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Sometimes the grief doesn't surface until after the jolly has quieted.

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Christmas is over. Maybe you’re thinking, “I made it. I survived another holiday season fairly well intact.” You met every expectation of you: you planned and organized, shopped and decorated, baked and wrapped. You even remembered teacher gifts and dietary requirements. And after all the hustle and bustle, today you sit down with a warm cup and a leftover cookie for a few quiet moments to yourself. But then, you make the inevitable mistake of getting on social media, and the aftermath of jolly unexpectedly triggers every threatening emotion you've been suffocating throughout the past several weeks.

You should be in the clear–it’s the 26th–but you’ve just lost.

You scroll through images of living rooms bursting with gifts, noticing the rows of monogrammed stockings hung with precision across the mantle…who even knows that many people? You see the dining room buffet tables loaded with trays of food, including enough sugar to surely kill your diabetic grandfather multiple times over. You can handle all of this, maybe your home even looks similar, but you know what’s coming: the families.

The big extended families are the hardest. They’re all in matching pajamas, even the dogs, and they’re actually pulling it off (for the most part). They’re laughing together, or snuggled up on the floor or sofas. Next they’re unwrapping presents with real hugs–the kind that say, “I love you”–and snacking on treats with smiles that twinkle more brightly than their glittery decor. You can see so much joy evidenced in each individual home, and you suddenly feel a single tear forming at the corner of your eye. Despite yourself, you zoom in; you can’t miss the generations of traditions captured in each photograph. Having come too far to back away and put down your phone, you find your aching heart being pulled into a nostalgia of what never was.