I'll be HOME for Christmas

Anticipating Christmas

The Christmas season is already upon us with all the ads promoting what is required, or at least “suggested”, for the most wonderful time of the year.

Although this will be the third Christmas since my son Steve died, I already know that it will not be so wonderful for me and others in our family.

We have come to fully realize that he is really gone … but that doesn’t stop us missing him. I am sad that he will not there to receive the traditional “socks and underwear” I always teased was all that was under the tree for him. There were many other gifts over the years, of course, but always those socks and underwear brought the greatest expressions of glee.

So I am not really looking forward to it. And I suspect I am not alone in that. Bereaved people often seem to struggle more with the Christmas season than any other; but also people in hospital themselves or watching a loved one struggle with illness; people who are travelling or working away from home; those who are incarcerated; or the aging person in the nursing home who knows that they may get a quick visit for an hour from family and that will be it. It’s a miserable place to be in the season to be jolly!

But, what can I do to anticipate the season and try to make it as meaningful as possible in the circumstances?

Prepare: Get ready for it 

  • Recognize that THIS Christmas is different. Be realistic. This may not be the best Christmas ever, but what can you do to make it meaningful
  • Plan ahead decide what you would like to do. Re-examine your priorities and what would be really important for you. Remember, you are the expert on you
  • Make the changes you think best. Maybe gift cards or Amazon could take away the stress of shopping.

Perform:   Go through with it 

  • Be proactive. Take responsibility for your own happiness. Don’t wait for others to make the decisions as to what you should do. Maybe someone will but maybe not. Let people know what you want to do and what you need this season.
  • Let yourself feel the feelings that you have. It takes much more energy to pretend that you are fine and everything is OK than to let others know that you are having a struggle.
  • Try to relive happy memories of the life. Think back on other, better Christmas’. Sure I am going to miss my son this year, but I had him for 42 Christmas’.. and I wouldn’t have missed that, even if I had known that losing him would hurt so much. Try to celebrate the life as well as commemorating the death. Acknowledge the person’s presence. Create a special tribute … maybe I could buy some socks and underwear for a homeless person. Steve would like that.
  • Find a quiet spot to remember all the good things about the person you are missing
  • Go and do something that you used to do together
  • Share some of the memories with friends or in a support group
  • Go on vacation to a warmer climate for a week … that will not change the situation, but it will give you a respite. It is said that 10 minutes in the sun enhance your vitamin D levels
  • Go for a walk, listen to music, go shopping, have a massage, or hang out with friends. Do something … anything. Do one thing today, then maybe one more thing, and before you know you will feel better about yourself if not the situation.
  • Above all, set differences aside. Even if there has been tension in the family, Christmas should not be used as a weapon to score points or get even.

Proceed: Go on after it 

  • Always remember the words of Christopher Robin, who famously said to his friend Winnie the Pooh: If ever there is a day we are not together, always remember. You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we‘re apart…I’ll always be with you.”
  • So, decide where you would like to be in your journey next year at this time. Set some goals for your future.
  • Find the blessing in every opportunity and every person you still have in your life.
  • Celebrate what you have as well as regretting what you’re missing.
  • Trust that there will be brighter days ahead.

I love this quote by Albert Camus:

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger, something better, pushing right back.”