Holiday Heartache

It’s sometimes hard to celebrate the holiday season.

We live far from family. Most of the year we can keep our homesickness easily at bay, but around the holidays the homesickness is at its worst.

Since my husband is in the Air Force, we’ve never lived near family, and it’s been difficult for our large family to travel to visit them – finances, schedules, and the distance just make it nearly impossible.

My kids have never had a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving or a huge Christmas celebration, complete with cousins galore.

I realize they don’t know what they’re missing. It’s all my perception and guilt.

I avoid Pinterest from fall to New Year’s so I am not inundated with all the crafts, recipes, gift ideas, and family imagery.

My smile does not reach my eyes, and my LOLs are lies when social media statuses regale the family celebrations – and the accompanying complaints and woes of families crammed close during a stressful season.

Some of us just find it less joyful and struggle to reach that level of gratefulness.

Aaron’s parents are gone already and there will be no more visits. Sisters become estranged with so little communication. We feel all but forgotten. My children don’t even know my parents because they’re not a part of our lives.

The traditions we develop at each duty station are fun, but often can’t be continued as we move to new locations. My daughters asked me the other day if we’re having the annual holiday dinner at church. Are we doing the ornament exchange? I was so saddened to explain that those events were at our last church in Utah, and the church we’re attending now in Germany doesn’t have any events like that.

Sometimes Christmas is Bittersweet.

Holiday Heartache


Our memories shape our perception, and when our reality doesn’t permit our holidays to meet our expectations, it can be disappointing.

Do remember those who might be isolated this holiday season.

Military Members

Certainly single military have it hard. Invite them for celebrations with your family so they don’t have to spend it alone. Military families love being welcomed into your home to share new traditions and meals too. If you’re already crowded, have a cookie exchange or dessert party or take them your favorite pie. They’ll love the thought, trust me.

Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones

I am so thankful I urged my husband to drive from Texas to Illinois for our second Christmas. His dad had passed in April, and his mom would be spending her first Christmas without him. We couldn’t have know it would be her last Christmas. So glad we have those memories with her. Take extra care with those who have recently lost loved ones. Holidays are surely sad without having them around to share it with anymore.

Families with Illness

Families with someone experiencing a chronic illness might not have time, finances, or interest in traditional holiday events. Take them a meal, a useful gift, a pretty card – or even a phone call or short visit to show you care. Ask what you can do to help during this difficult time of year that is more stressful for their family. Caring for a sick family member takes all precedence.

Don’t feel guilty that there are families out there who are struggling during the holidays. Just be aware and try to ease their burden.

Do you have ideas for helping those have a difficult time during the holidays? Please share in the comments!

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  1. Jen, ((((hugs))))) wish those hugs could be in person! 🙂 I am glad you shared this and brought awareness to so many hurting around this time of year. i’m praying for all the hurting hearts…

  2. We lived in Germany for 7 1/2 year with the Army and the Chapels all do beautiful Christmas Eve services. Our chapel did a Candle Light service every Christmas Eve, every chapel we had friends at offered the same thing. I have little doubt your chapel does as well.
    They may not offer the ornament exchange, but there’s no reason why YOU can’t start that tradition at the chapel you attend. Bring it up to the Garrison Chaplain or call some of your friends locally and see if they’d all like to do a family ornament exchange. The BEST part is, you have all the wonderful Christmas Markets to go to and find a beautiful, and unique ornament to exchange, much more beautiful and unique than you’d EVER find in the US, plus they’re cheaper!!
    We did 20 years in the Army, most of that time living hundreds if not thousands of miles from family. We watched our oldest daughter die from AML leukemia when she was only 2 years old. While in Germany my uncle left and my sweet (step) Grandma joined the Lord. We were blessed with friends who were/are family though. God brought me to PWOC and gave me such precious friends during our time in Germany, and brought us to the Hospitality House for more time in HIS presence!! We never have not had a room full of loved ones on holiday’s, unless it was by choice! I love to host so we always invited friends over for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners. Always went to the post celebrations that they offered for various holidays.
    My husband retired in July. We’re now living close to my family, but we’ve made a rule that every other Christmas, we stay home. We let our kids open their presents, make breakfast, the kids stay in their PJ’s all day if they want and play with their gifts, we watch Christmas movies or listen to Christmas music all day. It reminds me of our wonderful years stationed in Germany, where we never felt the pull to travel to this person’s house or that person’s house. We opened our doors to friends and had them eat with us and celebrate the birth of Christ. Lots of laughter, many hands to help clean up, lots of kids to play with, and most of all wonderful memories!!!
    This year we’ll get up, open gifts, have a breakfast that I’m making in the crockpot to cook over night, then we’ll get dressed and drive the over hour drive to my parents so kids can open gifts from them, before the rest of the family shows up. Then try to get home at a decent hour, so the kids can play with/explore/fight out some of their gifts that they got that morning. I’m thankful that we live fairly close to family again, after being far from them the majority of my adulthood, but I also treasure the years we had just us and friends to focus on, because we became closer, created our own traditions.

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