There's never a sure-fire way of knowing when tragedy will strike. It can happen any time, any day. Unfortunately, that also includes holidays. Some people love Christmas because of all the joy and happiness the holiday brings their families. For others, Christmas brings feelings of dread and despair.
People on Reddit share the time when their Christmas wasn't all holly and jolly; it was downright traumatic. Content has been edited for clarity.
“I Don’t Remember Much Of The Day”
“I was 16 and had a 3 month old baby. My mom was on edge the whole morning and looked awful. We opened gifts with my younger siblings, grandma and her ex husband. It was awkward since my mom was tired, not into it, and went to bed on the upstairs couch directly after. I left to go see my dad’s side of the family and that was the last time I saw her in person. I honestly don’t remember much of the day.
She called me a few days later on New Years Eve, and gave me this really out of character pep-talk. She was talking about how I need to start standing my ground and be a strong person. I didn’t think much of it, and went on with my New Year’s Eve plans (sitting at home nursing a baby- fun stuff when you are 16). The next day she took her own life. Fun stuff.
When I came to the house after I got the call, the Christmas tree and decorations were still up. The gift wrapping was still on the floor and the turkey carcass was still left on the counter as well as all of our dirty dishes. Her body was back upstairs on the couch- the last place I saw her.”
“We Were Screaming, Crying, But It Didn’t Matter”
“My mom went out one night, leaving my sister and myself alone for the night. We were around 5-years-old, and she didn’t come back that evening. We had nothing for dinner, and only orange juice to drink. Went to sleep that night worried.
Next day we had no breakfast, and missed lunch. At some point in the afternoon, my mom comes home. She was acting very weirdly, and we could tell something was off. She has never been violent to us, but after we finished eating, she dragged us upstairs and locked us in our room.
We were shouting, screaming, crying, but didn’t matter to her. We were locked in that room for 2 days without anything. She eventually let us out, fed us and bathed my sister. When she was bathing me, she tried to drown me.
She was screaming things like, ‘I’d never hurt you, they don’t understand.’
I woke up back in my bedroom with my sister crying over me. I can’t remember how long it was, but eventually after a day we heard our mum screaming at the front door. We could hear these massive bangs, and many voices shouting back. Of course if turned out to be the police, and the day happened to be Christmas Eve. My next memory is my aunt carrying me and my sister in my uncle’s arms, being carried through the door to her house.
We were properly cleaned and feed. I remember lying on the living room floor beside the fire, just staring at the tree light up and it looked amazing. Our house was very bland and my aunt’s house was everything you would expect at Christmas. Soon I was surrounded by family, all full of smiles trying to cheer us up. I’d even got presents. I feel asleep that night just staring at that tree.
My mum that night was put into a mental hospital. It wasn’t until I was just turning 17 she got out. She was diagnosed with onset paranoid, schizophrenia, and has been in and out of hospital ever since.”
She Called The Police To Report Him Missing
“I lived too far away from my family to travel home for Christmas, so I had plans to spend Christmas with my boyfriend and his family.
Christmas Eve, at about 4pm, he takes the car we share to go to the shops before they closed. He didn’t come back that night.
By 10 pm, I had called the police, hospitals, his family, everyone I could think of. No one knew where he was, and the police said it’d have to be 24 hours before they filed a missing person’s report because he’s an adult.
The next day, I called everyone I could think of again, as soon as I woke up, but few answered the phone. At about noon a police officer came over to take a statement, then left.
At about 8 pm, I called the police to ask what was going on, and they said that he had been ‘located and was safe’ and they couldn’t give me any more details since I wasn’t his wife or family.
I called his family, and they didn’t answer the phone.
On the 26th, I waited for him until I absolutely had to leave for work (since we shared my car, and he still had it, wherever he was, I had to walk). So I left him a note that I was at work and worried sick about him, and asked him to wait for me at home when he gets back.
I worked my shift, still calling our apartment, his family and our friends a few times during my breaks/lunch. At the end I grabbed my bag and went outside to walk home, and to my surprise I saw my car in the parking lot.
I walked toward it, hoping he’d come to pick me up from work. Only, I found him with one of my coworkers going down on him.
