The Holiday Struggle

December of 2006 was my first Christmas married. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I love the lights and smells and traditions, and I was so excited to be able to decorate my own home and welcome people into our space. However, that Christmas was also my only Christmas married. My ex-husband left a couple of months later, ending what was a terribly painful experience. I remember taking the ornaments off the tree once Christmas was over, knowing intuitively that I would not be there the next year to put the tree back up. There was grief in the realization that it would be the last time to be there, to be the one making the home beautiful, even if I didn’t fully understand all that was to come.

Since that Christmas, I have struggled every year at the holidays. I was determined to not let him and that time ruin my favorite holiday, and I have worked very hard to make it a special time for myself. However, whenever it was time to take the tree down, there was always a sense of anxiety that would creep in, as I wondered what might happen in the next year or who might not be there when it was time to put the tree up the following Christmas. I managed that anxiety pretty well for a lot of years and decorated often immediately following Halloween to have extra time to enjoy the lights.

However, 2 years ago, my beloved cat of 13 ½ years died unexpectedly 10 days before Christmas. She had traveled through a lot of life with me, and I was devastated by her loss, especially at that time of year. And then last year, a very dear family friend was extremely ill with pancreatic cancer, and he passed away just a couple of weeks after Christmas. I remember last year when I took my tree down, knowing our friend was not long for this earth, feeling a deep sense of panic and terror and wondering who else was going to die this year. Would I still be here next year to put the tree up? What else might happen? Would anyone else not be here?

2019 has been a really tough year for me for a variety of reasons. To cap it off, about a month ago, my 2 cats I have now – who are brothers – both started having health issues. And you know what? It was just too much. I have a few decorations out this year, but my Christmas tree didn’t get put up. I didn’t have it in me to pretend like everything was okay and that I love Christmas right now and that the holidays aren’t painful and hard. And that’s okay.

Here’s the thing, friends…trauma is a real thing. And it often creates PTSD responses that in many ways are outside of our control. Yes, it’s been 13 years since that Christmas for me. And yes, I have done much counseling and processing and can usually work through my triggers to still enjoy the holiday. But I have trauma. I have triggers. My body remembers things and is impacted by certain memories. And while that doesn’t generally derail me, it does affect me.

I decided to write this post for a couple of reasons. Number 1, people assume that just because I am a counselor, my life is together and I don’t have any issues. At Renew Counseling, we want you to know that we are real people. We get it. Life is tough, and ALL of us struggle with things. I have been sitting with clients for 8 years and I help them with their anxiety and their trauma. I have been through years of my own therapy. I know the techniques and tips and things to do. And I STILL struggle with anxiety. My tree STILL didn’t get put up this year. Let’s be kind to ourselves and to others. The struggle is real and we all have stuff. We at Renew can’t walk with our clients because we are perfect and have it all figured out. We can walk with you because we’re on the journey too.

And finally…the holidays are glorious. And the holidays can also really suck. It’s hard to wake up on Christmas morning alone. Or to wake up in a house of people and still feel alone. There’s trauma. There’s loss. Regardless of where you find yourself this year, be kind to yourself. Love well. Recognize that we don’t often know what’s going on in people’s lives and sometimes the brightest decorations hide the worst pain. What does this year need to look like for you? Whatever that is, it’s okay. You are loved. And you are not alone.

My tree will get put up again. But for this year, you can find me watching Christmas movies, snuggling with my thankfully improving cats, going to see Christmas lights and appreciating that I can see my neighbor’s Christmas tree through their window at night. Join me this season in accepting where we are, that it’s okay to be messy, that what we need this year is okay. And then let’s extend that gift out to others and love well. Love big. Because no matter who is or isn’t here next Christmas, love will meet us there.

~Tiffany Jones, LMHC, Director of Renew Counseling

One thought on “The Holiday Struggle”

  1. Auntie K says:

    Thank you sweet niece for sharing this article. I so appreciate your honesty. Everything you shared brought back so many memories, good ones and painful ones. But I am also thinking about God’s faithfulness and the pouring out of His love ❤️. The things we didn’t think we could get through He has brought us through with His mercy and grace. We can depend on Him every day, even though the feelings don’t always line up.

Speak Your Mind


1059 Maitland Center Commons Boulevard Suite 200
Maitland, FL 32751


Got Questions?
Send a Message!