December 14, 2015

How to Combat Holiday Suffering with Compassion.

sad depress holiday lights

My worst Christmas ever was spent alone with my own hungover recognition of how it was all my fault.

The phone was silent.

The strange thing about knowing you’ve pushed everyone away is that, when it really dawns on you, no one wants to hear it anymore. And those who do want to hear it, on Christmas evening, will try to listen to you in a background of laughter and merriment.

“You feel like spilling yourself? Is that what you said?”

That day, many years ago, something miraculous happened. An old friend rescued me from my loneliness and asked me to have dinner with her family.

I wish I’d behaved better. I really tried, but I was a mess.

I passed out on their carpet, the night before having caught up with me.

In the car on the way home, she was disappointed in me, and I could feel that, but there was nothing worse than the hopeless hole she’d dragged me out of just a few hours prior. She didn’t know, but she saved me that night. Like many saviours from my past, she was glad to break out of her relationship with me. She didn’t know what she’d done or what she’d taught me (or how long that lesson would take to sink in).

Happy Holidays?

I run this tribe where people from all over the world come together to talk about self-love and self-awareness. Last year, around the holidays, I was amazed at how different the energy in the group was as opposed to the rest of Facebook. While my timeline was filled with colour and joy, the group was filled with regrets, pain, depression, and loneliness.

What was happening? Was it because these people had admitted to having self-love issues, and those are bound to be linked to family problems? Was there a higher incidence of holiday depression and pain in that group than the rest of the world?

I don’t think so.

Facebook, and most social media, is a place where people happily brag and share accomplishments, but it’s rarely a medium for communicating authentic, raw, painful emotions. Every year, around the holidays, hundreds of thousands of people fall into darkness and they stay there, in quiet desperation, until the season’s over.

That is, if they emerge at the other side.

That one tribe has now turned into 15 tribes worldwide, and in those vulnerable safe spaces, I see people having the courage to share their pain, their self-judgment, their suffering, their obstacles. And those moments of sharing aren’t about suffering. They’re about healing. Sharing with others—connecting to them in our moments of darkness—is exactly how we get back to the light.

The problem isn’t the negative emotions we experience during the holiday season. It’s the silence. It’s the waiting in the dark alone, hoping to be saved either by circumstance or time.

Can’t Ignore It, Can’t Fight It

I remembered, this year, about the amazing friend who tried to reach out and help me, who would never know how much she had helped me. Why hadn’t I told her? I remembered, also, my addicted and suffering past self who was sitting around waiting to be rescued by others. What would have happened if that friend never called?

Why was I so set on receiving kindness, never even once considering that I could give it?

The suffering is unavoidable. Some of us suffer throughout the year, and around the holiday season it becomes unbearable. Some of us simply become unusually more attuned to our connections to others, remembering fallen friendships, family traumas, broken relationships, regrets, and words unspoken. Each year, we’re already craving compassion, craving connection, craving forgiveness, craving kindness. Thus, each year, we have an opportunity to use this awareness in a way that serves us, serves others, and serves the world.

We cannot ignore holiday suffering, nor can we fight it. What we can do is rekindle the hope that lies in all our hearts by doing simple acts of love and kindness that make the holidays a happier time for all of us.

What Can We Do?

It was with this question in mind that I designed the 12 Days of ReKINDling challenge. The idea was to light the spark of compassion between all human beings—regardless of religion, belief, or social status—so that the holidays can be better for us all.

The idea isn’t just to reach out to those who are suffering. The idea is also that, by reaching out in the depths of our own suffering, we allow ourselves to heal, to reconnect, to rekindle hope.

12 Days of ReKINDling Challenge

The challenge is very simple. You are invited to do one task daily for 12 days. Each task focuses on rekindling a connection between you and someone else—each task explores a different level of connection.

It can start anytime. The worldwide event is scheduled between Dec 1st and Jan 15th to accommodate most major world holidays around this time of year.

Here are the tasks:


In case you can’t see the image, here they are in numbered form:

  1. Tell someone close to you what you appreciate about them
  2. Reach out to a family member whom you rarely contact
  3. Send an apology letter to someone you’ve wronged
  4. Reconnect with an old friend who’s fallen out of touch
  5. Give a genuine compliment to a co-worker or acquaintance
  6. Send a letter of forgiveness to someone who has hurt you
  7. Do something kind for a complete stranger
  8. Leave 10 positive, loving comments on the internet
  9. Write a loving, supportive letter to your younger self
  10. Anonymously send a gift or card to someone who needs it
  11. Allow yourself to ask help/support and to receive it
  12. Leave something valuable for a stranger to find



Join Us

If this sounds like it’s right up your alley, please join us. The more people get on board, the more ripples of love and kindness we can spread into the furthest reaches of our world!

Please come and:

I hope this is as heartwarming for you as it already has been for me. As I write this, I’m on day 4. That’s “Reconnect with an old friend who’s fallen out of touch.” The friend I will reach out to will be the one who saved me that Christmas. And that feels better than I can possibly explain.

I wish the same feeling of love and peaceful closure in your life too.



Author: Vironika Tugaleva

Editor: Renee Picard

Image: Todd Baker at Flickr / Infographic via the author 


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