The next few days were a mess. Apparently, he’d been cheating on me for months with one of my coworkers. He didn’t work, and she worked a different shift than I did, so they’d go out while I was at work. He’d told his family he was bringing his girlfriend for Christmas, and brought her, not me. He’d been telling her my car was his, and we were just ‘roommates.’
I was unbelievably angry, as I’d been working a full time job, a work study job, and taking a full course load of college classes to pay bills while he sat at home complaining his ‘injury’ from his time in the military meant he couldn’t work. Admittedly, I was young and stupid.
I ended up taking a semester off of college to deal with the psychological fallout of that, and I still can’t be alone on Christmas without having a breakdown.”
“Not Looking Forward To The Holidays”
“Christmas Eve 2016, my boyfriend picks me up to go to his family’s get together – they’re very close and a lovely family. I’m excited and decked out in a new sweater and have a bottle to give go his mom.
On the drive, he goes, ‘So… today might be a little sad. My uncle was hit by a car about an hour ago and has a lot of brain damage… he was flown to a hospital.’
I was immediately sad, as was he. It was terrible and tragic, but I had hope that he would pull through and survive and we could still have a decent day. Then as we were about a minute from his house, he gets a call that his uncle didn’t make it.
Boyfriend stays strong, says ‘Okay,’ and doesn’t break down or anything and says he’ll be home soon.
He tells me he wants me to stay with him and support him and his family during this awful day. It was really, really hard and the whole family was upset. The man was a great guy. Turned out he was intentionally killed by a man on narcotics who swerved to hit him from the other lane while he was out walking.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the next day is Christmas and I’m at home with my parents. My elderly grandmother (my mom’s mom) is the only other family member we have, and she lives alone in her house about 10 minutes away from us and is fiercely independent. Sweetest and most selfless woman I’ve ever met. Mom makes a phone call to her to wish her a Merry Christmas.
She doesn’t answer, but my mom thinks, Oh, maybe she slept in today. She tries to call again an hour later, and still no answer. As my parents are finishing up the cooking for our holiday meal, my dad calls grandma and says that if she doesn’t answer, he’ll drive down and go inside to see what’s up. Third phone call, still no answer. I stay home with our dog while my parents go to check on my grandma.
I call my boyfriend and he comes over to my house and I prepare for the worst and put away the uneaten food. About half an hour later, mom calls me and says they’re in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. They found my grandma face down on the kitchen floor, but still breathing. She had a broken hip from her fall and had suffered two heart attacks before passing away while in hospice a few days later.
Overall, a terrible Christmas. It made my boyfriend and I super close, given our shared tragedies and days of endlessly comforting each other. Christmas is a tough subject for both our families now. We’re really not looking forward to the holidays this year.”
From The Highest Heights To The Lowest Lows
“It was December 1989. The year had been good to my family, and 5-year-old me was having the time of his life. That summer brought me Ghostbusters 2 and Batman, and it had brought my parents a little surprise, as well. My mom was pregnant with my little brother. My parents decided it would be prudent to have a basement built under our house, a little extra room for the new baby. Construction wouldn’t finish until the new year, but I was excited to have a new place to play.
Fast forward to December 18th. A week before Christmas. My little brother is born, and I’m stoked. I can’t wait to see him, and my dad promises my sister and I we can go visit him and my mom in the hospital the next day after school.
That day comes, and my dad picks my sister and me up. We drop our school stuff off at home and head to the hospital. I go into the room, and I can still remember seeing my baby brother looking at us from the clear plastic bassinet the hospital put him in. It was like he was saying ‘Hi’ to us. It was an amazing moment. Every awesome thing had built up to that point for me. Surely Christmas was going to be even better, right? Well, this is where things go downhill.
My dad takes my sister and ME down to the hospital cafeteria for dinner. No sooner do we sit down than we hear my dad’s name called over the hospital announcement system. My sister and I think nothing of it as my dad leaves us to go back up to my mom’s room. We’re thinking he’ll be back in a few minutes. I don’t know how long we sat there eating our dinner, playing around, but a nurse came to us what felt like minutes after my dad left.
