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Susan Ciancio shares 5 things can help add some joy to your holiday season, no matter how you struggle.

I want to divulge something I rarely discuss: the holidays are hard.

It’s a time of year when what you don’t have is very prevalent and when thoughts of the things missing in your life constantly bubble to the top, like the contents of a pan with a lid on.

For me, the Christmas season has been difficult for several years—ever since my husband left.

It’s hard enough to see the kids bounce back and forth between households on a regular day. But on the holidays, it’s exponentially more difficult.

Thoughts like “This isn’t the way families should be,” “It’s not fair to the kids,” “Why can’t we have a normal life?” “Are they as sad as I am?” and more fill my head.

Sometimes I don’t even have the words to express how my heart aches when the kids go to their dad’s house, do things with his family, or spend time with his new wife. I miss them terribly.

And the holiday season drives home the pain I feel at seeing them only half of their lives—and half of special days.


sad woman wearing Santa hat and looking out the window


I know I’m not alone in this pain. Millions of people share kids with a former spouse or mate. Millions have lost children to death or estrangement. Millions of people are hurting.

To all of you, I want to assure you of God’s love and compassion. I want to assure you of my prayers for you. And I want to assure you of the existence of a hope that leads to joy despite the pain.

When I need that hope, I just look to Christ on the cross, and I think of the words Fr. Mike Schmitz spoke several months ago: “It is not the nails that kept Jesus on the cross. It’s His love for you.” And I feel comforted, for I know Christ walks life’s journey with me.

So, whether you are in the same boat I am, or whether the holidays are difficult for some other reason, let us combat that loneliness and work toward filling our days with the joy of Christ.

That joy comes from the knowledge that God loves us. It’s different from simply feeling happy. Happiness if fleeting, and it comes from our circumstances. Joy in Christ is a choice, and it’s everlasting.

So I want to share some things that help bring joy when I need it, and hopefully these things can help add some joy to your holiday season, no matter how you struggle.


Look to God for inspiration.

Read the Bible, a daily reflection booklet, or just talk to God in prayer. Give God your burdens and allow Him to carry them for you.


Listen to uplifting music. 

I feel like God often speaks to me through church songs, as He knows that going to Mass is very difficult, especially when I look around and see families sitting together as one. It’s at those vulnerable times when the choir always seems to sing a profoundly appropriate song like “City of God,” which warmed my heart just prior to Thanksgiving as I focused on the lyrics.



I could feel God’s hand reaching out and comforting me. And then I looked to the cross, and I saw tangible proof of His love.


Do good for others.

Derive joy from seeing others happy. Go shopping for needy families, buy toys for Toys for Tots, shop for extra canned goods for a food pantry, or send cards to people who are lonely. Christ became man as a gift to us. Focus on how you can be a gift to others.


Seek out your friends.

I recently watched a show in which a blind woman was stranded outside in a desolate area. No phone. No friends. No way out. She was alone, afraid, and hopeless. That is, until her friends were finally able to rescue her. Let your friends rescue you. That’s what friends do. But they don’t know you need rescuing unless you tell them. Don’t be afraid to reach out.


Make friends with a saint.

Saints are our friends in heaven, and they’re there to intercede for us. Draw strength from those who have faced adversity. St. Rita is the patron saint of loneliness. St. Dymphna is the patron saint of anxiety and depression. Both are excellent to talk with this time of year, but any saint can be there for you.


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The holidays are hard, but we are not alone. And joy can be ours if we seek it. #catholicmom

Finally, remember that Christ calmed the storm at sea. He will calm your inner storm. The holidays are hard, but we are not alone. And joy can be ours if we seek it.

As Christ told the Apostles, so He tells us: “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete" (John 16:24).

Ask God for that joy that turns tears into dancing and that turns night into day. He will never forsake you.


friends and a puppy at Christmas


Copyright 2021 Susan Ciancio
Images: Canva Pro