You're Not a Grinch, You're Just Grieving

Holidays and Special Days / Holidays and Special Days : Eleanor Haley

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I want to take a moment to stand up in defense of holiday villains. You know who I mean: They're the mean-looking creatures you've seen on television as of late. They're giant snow monsters; heat misers; wet bandits; greedy old men with catchphrases like "bah humbug," and green grouches who live in the mountains.

These miserable beings want nothing to do with merriment, which you might be willing to overlook if they'd agree to live and let live. Instead, they diabolically plot to rid the world of all holiday cheer, which is difficult for any jolly, happy soul to comprehend. It's no wonder most people assume these creatures are wicked down to their core.

This year, though, I've watched these "villains" with an open mind, and I'm starting to see some of them in a different light. True, their behavior is questionable, but are they inherently wicked?

I ask you this: Are there not understandable reasons why someone might want to shut out the holidays, skip parties, and turn off the music? Why do we assume a creature is terrible simply because they don't want to join the reindeer games?

I will admit I'm someone who's had her fair share of unenthusiastic holidays. I know what it's like to wake up one day and realize something that previously brought me great joy has suddenly become grating and agitating. 

grief grinch

The loss of holiday joy is especially demoralizing because everyone around you feels it and wants you to know about it. The timeframe for their holiday happiness is only about five weeks long, so they go all out and live it. I have always understood this desire, even in my most numb state. However, insistent enthusiasm is especially intimidating for those who are unable to get into the spirit.

It's often difficult for people to understand how anyone could resist the holiday spirit: "Get over it. Move on. Make different choices. Focus on the positive. Be grateful," they say, "We're so happy. Everyone is happy. Why can't you be happy?" 

What people sometimes fail to realize is that things like grief and depression are not choices; they are all-consuming states of being. They are the wicked, selfish stealers of joy and happiness, and those who experience them wake up and wage war on them every day—holiday or no holiday.

Now, I'm sure a handful of holiday villains are truly cold at heart. But more than likely, the woman standing in the corner at the office holiday party is not. And neither is the friend who does not want to participate in the Secret Santa Gift Exchange or the child who doesn't enthusiastically shout-sing Jingle Bells at the holiday recital. Give these people the benefit of the doubt before you typecast them as grinchy -- because there's a good chance they're good people who've had a bad year.

We all have times when we feel awful. If you feel like a grouch this year, give yourself a break; there will be other years. Do what you can to keep moving forward. And if you know someone having a tough year, try to reserve a little patience and compassion for them.

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13 Comments on "You're Not a Grinch, You're Just Grieving"

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  1. Kathy  December 5, 2019 at 11:36 am Reply

    This is the most accurate and profound thing I have read! Thank you – I could go on and on but when our hearts are sad the LAST thing we want to hear is move on, be happy, blah blah…we’ll do it in our own time. People that “say” these things are not the people who have lost in the way that we have, they may have lost a friend, or heck they might have lost someone they love but not have the heart to care, to quote one person – get over it, that is how I deal with things. Grief is a process and Holiday time, though it’s cheery in many ways has that downside if you are minus one that was the connecting piece of your Heart! cheers for well written!

  2. Peggy  December 3, 2019 at 2:12 pm Reply

    Thank you! I have been feeling so unmotivated! My father died 15 minutes into the new year this year, my mother just two months later. Im just not into the holidays thos year. Thank you for this.

  3. sandy  December 23, 2017 at 11:07 am Reply

    my Lydia took her life almost 2 years ago January 20 2016. life is unbearable. no celebrating for me

  4. sandy  December 23, 2017 at 11:07 am Reply

    my Lydia took her life almost 2 years ago January 20 2016. life is unbearable. no celebrating for me

  5. Sheila Bergquist  December 19, 2014 at 2:56 am Reply

    Thanks for this uplifting post and I really mean that! I have been through a lot of grief and anxiety in the past few years and so am not in the holiday mood…haven’t been for years. Reading this made me feel better…you actually lifted my mood. It always helps to know we are not alone in our feelings.

  6. Keli Burfield  December 18, 2014 at 9:12 pm Reply

    Thank you! I needed to hear this today. I was so looking forward to Christmas this year after several years of difficult ones and the last two grieving for my mom. We moved back to Kansas and I really thought that being home would mean a more upbeat Christmas. But then a friend who is struggling with depression and suicidal urges moved in with us since she is essentially homeless. And on top of that we are struggling financially and I love being able to shop for those I love and give presents. Now I feel like the holiday villain-Grinch, Scrooge and Bumble all rolled into one. At my age, you’d think I would grow up and accept the reality of American Christmas. And we are pastors of a church so we know what Christmas is about. Still, I struggle. My theme this year is “It’s not a Hallmark movie, Charlie Brown!” I think there are a lot more people than we realize who have “Blue Christmases” so if any good can come out of this, it’s letting people know they are not alone with their feelings-like you did for me. Again, thank you.

    • Litsa  December 19, 2014 at 8:17 am Reply

      Oh my gosh, Keli I absolutely love your holiday theme. I may adopt “it’s not a Hallmark movie, Charlie Brown!” as my holiday theme this year too! 🙂

      Glad you found a little bit of comfort in this post. Hang in this holiday. Sounds like a wonderful thing that you are doing for your friend by taking her in, but I imagine it is tough on you. Sending lots of good thoughts your way.

  7. Peggy  December 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm Reply

    Good timing for me to find this in my inbox this morning. Thank you!

  8. dl  December 18, 2014 at 11:40 am Reply

    There can be reasons other than grief that a person may not want to partake in christmas or thanksgiving or some other holiday. I don’t participate in those holidays and haven’t for many years. This doesn’t mean I am depressed or mean or nasty or any of those things – I simply don’t enjoy those things. I celebrate other things that I do enjoy. There are more reasons for this than there is space here to write about them, but really my reasons are only my own business. It doesn’t mean I think no one else should celebrate these holidays – if they enjoy it, then great! I simply avoid them. What I don’t understand is why anyone would judge another person just because they don’t want to participate in something that is supposed to be for fun. If someone doesn’t think it is fun, why should they do it? Would you judge someone for not wanting to go white water rafting or horseback riding? If they don’t think it’s fun, why should they be forced into it? I don’t go to the christmas party and then act like a wet blanket – I simply don’t go to the party. Who does that harm? And yet, I have many times been on the receiving end of much nastiness for my decision to abstain from the so-called festivities. I have never understood this. In what is supposedly the land of the free you find out fast that if you deviate even slightly from what is considered the Norm you will pay dearly for it. This year, let’s all agree to live and let live, and if someone you know doesn’t want to do the office “secret santa” or attend the party, try just leaving it alone. Don’t demand to know why or pass judgement on that person for it. We don’t all have to enjoy the same things, even if it is a cultural holiday.

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