The nurse took my sister and I up to my mom’s room, and we found my mom crying. I can’t remember who told us exactly what happened, but it was explained to us that our house was on fire. I had no idea how to process it. In fact, I don’t even remember much of what happened after. I know my dad left at some point to get a report from the firefighters. When he came back, he took my sister and me to my grandma’s house. Aside from that, there’s nothing. All the joy that year, all the happiness, and it was taken away from us as we were essentially homeless a week before Christmas.”
“We Figured She Was Hiding Somewhere”
“We visited family over the holidays 2 years ago. We left our cats at home and a friend of mine stopped in a few times to feed, change litter, play with them, etc. Her last visit was the day before we got home. She texted me and said she couldn’t find our more skittish cat. We figured she was hiding in a cupboard somewhere and didn’t really think anything of it.
When we got home the next day, we couldn’t find her either. We searched the whole apartment, put out treats and food, and no kitty. We figured she must have slipped outside when the sitter was tossing the dirty litter.
It was the days after Christmas and our cat was gone. We walked miles around our complex, calling her name. We put out missing posters. We left out food and stinky litter to reminder her where home was. We set out humane traps, convinced we saw her hanging out with some feral neighborhood cats. We never got her. Caught 36 other cats, including a tabby we’d thought was her… but not our cat.
Two months later, there’s a smell in our apartment. One day my significant other shines a flashlight behind the water heater in the closet and finds my cat’s body. It was not in good condition.
Christmas will always make me think of her. Of the hope of her return, to the sad acceptance that she was gone, then to the despairing realization that she had never left.”
“I Was So Extremely Hurt”
“This particular Christmas in 2009, I had just finished legally changing my name. I’m transgender and had come out a year prior. My grandparents weren’t supportive at all and basically ignored it but I still went to family events because we had always been super close. I’m talking every weekend spending the night at their house, my grandma going as chaperone to my field trips, once a week movies etc. My family has always been tight.
Apparently changing my name was the last straw for them. Every Christmas for as long as I can remember, my grandparents have given each child and grandchild a $100 bill in their Christmas card. That year, my Christmas card was a check written out to my birth name, which I couldn’t cash. Everyone else got their $100 bill as normal.
I was so extremely hurt. It wasn’t the money – I couldn’t have cared less about that, but it was humiliating. I just looked up from my card at everyone and started crying before leaving the room. I couldn’t breathe.
It was the most hurtful thing they could have done. It was the last time they spoke to me other than when I emailed them telling them how much I missed them and wanted them in my life, where they basically said they never wanted to see me again. They’ve missed my wedding and the birth of their great grandchild.
To top that all off, I don’t expect my aunt – essentially a second mother to me – will make it past this Christmas. She’s got lung cancer that has metastasized in her brain and bones and is now in hospice at age 56. Now my aunt is actively dying and they still do not want to see me.”
He Wanted The Sickness To Go Away Or To Just Die
“I had a bad case of Scarlet Fever that lasted (between illness and recovery) from Thanksgiving to just after Christmas (which is also close to my birthday). I was in 2nd grade at the time, and one of the few things I remember was my mom holding me over the toilet. I was trying not to cry while I begged and pleaded with her to tell Santa all I wanted for Christmas was for this sickness to go away or to just die.
I had lost a lot of weight and the rash Scarlet Fever presents was itchy. I had these huge burning welts from my face to my groin and all over my butt and feet. I was severely dehydrated, I threw up almost every day and my mom had to force feed me the penicillin (which I will never forget the taste or smell of, I had the chalky horse pills). My fever was so high from time to time I would hallucinate. I think I also sleep walked a lot. When Scarlet Fever starts to go away, your skin starts peeling like a sunburn. My skin pretty much fell off or slid off like a horror movie.
I think I stopped believing in Santa and God after that, because I prayed to both about I had been so good all year. I promised I would clean my room every day and get straight As for the rest of my life, and I would be the best kid ever if I could just get better. On Christmas day, I still wasn’t and I just wanted to go outside and lay in the snow until I went to sleep.
When I first got the diagnosis, my doctor had me in a tent in a room and kept calling in different people (I assume med students) to poke and prod at me and take pictures of me. I also had to have my throat swabbed a bunch of times. They told me it would last about a week or two, and when it didn’t stop, they almost hospitalized me but they ended up letting me go home. I don’t remember why or if they changed my meds or anything but I was home for most of the duration of the sickness.”
