Personally, I love the Christmas season. It has such special significance for my family and I as we celebrate the most precious of things to us. My childhood years were filled with an abundance of memorable (even ridiculous) moments, rituals and traditions that will be impressed upon my heart and mind for the rest of my life. (Some of which I’m replicating with my own children). I am blessed to have an enormous extended family (including 27 ‘first’ cousins), who played an integral part in Christmas celebrations for me growing up, which I am so incredibly grateful for!
Throughout my adult years Christmas has looked different almost every year. Family are not always present (due to significant geographical distance) and we don’t always have the liberty of being able to travel to them. However, whatever each Christmas season brings, we can be assured that there will be memorable moments created, some traditions and rituals carried on, some conflict navigated (I deliberately mentioned this one!), and perhaps even a few tears shed for those who are no longer with us to celebrate.
For me, during my childhood, the Christmas of 1987 was my first where there was someone missing – from the traditional photo under the tree with all of our pressies on Christmas morning, and the entire days proceedings. It was always going to be a perpetual reminder of the great loss my family had experienced almost a year earlier (nine days after Christmas), when my sister died very suddenly and unexpectedly. Our world had been shattered by our loss, and in all reality I remember entering the season with incredibly mixed, conflicting emotions. So desperately wishing she was with us, but knowing in my heart of hearts that I had to learn how to navigate this new existence without her physical presence with us.
I’ve had many, many opportunities to navigate my own sadness and grief during a myriad of special occasions since my sister’s death, as I’m sure many of you reading this have.
So I guess you could say that I am acutely aware that there are also many people this Christmas who are struggling similarly, and yet for others very different reasons. And how this is far from a ‘picture perfect’ Christmas for so many.
The more I spend time with people in this lead up to Christmas, the more it has been highlighted just how much so many find themselves in a state of sadness and grief! Grief over the loss of a picture of what they had hoped their family might look like. Grief over the actual loss of someone so special to them, who won’t be sitting at the dinner table with them this year. Grief at the thought of feeling compelled to spend concentrated time with people who add little value to their world. Sadness at the thought of being alone at Christmas for the first time or yet again. Sadness at feeling stuck in an abusive relationship that is stripping them of their worth. Or sadness at an enormous geographical distance from loved ones. This list could go on.
Special occasions such as Christmas, where a great amount of the focus is on spending quality time, making beautiful memories with loved ones, highlights for many the gaps, the lack and the dysfunction with which they are associated. And even more so with the prevalence of social media in our lives.
So what is the best approach to take with all of this?
If you are the one feeling deep sadness or grief this Christmas, can I encourage you to give yourself some space to ‘feel’ those emotions, to validate your loss, and then to do something, spend time with someone who DOES light you up. As much as there are painful reminders everywhere of what you may not have….it is okay to spend time working out what life might look like for you as you move forward into a new, perhaps very different season. There will no doubt be frequent reminders of the pain of your loss. It’s important to acknowledge that. Allow yourself to feel it. And then to take another step forward. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself: ONE. STEP. AT. A. TIME.
Or perhaps you have someone in your world who fits this description and you’re not quite sure how to navigate it with them. Love them. Let them know you are there for them. Welcome them to spend time with you and your family this Christmas if they would like to. Don’t pretend to know how they feel…even if you’ve had your own sadness and grief. Every human being will navigate their own loss in their own unique way. Validate them. Respect their requests to be alone if they insist. For them to know that they genuinely have someone in their corner can be a comfort in the midst of a whole lot of unpredictable, wild, scary kind of emotions that can take them by surprise at times like this.
For me personally, over the years, as I’ve assimilated various losses into my life and made the choice to move forward even through my pain, I’ve found myself experiencing a strange kind of feeling…one of happiness, gratefulness and grief all wrapped up in one…when I carry on conversations with loved ones (including my own children) about the special memories I have of the people, places and situations which are no longer a tangible part of my world, I may shed a tear, have a laugh, express thankfulness for the opportunities that have been, and wonder what it may have been like if those people, places and situations were still in my life…and then take yet another step forward into this time and space and feel immense gratitude for where I am right now (regardless of how ideal it is or not). In doing this I can’t help but feel blessed!
Reach out to someone in need of a little extra TLC this Christmas…Put a little bit of courage on and reach out to someone who has offered to lend an ear if you’re the one in need.
Wishing you all a wonderfully blessed Christmas however you choose to spend it!
With you as your discover your ‘freedom to rise’,
x Glenda x