugs in my prayers.
These are excellent suggestions. I particularly like #1, 2, and 5. I remember feeling similar when my mother died. Giving yourself time and allowing yourself to just feel and grieve is so important. Great tips! I’m Tweeting and Pinning. 🙂
Thanks so much for your kind words and for sharing. I pray it helps others who are going through a difficult time.
Usually I’m happy during Christmas no matter how Depressed or Manic I am but there was one Christmas where I just wasn’t happy and wasn’t enjoying myself no matter what. I basically did what you said, did the minimum needed for others and took care of myself. I wasn’t Christian then but I’m sure I would have felt better if I had known God was with me.
Thanks for visiting! I hope we see you here again. I’m so glad you’ve still been able to generally maintain your happiness despite a history of depression or mania. I believe knowing God does help us, but even Christians struggle. So I hope my resources help.
Once again, a fantastic post in a practical way to live with depression. I love #5 – sometimes this is the greatest cure for depression for me—to put my focus on others. Posting on my depression/anxiety help boards! Thank you Michelle!
Thanks for visiting Susan. I’m glad this post encouraged you. I so appreciate you posting…together we can help others have the resources that help.
I’ve struggled with #2 and #3 over the years but learning how to do them now, and it is amazing! It doesn’t mean there aren’t hard times–but knowing my limits and reaching out have helped me so much. Thanks for writing about this stuff, Michelle–I appreciate you so much!
Meg, I’m so glad you visited the blog again. I hope we see you here more in the future. I can relate to your struggle, but I’ve also learned to view my healing as a journey or process rather than a one and done experience. That lets me grant myself grace rather than shame when I slip up. There will still be hard times, but what a comfort it is knowing that God is always there with us, using even the hard times for our good and His glory.
I needed to read this. I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holidays and it’s already getting to me. My grandparents and my daddy all died within a year of each other, about 6 years ago. We used to always go to my grandparents house for Thanksgiving and Christmas and it’s just not the same without them. We try to make it fun and festive but it can be hard sometimes. Thanks for this post!
I’m so glad you visited here. I also know how hard the holidays can be when we miss loved ones. Lean in to Him and know that it’s okay to be honest with Him about how you feel, then let Him comfort you through it. With Hope, Dr. Michelle
This is such a great post and I know it will help so many people.
Just wanted you to know that I am featuring you tomorrow at #TuneInThursday 🙂
Thank you for your continued support Debbie! So many need hope!
Great advice! I can relate to each point and know what a difference it makes when I allow myself grace when the holidays are difficult due to loss.
Sometimes we’re quicker to extend grace to others, or to suggest that they extend grace to themselves, than we are to do the same for ourselves. But it makes the painful times more bearable when we give ourselves a bit of grace. Blessings friend.