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The holidays are widely known as a time for celebration. It is a time when many people gather together to engage in community, cultivate connection and experience the joy of togetherness. Hallmark movies play on most TV screens and the dinner table is spread to serve people in abundance. A season that is often widely known for joy, can simultaneously be a season of grief for many. There are folks who will go through this holiday season with someone they love missing from the dinner table. A stocking that would usually be found hanging over the fireplace will be out of sight. No one talks about the heaviness of death and loss during the holidays.

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Relational building is a core part of caring for our mental health. We are wired for connection and community care is fundamental to managing our well-being. Living disconnected from others and having poor quality relationships severely impacts our wellness in debilitating ways, but signs that we are disconnected can be difficult to assess since our society tends to honor independence over interdependence and applauds people for their strength in getting things done alone rather than seeking and asking for help.

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TW: This article may contain mentions of suicide and self-harm.

In early 2022, the world felt like it slowed down a bit as people digested the shocking news of beauty pageant queen Cheslie Kryst, who died by suicide. When you scroll through her Instagram, the photos she had posted only weeks before her death were images of her smiling, looking happy, and being carefree. You can see photos of her working, being in front of the camera, and doing what I imagine was her norm. These pictures and videos, however, began to spark a conversation among Black women who knew too well that feeling like you're carrying the world on your shoulders and forcing yourself to smile through it all to hide the pain.

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