Christmas cheer can come in many packages, even if it is not a cheery time.
All too often, the holiday season finds many who are stressed, sad, grieving, or simply not feeling much ho ho ho.
For those who have lost loved ones in the year prior, this will be the first Christmas without them. How is one supposed to celebrate when someone you love is not at the table? It might be easier for you just to stay under the covers. However, there are many still around whom you do love, and who love you, so how is that fair to them and to you? Many questions and not enough answers.
All I do know is that life is hard, and unfair often, but we still need to get up every day and face the world. Perhaps for unknown reasons, some days are just a bit brighter and easier than others. However, in the face of adversity, sometimes survival is the call of the day.
As we think about this challenge at Christmas time particularly, I do believe there are some things that can help.
Be kind to yourself
If you have some extra energy, great. Use it. Allow yourself to be happy. Enjoy your family and friends. However, if you aren’t up to “it”, just say no. Honour your own self at that moment, and curl up with a book and a cup of tea — whatever feels respectful to yourself. Honour the amount of energy that you do, or do not, have.
Do something kind for others
This may seem like a particularly tall order when you yourself are the one who is drowning, but our community, our neighbours, our own families, all have needs that are not being met too. Often when we find a cause, or a person, that has a need that we can fill — it fills us. There is truly so much joy in giving just a little to someone else, and their grateful smile is payment enough.
It is a mistake to ‘hope’ that everything will be okay; that Christmas Day will happen, and it might not be that bad. That might be true, but what if it isn’t? If you aren’t intentional and prepared, the punch can hit harder than it needs to.
So what does being intentional look like? Set a place at the table for the person that is no longer with us. Or go visit their resting place. Perhaps have everyone at dinner take a moment to say something special about who they are missing. If inclined, say a prayer, or have a moment of silence. Anything really that says I miss you and this is hard. I am not pretending that it is not.
Borrow a puppy or a child
There is so much joy that surpasses understanding when we are holding a puppy, or giggling with a small child. Their innocence is refreshing. Their radiance can often fill a room, even a room that is fraught grief.
Don’t overdo it
When we are low, we are at risk of doing too much. Busyness often seems like the prescription for avoiding our feelings. This can actually amplify the sadness, leaving us a wreck. Also, don’t overdo food, alcohol, spending, social events…excess of any sort can damage our bodies and our psyche, and leave us more depleted than we started.
Love yourself and count your blessings
I remember years ago hearing some advice that Oprah had to give about the notion of a gratitude journal. She maintained that it was important, every day, to look for things you are grateful for and write them down. I believe her rule was five per day. Admittedly, some days are much more difficult than others. However, each day they can be found. Maybe it is a sunrise or a sunset that you happened to catch. Perhaps a smile from a stranger, or a squirrel you were able to observe. Simple or elaborate — notice them, and write them down. The accumulation of these recorded blessings over the years will help when the storms come.
This is also the basis for paying attention to the “full half” of the glass. When someone asks, “is the glass half full or half empty?” the correct answer is “yes”, as it is both. How we are doing, how we are functioning, by and large depends on which half we are staring at, and for how long. But truly, they both exist.
Enjoy your holiday season, the best you can. And when at all possible, try and stare at the half full part of the glass. It exists too :)