Christmas is loaded with happy. The music is cheerful. The lights are bright and colorful. The social calendar explodes. Everything says “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”.
So, what if it isn’t the most wonderful time of the year. What if this time of year is painful?
When grieving, Christmas can feel like a minefield of painful memories. How do you manage the expectations about this holiday experience?
The answer is the best way you can. The Christmas season can be handled the same way you have handled your grief in every other season: one day at a time. Here a few guidelines to help you make the most of the good experiences this Christmas and minimize the negative.
1. Do it your way. Honestly, this tip is probably more like three or four in one. This Christmas does not have to mirror past Christmases. You may not put out every decoration. You may not decorate at all. Or it may be that you find solace in decorating the same way you did every other year. You decide what is going to work for you this year. When you get the invitations to the holiday parties, don’t immediately reject them. It may be that you can go for an hour. It may be that on that day, the party is exactly what you needed. Your grief and what you want or need change from day to day. Leave doors open. When looking at old traditions, there is a choice to keep, lose, or change for this year. Grief is personal. As you have already experienced, others will have plenty to say about how you do this Christmas; you will need to make a choice about what works best for you.
2. Take care of yourself: I know, this one is obvious and of course a counselor is going to tell you to do this. However, I urge you to think about it. Sleep, eating right, drinking enough water, communing with God. All that and the other things that make you a healthier person are going to help during this time. So, build it into the schedule. Cook a meal. Go for that stroll. Talk to God. Do the things that will help make it easier to do the other things that will make Christmas better.
3. Give yourself permission to feel: Don’t chastise yourself for being sad. Grieving is not a choice. It is a physical reality when something is taken. Don’t allow guilt or obligation steal your moments of joy. There will be a moment or maybe several where you enjoy something in this time of celebration. Treasure those.
4. Focus on the truth: Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior. Much of the stuff that you don’t feel like doing to has to do more with societies’ desire to have fun and get stuff. This year you could focus on Christ. Remembering why He came and treasure the love and peace that only comes from Him.
Malia Shipe LPC, SAP