The Rollercoaster Ride of the Holidays

Since having kids, I’m the person blasting Christmas music and setting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving- cue the eye roll, right?!? This Thanksgiving, I was humming a Christmas song and gleefully getting our stockings out of storage, when grief hit me suddenly. I felt it in my whole body, like I was just sucker punched in the gut. You see, I unknowingly grabbed for a stocking that happened to be my chocolate lab’s who died this past July. My family immediately noticed my change in affect, and I named my emotion of missing my pet which was part of my family the past 12 years. My 4 -year old son, hugged me and proclaimed, “I miss her too, mommy” We had a moment as a family together, and I recognized in myself what I so often do in the counseling room.

I recognized that the holidays bring us through a rollercoaster ride full of highs and lows. For some, the lows dominate. Grief of a family member can last a life time, and each holiday, there is a recognition of the sorrow and loss. Divorce can have its own grief cycle with feelings of anger, loss, sadness, and bargaining for the relationship that was lost. I have witnessed grief in many forms. For instance, for the family that has a child with extra needs, grief can be overwhelming. Even though you love your child fiercely, you recognize that your family vision for the holiday season does not match your reality. For many, the holidays highlight the difficulties they have and are experiencing in life.

The holidays require more compassion. It requires compassion for others, realizing the person that is grumpy in line ahead of you might be grieving the loss of her loved one, or might be experiencing sadness from losing a job and not be able to buy presents for her loved ones. It could be a million different reasons, but our reaction needs to be of love and compassion. Even more importantly, we need to provide self-compassion. Name the emotion you are feeling. Recognize when you are feeling down, grief, sadness, etc. Allow yourself to feel the emotion. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. Then, allow yourself to take in the good parts of the holiday. When you find yourself enjoying a moment, take it all in. Use all of your senses to capture the moment. Read below for more ideas to help with the holiday rollercoaster rides.

1.     For those that are experiencing loss, take a moment to honor the person. For instance, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, take a moment to honor the loved one. Share your favorite stories, put up their photos, or buy an ornament in their honor.

2.     Create new holiday traditions. If you have just ended a relationship, it can be the perfect time to create a new fun holiday tradition!

3.     No matter how you are feeling, make sure to spend some time giving back to others. Giving back to others has actually proven to help improve mood.

4.     Try expressing your emotions. As a counselor, I think counseling can benefit anyone! It’s a dedicated hour of working and searching through your own emotions in a healthy and safe environment.

5.     Use the holiday season to take on a new self-care habit. Try journaling, yoga, exercising, spending time with friends, or mindfulness. No matter what you try, make sure you try something to help take care of you!

During the busyness of the holiday season, don’t forget to exercise compassion and self-compassion. Almost everyone is experiencing a hardship you might not know or understand. You might even get sucker punched with a wave of sadness or grief. Use these moments to name the emotion, take care of yourself, and to exercise compassion for others.

Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing counseling and diagnostic evaluations for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, evaluations, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting and read more about her services