Many of the people I see in my office feel more distress around the holidays. Some have lost loved one's to death or divorce. The first Christmas or Hanukkah without your mother, husband, or child is often especially painful. When working with these clients, I try to help them prepare for the holidays by setting aside time to grieve, setting realistic expectations for themselves, and choosing activities that are life-giving.
The holidays are also a difficult time to be single, especially as you get into your late 20s and beyond. Most people dream of creating holidays traditions with that special someone and possibly even children. Going home alone to mom and dad, especially if your siblings bring home their partners, can be quite lonely. It is a common time to contact exes, even when you recognize on some level that the relationship ended badly or the other person has moved on.
Some people find the holidays difficult because of painful memories from childhood. If the holidays were often stressful or painful while you were growing up, it can be difficult to be open to the parts of the holidays that offer joy, peace, connections to others, and meaning. I work with these clients on taking practical steps to create the Christmas or Hanukkah they are seeking. Sometimes these clients also need help recognizing ways they contribute to the tension they experience.
Still others find the holidays complicated simply because it means family time. Even when there is a lot of love, there can also be tension, unresolved hurt or anger, and complicated family dynamics. Sometimes, people cannot name what it is that makes their time with family members uncomfortable or challenging. I hear people say things like "I don't know why I am not looking forward to Christmas with my family." Psychotherapy can help people not only name and describe the problems but find ways to make things better.