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For holiday orphans, depression is real

I have made it 55 years without cooking a turkey. I used to be ashamed of that fact. How could a one-time wife and mother get this far in life without ever having made a turkey?

It’s a sad story with a happy ending. I don’t have much family and the family I have don’t invite me to holiday dinners. They’re either too far away, or they don’t know me because we haven’t kept in contact over the decades or they don’t invite me to their dinner table. shutterstock_164694644

When I was married we managed to get invited to my in-laws for holiday meals. My ex-husband is in the restaurant business so he was usually working. When we divorced, it was just my daughter and me. A few times I made a turkey breast and we got dressed up, took out the good china and some candles and had a nice little holiday meal – just the two of us and the dog.

We are holiday orphans. No cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, siblings. Just me, my daughter and the dog. When my daughter was much younger and still a believer (in Santa) we had fun – baking cookies, decorating the tree and building a runway in the yard with blue and red lights for Santa to land.

For a few years I had other orphans to my house on Christmas Eve. Fun, but a lot of work and money for a single mom with a full-time job. Then my daughter grew up and spent holidays with friends who have real families. Of course the two of us still eat dinner together on Christmas Eve but we no longer build the runway in the front yard or bake cookies together.

Last year, after the gifts were open on Christmas morning, she went to her father’s house and then to her boyfriend’s family dinner. I had nothing to do so I did some yard work and went shopping at CVS -the only store open.

I don’t really like the holidays now. Maybe someday, if I have grandchildren, I will get out the cookie cutters and rolling pin and will love the holidays again. But now, the holidays make me very sad. It seems everywhere I go and everyone I see is part of a family. I am not and I haven’t been for many, many years.

shutterstock_89100898I could easily slide into my black hole over the holidays. I started to last year and a young guy at the gym looked at me and said, “I want the other Christine back.” I hadn’t realized that anyone even noticed my demeanor and him just saying that made me feel like someone really gave a shit and noticed.

If you know holiday orphans, take them in. Buy them a little something so they have a gift to open. Everyone should have at least one gift to open on Christmas morning. Not Christmas afternoon. Not the day after Christmas. But Christmas morning. Give it to them and tell them not to open it until they wake up on Christmas morning. Even if they live alone.

My happy ending is that I’ve had three invitations for Thanksgiving dinner. I have accepted one and know it will be a wonderful day, filled with laughter and calories. My daughter will be in town for about 36 hours with her new puppy, my granddogger, and it will be a wonderful day – even though I have to work on Friday.

And for that, I am grateful and I will not peer into my black hole. I will sleep on the couch with a little puppy and my daughter will sleep soundly in the home where she and I baked those cookies and decorated our Christmas trees.

Turkey image available from Shutterstock.
Gingerbread boy available from Shutterstock.



For holiday orphans, depression is real

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2014). For holiday orphans, depression is real. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Nov 2014
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