Skip to main content

When the holidays have you feeling blue, here's what to do

An unexpected snowstorm. And in this hour before sunset, the sky has cleared enough for the lingering rays of the sun to cast a delicate wash of pink across the newly fallen snow.

This beauty can make you feel cozy and secure or desolate and lonely. My decorations are up, my first round of Christmas cookies have been baked and given out. Handel’s “Messiah” plays in the background as I move around my home.

I sit down to my morning devotions and read this passage by Henri Nouwen:

“When a person is surrounded by a loving, supportive community, Advent and Christmas seem pure joy. But let me not forget my lonely moments because it does not take much that loneliness reappears… When Jesus was loneliness, gave most. That realization should help to deepen my commitment to service and let my desire to give become independent of my actually experience of joy. Only a deepening of my life in Christ will make that possible.”

Henri Nouwen, a priest, teacher, and spiritual writer, wrote openly about his battle with depression. It is occasionally repeated that this season of darkness and light, joy and recollection, has one of the highest suicides rates of the year. It is difficult to comprehend that truth as we gaze at the joyful faces of young children gathered for the lighting of the Christmas tree downtown. It’s hard to imagine anyone feeling alone when stores and restaurants and even our churches are filled with smiling, happy people.

Yet, as I put the finishing touches on my latest book: The Best Christmas, I included one final essay you might find surprising in a book about Christmas.

It is an essay about my struggles with depression that sometimes show up unexpectedly and leave me with dark thoughts about life and whether it is worth living. I know that there will be at least one person who comes to the end of the bookand feels as if there is still something they are searching for. A balm for the emptiness they are experiencing during this season of joy.

The snow and grey skies have continued for another day and so has the writing of this column. Henry, my ten-year-old Newfoundland dog, doesn’t care for long walks anymore, so we don’t venture far from home. Other than these walks we don’t have much reason to leave the house. So, I stay inside and write and cook. But I know if I don’t venture out soon, loneliness will creep beneath the door and make itself comfortable on a chair by the fire.

Here’s what Iwill do to keep loneliness at bay. I will go to Mass this Sunday and afterwards, I will stay for coffee and doughnuts and make a point of conversation. Then, I will go to the library to pick up books, and then to the dog park so Henry can visit friends. I will join my prayer shawl knitting group on Wednesday and then to Adoration on Thursday evening. In these small ways, I will leave the house and participate in my community.

I enjoy private devotional time in mornings and evenings at home, quiet time with God is my favorite time. Yet, I know that even as Jesus retreated from the crowds to pray, he returned to be with his disciples, to travel through his community, to share his message of love and healing.

And that is what we are called to do, throughout the year, but especially during Advent when quiet anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ is lost in the tumult of frenetic holiday cheer.

We are called to find balance. To follow Jesus’ example: a healthy mix of quiet prayer and going out, not just for holiday parties, but to lend a helping hand to those who need us more now. Those who are homebound by illness and would enjoy a home-cooked meal, those we can serve at a community dinner, or an unexpected gift given to someone who lives alone and might not have much to receive this year.

This is how we defeat loneliness during Advent, we follow Jesus’ example. Here is the magic of Advent: our hearts are filled as give away our love, and emptied, we are filled with God’s love and no longer lonely.


Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of The Best Christmas: Unwrapping the Gift of Love That Will Make this Your Best Christmas Ever, available on



Popular posts from this blog

Women are Highly Esteemed in the Eyes of This Man

I enter the sanctuary of Our Lady of Peace Church and my eyes adjust to the dimmed lights as the only illumination comes from candles on the altar and their glowing reflection in the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament.
My friend and I had come to join the Mary and Martha’s quarterly meeting which started with an hour of Adoration.
I took my seat in one of the pews, knelt, and surreptitiously glanced around the sanctuary. In the gloaming, I could see thirty other women kneeling like sentinels in silent prayer. 
Over the course of the hour, we would remain in contemplative silence.
As I slipped in and out of my prayers and wandering thoughts, I considered how pleased God must be when he sees us gathered in the simple and divine act of Adoration.
But in fact, women are highly esteemed in God’s sight not matter where we are. 
We only look at the life of Jesus Christ to understand how dearly he cherishes every woman.
In the Gospel of Saint John, a group of men bring a woman caught i…

When our spirit hungers

The precocious toddler’s interest in talking to her mother grew in insistence as the gathered group settled in for an hour of silent prayer. Shushing didn’t work, so the mother led her child into an adjoining room where she would still be part of the sanctuary, but sound would be dampened. Despite the closed door and heavy glass walls, the child’s fervent desire to speak with her mother was still audible.
I said a prayer for the patient mother determined to stay, and for the child who was either tired or hungry or impatient for Mom’s undivided attention. And then tried to bring my wandering thoughts back to prayer. I had come to Adoration with my own pressing need for answers.
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a growing emptiness in my heart. A void, as if something is missing. It’s not psychological. Not physical. After doing an internal check, I determined it’s a spiritual void that I’m experiencing.
No, I’m not doubting God, his existence or goodness. I have full confidence in…

If you are tired of the guilt trip you usually feel at church, here’s a different perspective

I am counting the days until I fly to Fort Lauderdale to see Mom for Christmas. Yes, I speak with her every day, sometimes twice a day. But as you know, phone calls just aren’t the same as being with someone you love. I look forward to seeing Mom’s smile, to holding her hand, to going for a drive along the beach with her. Spending time in the presence of someone we love enriches our relationship with them.
I believe the love I feel for Mom, is a sliver of what God feels for each of us. I believe God longs to share that love with us. Which is why we are called to spend time in God’s presence daily. We experience God’s presence when we meet him in our prayers, in church, and hopefully in one another. If I could make one wish for each of us, it would be that at some point during the next four weeks of Advent we would experience how much Jesus loves us.

The Best Christmas

During my morning devotions, I read these two verses of Psalm 117:
Praise theLord,all you nations;
extol him, all you peop…