It's Ok to Cry a Little Cry: When the Holidays are Hard

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


 I paused in the midst of an early Christmas celebration...I had no reason to be upset.

But for whatever reason that December evening, a well of tumultuous emotions rose up - the aftermath of a long week, dealing with hurdles, stress, tests, and hurting for others going through rough patches. Suddenly it was all too much and I needed to get away from the Christmas cheer and smiling faces...away from all the happiness and joy. It had been a long day, the kind that reminds you of all the things you haven't done or are behind in or simply all your inadequacies.

I drew positivity from my friends around me, but eventually realized I needed to slip away and seek refuge, to seek rest in quiet and solitude. Where I could cry a little cry in peace, despite not knowing why the tears came. And the moment caused me to pause once more...this time to ponder. The good, quiet, honest sort that comes after a cry, however brief or long the cry may be...

What is about tears and pain and hurt that seems so shameful and heavy? Why do we feel the need to hide hide the hurt...the ache...the overwhelming sense of not being good enough?

It steals in quietly, settles down in our heart, drawing dull, aching pain and a steady chill...leaving us feeling like we're standing outside in the cold, alone. Hands in pockets, heart empty and unloved, eyes wet.

No one wants to feel like an outsider. Alone. Unloved, unchased. Especially during the holidays.

Perhaps that's what makes such emotions during the festive season all the more ironic. After all, it's a time of good will + cheer + smiles + Christmas songs. A time for family + friends. For Love and for gathering. For community.

Sometimes, it's in a crowd that you feel the most alone though.

So many people, so many faces laughing and smiling and knowing each other and being. And all you can feel is fake because for whatever reason, there's no bells ringing in your heart, no cheer on your lips, and no holiday sparkle in your eye. Then the sense of failure and loneliness rise hard + fast within you, almost choking, and suddenly, it's so hard. It's hard to smile, to look composed, to feel all right and not cause anyone to worry and ask what's wrong because then they'll make a scene and that's the last thing you want.

Because no one wants to bring everyone else down, be the party-killer, make a fuss, cause unwanted attention, or be comforted + mollified simply for the reason that others feel guilty you're upset.

Sometimes it's a struggle to keep your composure, to keep your chin up, to smile politely when all you want to do is fall to pieces and cry.

Because it hurts so much. 

Maybe it's a horribly-timed break-up, maybe it's stress from work or school, maybe the loss of a loved one, maybe it's personal dissatisfaction or self-loathing; maybe it's guilt from all the things we haven't done, but should be doing. Maybe it's the ache to love and be loved. To care for and be cared for in return. Maybe it's a soul-deep hunger for another soul - for a kindred spirit, the one that will make your spirit soar. Maybe it's one of these or none of these that prompt such tremulous emotions...and the overwhelming desire to cry.

We like to be brave and strong. But oh, how we are not.

It's times like these, moments like these that we remember just how fragile we little it takes to make our heart overflow with happiness or to break with despair + heartache.

And all it takes is the tiniest spark, the softest whisper to begin a litany that resounds in our head, echos in our ears, and forms in our own mouths.

'You didn't make it today...'

'That outfit looks bad on you...'

'People are laughing, but not with you...'

'She's so much better than me...'

'I'm not a part of the inside joke because I don't belong, because I'm not liked as much as him...'

'He's never looked my way and he never will...'

'You're not that good...the others are more talented...'

'Look at your face/weight/height/skin color...people think it's funny...'

and even worse

'you don't matter'

'how can you live with yourself'

'always the one saying something that no one hears'

'you're too small/stupid/heavy/tall/quiet/loud'

'you keep failing'

'there's no special someone'

'you're. not. good. enough.'

It's funny that we're the ones who can hurt ourselves the most...we're the ones whose words cut more raw and deep than anyone else's...we're the ones who refuse to offer a new chance to ourselves when others would offer one with a smile + love.

We're so determined to prove why exactly we are unworthy...why every thought in our head should be and is true.


Why especially during the most beautiful season of all - the season of Hope and perfect Love?

Maybe it's because during Advent we're reminded of how much we trip and stumble, of the dust + profanities that dirty our days + our souls...of the many ways we have failed. Of the many ways we are and can not ever be worthy of the Gift we receive...why would anyone love us? What is there to love?

But then...beneath the tears and the cold and the loneliness that swirls up...there's a faint light and a gentle, pure note.

Of Hope.

Of promise.

Because the Child didn't come for the "better" ones, the more talented ones...because they don't exist. Because everyone feels alone and defeated and like a failure at some point.

Because maybe that's the whole point of realize how unworthy we are of the Great Gift we receive...and to be completely knocked over and overwhelmed by the unbelievable Love through which the Gift is given.

Because sometimes we get caught up in the world, in our lives, in our feelings, in things that ruin our peace and whisper discouragement in our ears. Advent is a time of darkness. But the good kind. It's the hushed, dark stillness of a private room, of a calm church, of the innermost part in our hearts. Because darkness isn't always a bad thing.

Because sometimes the darkness is a sacred, silent place for us to rest and unfold and let everything messy and wrong and weak about us show...we turn off the lights and fall asleep in darkness because the good kind of darkness wraps around us like a blanket and hides us from the world.

In the darkness, we rest and dream.

After all, light cannot come without darkness.

And Advent is the season of a light flickering in the darkness. In the hushed stillness, a steady candle glows...casting light + warm. Casting hope. Casting peace.

And somehow, in the candle's circle of lovely light, the darkness grows even more hushed and sacred as it gathers around the Flame that gives depth and meaning to it.

The Flame reminds us we are not alone...that light is always present. That Hope is always with us. Even when tears trickle, loneliness swells, and life is just hard.

So cry a little cry. It doesn't make you weak or more of a failure. Those tears will dry, I promise you.

You only have to light a candle.

Linking up with Chatting at the Sky as we unwrap each Tuesday during Advent. 


  1. Hope and love is all that we have! I hope the best for you Grace! :)

    1. Indeed it is, Ruth! Thank you, dear girl -same to you! :)

  2. Replies
    1. *blushes* Awwww. Hugs all the back to you!! <3

  3. This is exactly what is on my mind as of now... Thank you so much for sharing this. <3 I needed to hear it.

    1. You're so welcome, Iris - I think the holidays magnify our stress more than any other time, at least for me. Sending love + prayers your way. :)

  4. Cecelia VandalDecember 21, 2013

    I didn't actually read the whole thing but what I did read really resonated with me. Interesting story, I had plenty of things to cry about but God gave me the grace to smile through it all. May your time this Christmas break be very restful.

    1. Cecelia, thank you so much for your sweet words - it's so surprising how much stress can culminate during the holidays, but also so lovely how God does give us the grace to get through. Thank you and may yours be also restful!

  5. I loved this post. I actually read it on The Catholic Young Woman, but I decided to comment here, to make sure you'd see it. :) There was so much Truth in this post, it was dripping, even after Christmas has been officially celebrated. And it was beautifully written. I have not really read much of your blog, I've browsed the pictures (all adorable) once or twice, so I was really gifted with your writing today. One thing though (this is my inner editor eyes talking here -can eyes talk?-): you wrote "the one that will make your spirit sour." Notice the last word. :P I don't think we need any spirit souring around here, especially not in my soul. :P A little soaring would do me some good though. :D I thought you might like to know about that.
    Thanks so much for your post, and please keep up the great work!