He Thought He Could Make It
“Last December, I was getting ready to celebrate Christmas with my family over webcam, like I had done the past few years. One day, I got a call from my family that I should try and come home as soon as possible. My grandfather had been rushed to the hospital and it wasn’t looking good. Well to get emergency leave in my line of work, I had to get a statement from the Red Cross. They contacted me and my supervisor, saying I was able to go home to see him. By this point, it looked like he had about 24-48 hours left.
I immediately bought a plane ticket that took off that night. The ticket was the cheapest one available at $2,100 and was the only one I could afford. I had a 5 hour layover in LA before flying to Boston. When I landed in LA, I called my mother who was with my grandfather. She put the phone up next to his ear, he couldn’t talk, but he could hear me. I told him I was on my way and I would be there soon. My mother said that he nodded when I said that.
After I was done talking to everyone, I had to go get some food, so I hung up. However about an hour later, the phone rang. It was my mom, my grandfather had passed. I had not been able to get there, I wasn’t even close. Now I know that there is nothing I could have done different to get there faster, but I will never not feel guilty. I did end up coming home for Christmas, but the reason I was home made me wish it had never happened. I wish I had spent another Christmas on a computer screen.
My grandfather was just like a second father to me, and I will miss him a lot. But I will honor him by not stopping following my dreams. He was just as stubborn as I am, and was always gardening, getting ready for winter, chopping and stacking wood, no matter how he felt. It was the worst Christmas I have ever had, but I spent it with my family and had a good time. Which is what he would have wanted. He would call me a wuss if I didn’t have a good time.”
“I Am Wary Of Holiday Gatherings”
“My family has a lot of issues between each other due to years of hate and loathing that were escalated by my brother dropping out of school after years of legal trouble, helicopter parenting, and divorce.
My younger brother was getting married December 27, right after turning 18. The only people from our side of the family that were ‘allowed’ to go were myself, my sister, our mom, our dad, and our dad’s mom. Everyone else at the wedding was family and friends and neighbors of my sister in law.
I was part of the wedding so I was upstairs getting ready when I heard commotion downstairs. I wasn’t told what was happening.
My mom and dad had brought my mom’s mom, who was turned away at the door and told she was not allowed to be there and had to go home.
So my mom and dad left to take my grandma home, and missed the wedding.
When they returned, my brother went off on them for missing his wedding, and my sister in law’s mom said to me, ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to be a part of that family anymore, you can be a part of ours,’ in front of my mom.
We left. My mom, my dad, my sister, my grandma, my sister’s girlfriend who had to wait outside in the car, and I left.
It took over 2 years before my brother would speak to us, and even then it was only certain people, because he was going to have a baby. They wanted to ‘fix things’ before bringing a child into this world.
My niece recently celebrated her first birthday, and she is one of the biggest balls of joy my family knows. With that said, my brother and his wife are getting a divorce, and my brother still doesn’t treat our mom like a person, even though he lives with her for free.
I personally still have issues with the fact they got married two days after Christmas, knowing that our family wasn’t even welcome there. That Christmas was a mess, and I am wary of any holiday gatherings with my family since then, as it is the only time we all see each other now.”
He Woke Up Thinking All Was Right In The World
“My grandmother passed away about two in the morning on Christmas morning. She had been In the hospital for about three months, broken hip, in and out of surgery. It was her time. My mother was there when she passed, and she went as peaceful as we could have hoped. My mom gets home about three, I hear her come in and I give her a big hug. She’s bawling, the rest of my family was asleep, and they had no idea.
We both went to bed, and I woke up early the next morning. My little brother (9 or 10) was downstairs, giddy as he can freaking be because it’s Christmas morning, and he has no idea what has happened. When my mother eventually gets up, he’s even more excited because that means it’s present opening time. My mother has to sit my little brother down and tell him about last night.
To see his face go from absolutely thrilled to just the utter devastation and sadness of our grandmother’s death was the saddest thing I have ever witnessed. It still makes me tear up.”