I recently saw a beautiful short film circulating on social media. It features a young man who is counting down the days till Christmas day. Christmas day arrives. The last scene is him opening up a box of old tapes which he has played every year; this is the last one he has left to play. The tapes were all recorded messages from his mother before she passed away. They are for him to listen to each Christmas.
The message of the film resonated with me so much as it encapsulates exactly what Christmas is and should be about, not the expensive gifts or the abundance of food we force ourselves to devour. It’s about surrounding yourself with the ones you love most. If you haven’t seen the film yet then you can watch it here. LOVE IS A GIFT.
Christmas can be a very difficult time for so many people. It can feel like the whole world is celebrating. It can feel very lonely and isolating for so many people, especially when you have lost loved ones. I wanted to write something which hopefully gives you a little (virtual) hug but most importantly lets you know that you are not alone and that it is okay to feel like you don’t want to join in the festivities that are ‘Christmas’.
“You may be carrying burdens or think you have nothing to celebrate this Christmas, but the truth is, this season is especially for you.”
It’s okay if you want to be alone. The build up to Christmas time is awash with social events: like work Christmas parties, old friends reuniting down the local pub, big family gatherings and of course Christmas day itself. I used to love all of these Christmas festivities but after the death of my dad and sister I found that I had no desire to participate, and that’s okay! I wasn’t being a recluse or antisocial and I wasn’t suffering in silence. I simply didn’t feel like I could muster up the energy to fake my way through an event because I knew I would feel a lot more comfortable by being at home; comforted by a cheesy film and possibly a cry or two, or three, okay, lot’s of crying! Being alone sometimes means you are just doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.
It’s okay to want to wish Christmas away. This doesn’t make you Ebeneezer Scrooge. Christmas can be a huge, fat, shovel to the face in terms of grieving for someone you love. I hereby give you permission to wish Christmas away if you like! It can be an exhausting, highly emotional and for some an excruciatingly painful time of the year. Christmas celebrations happen around every corner. Therefore, you are continuously surrounded and bombarded with a realisation that there are people you love who are not celebrating with you or with their friends and family. The injustice of this can be all too much to bare at times, especially around Christmas.
It’s okay to have a new perspective. For nine years I’ve watched people fret and panic about Christmas, worrying about the Christmas shopping, Christmas dinner and having the house ‘Christmas perfect ready’;Listening to people say ‘We’ll get Christmas out of the way first’ and ‘Are you ready for Christmas yet?’No wonder people are so exhausted by the time Christmas comes round, it’s as though Christmas is a trek up Kilimanjaro! If it doesn’t go to plan, then that’s okay, the day is still ours to live so enjoy it! My perspective changed drastically when I lost my sister and father. I vowed never to stress over Christmas again. I honestly understand, with every fibre of being, that Christmas is and always will be, for most of us, a time to be with the ones you love the most – Simple.
It’s okay to break a commitment. On a few occasions people have invited me round to their’s on Christmas day, which was a lovely thoughtful gesture. Sometimes though, as hard as you may try, you just can’t manage to get out of the house. I have previously put myself under a great deal of pressure to not let people down, to show up and be the lively ‘full of Christmas cheer’ guest. When in reality I couldn’t give a rats arse about ‘Christmas cheer‘. I wanted to stay in bed and just be sad. Whether you want to cancel the entire visit or just show up a few hours later, it’s up to you and that’s okay! I now realise that I don’t have to commit to anything that is going to make me feel uncomfortable or out of my depth and most people will understand, if you’re honest with them. Try not to add more unnecessary pressure to an already difficult day and don’t feel guilty.
It’s okay to break tradition. Christmas time is filled with family traditions. These traditions were forever changed after losing my sister and dad. I will always look back at Christmases with them with a full heart and so much happiness, because, they were magical! But the magic went. So I went against tradition and decided to make Christmas more of a time to experience things I’d never done before. Christmas is a day that you can spend wherever, however and with whoever you like! I’ve spent it in a beautiful Cornish cottage with my boyfriend, in a 5 star luxury hotel in Edinburgh with my mum and in an isolated wooden cabin, set in a forest in Pucon Chile, with two of my best friends, which was bloody amazing! The day is yours to explore! When the time is right do something you have never done before because you know you will always have your loved one(s) in mind, close to your heart, joining you every step of the way.
It’s okay to feel resentful or envious. This time of year can give way to feeling of resentfulness and envy when you are grieving for a loved one. It’s a hard pill to swallow, that quite frankly can make you feel like shit. It’s such an unflattering emotion to have. I know I am guilty of this and put my hand up high to feeling all kinds of resentment, frustration and envy over the Christmas period. It’s not that I didn’t want other people to have fun with their families, I wanted that too. Let’s strip it down to the main reasons why it’s totally normal to feel this way. Firstly, you are subjected to seeing all kinds of festive uploads on Facebook and Instagram (which I understand is just a way of the times). However, you can’t help but think ‘I had that once!’ ‘I had that family once!’ and that shovel hits you in the face, reminding you of what you no longer have. Secondly, you are yet another Christmas further away from the last one you shared with them. Thirdly you have the added pressure of heading into another New Year, which everyone is celebrating, without them. Whilst everyone else is thinking of their hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future, all you can think of is how much you want to go back in time to be with them again. For many it is a very, heartrending and difficult time of year. So, yes, you can get resentful of other people’s families and lives. And that’s Okay! Over time though, it’s so important to let the resentment go piece by piece and find joy and an appreciation in what you have. It’s no secret that gratitude is one of the most important qualities we possess if you want a positive, healthy life.
It’s okay to be excited again. This feeling has only reinstated itself with me this year. It’s been nine years since I put up my own Christmas tree and decorated the house. This year I have my own family. I really didn’t expect to feel the way I do about Christmas again. All of my childhood traditions have come flooding back to me; the ones I did with my mum, dad and sister. I can’t wait to replicate them all for my daughter and give her the most amazing, magical Christmas now and in the future. I want the big Christmas dinner, I want the lights on the tree and I want (dare I say it) a god awful Christmas jumper to parade around in while looking proud as punch wearing it! I find myself sometimes reverting back to feelings of guilt, lost and overwhelmed, as my outward excitement isn’t always the truest reflection of how I’m really feeling inside. I realised that I now have another reason to miss them. This will be my daughter’s first Christmas and they won’t be here with us, which pains me. But the excitement still rings true. All I can do is make sure they are included in my own special way each Christmas. I am giving myself permission to look forward to enjoying Christmas with my special little team, my family, and it’s Okay!
“Shake off the guilt. Wash off the worry. Step free of others expectations.”