Remember the mournful cry of the old song , “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth?”
If I were to ask you all you want for Christmas this year, I think I know what it would be. All I wanted for Christmas 1983 was my wife back, for life to be back to normal, or for things to be the way they were the last Christmas before she died.
Perhaps you can understand those feelings.
After losing someone we care about, it does NOT feel like “The most wonderful time of the year”. Oh, it’s more than the usual “bah humbug!” stuff. This year Christmas is going to be different for you, yet the world doesn’t seem to notice or care. A myriad of Christmas images still flood your senses: chestnuts roasting on an open fire; sleigh bells in the snow; stockings on the mantle awaiting Santa’s visit. “’Tis the season to be jolly”, they say … but you feel anything BUT jolly.
In fact, this year the Christmas bells may have a different ring for you. Circumstances have meant a significant change in your life. Perhaps someone you care about has died. There may be an empty chair at the Christmas table this year. But it will not compare to the empty feeling in your heart. Things like pulling out the old familiar decorations and tree ornaments will be a painful reminder of what you have lost. Perhaps you’re anticipating these holidays with some apprehension because of a significant loss. Probably nothing will make these holidays perfect, but perhaps there are a few suggestions to make them more bearable:
- Reduce the Pressure: There is always a lot of pressure around Christmas with a thousand and one things like shopping, baking, cards etc. This year you may not feel like you have the energy to do very much, and frankly, you just aren’t excited about it. So ask yourself: “How much CAN I do?” and “What do I WANT to do” Figure out what you SHOULD do, compare it with what you CAN do, divide it by what you WANT to do, and stick to it.
- Redefine your Expectations: Realize that YOU are responsible for your own happiness. So ACT rather than REACT. Don’t wait for others to decide what to do, and hope they’ll include you. Decide what would be a meaningful way to spend this difficult holiday. Do the things that are important and special to you. Do your best in the difficult circumstances and, above all, go easy on yourself. If something doesn’t work out this year, you can change it and try again next year. Feel free to do whatever is right for you.
- Relive your Memories: Christmas is always a time of many memories. This one may be especially nostalgic. I think it is important to relive those memories. It is amazing how often we try to avoid the subject of loss. You may find that no-one seems to want to mention the fact that someone has died or that there has been a loss or a change. After all, they surmise, “someone might get upset or emotional”. Yet the situation is on everyone’s mind .. and hey, we ARE upset whether we acknowledge it or not. Denying the reality of the situation is often harder than facing up to it.
- If someone has died, can we find a way to celebrate the person’s life as well as acknowledging their death? Perhaps you could light a memorial candle at the dinner table, or take some time to share special memories or stories. Humorous incidents recalled can have a special healing quality to them. Try not to ignore the fact that someone is missing this year, for to pretend that nothing has happened is so unnatural, it actually increases the tension.
And yet, even though this Christmas may not be so jolly, can you be thankful for SOMETHING?
Can you be thankful for the years you did have and the memories you still share?
Someone may be missing, but are there people who WILL be there this year for whom you can be thankful? Don’t allow looking back at the past to spoil what you have in the present.
And what of the future? You may wonder if you will ever feel happy again, or if life will ever be the same, and probably very little I say will convince you today that you are going to be OK and that you will find a way through this.
But it is important that you hold on to that hope. You may not be able to see it right now, and maybe not even be sure you can believe it, but hold on to hope that there will be days that are brighter.
My biggest life lesson has been that even though some of its circumstances are difficult, tragic and even unfair, that life does go on. If you can hold on to that hope, next Christmas will look different to you.