Merry Christmas? Maybe not.

I feel a strong urge to reach out to people who may not be feeling so merry this Christmas. Christmas is typically a season of cheer and much joy; wine and merry-making, lots of food and presents usually mark the season, but it is not always so for everyone.

I recall my first Christmas after the death of my mother. I felt lost and I struggled with depression. It’s not as if we had spent every Christmas together before then, but the thought of knowing she was nowhere on Earth that year was particularly challenging for me to deal with. Everyone around me was merry but deep down inside I was miserable. I tried to put on a good front so that I wouldn’t ruin it for the other people around me but I wept in secret and ached alone. There is finality about death that nobody really understands; it leaves you feeling helpless and vulnerable, and this feeling is usually heightened at a time like Christmas when everywhere you turn is filled with bright and beautiful colours. I want to let you know it’s okay to feel this way and to shed a tear or two. It helps if you have someone close you can share your thoughts with, a non-judgmental person who can hold your hand and tell you all will be well. The season passes, and the bad mood goes away too. Some practical things to do may be to talk about the departed person; sharing stories from their life may bring more tears, but it helps to keep the person close too. If you are dealing with the death of a loved one this season, try to focus on the good times you shared and be grateful for the priviledge of having them in your life when you did. Avoid regrets and feelings of guilt; no relationship is ever perfect. It may not seem like it now but a day comes when you will no longer feel so forlorn.

The second group of people I feel a need to share with are those dealing with divorce or separation in their marriages. Divorce comes with many negative emotions: a sense of failure, inadequacy, insecurity and low self-esteem. Depending on what led to the divorce or separation, you may also feel a sense of freedom and victory interlaced with guilt. All of these emotions can leave a person feeling depressed and emotionally unstable. Seeing other happy families at Christmas time may remind you of what you have lost, or bring back the memories of Christmas seasons when all was well or ill with your marriage. For some reason, this season of cheer and joy heightens a lot of emotions and divorce is an emotionally charged event in the life of a family.

The thing I want to say to you is that divorce has not changed the fact of your humanness. You are still a full human being with worth. If your relationship failed, you have not necessarily failed. You can live a life of completeness and wholeness, even with a broken relationship. Don’t mourn endlessly and don’t run away from the pain either. Allow yourself to feel the pain and then pick yourself up slowly and time will do the rest. Avoid rushing into another relationship to dull the pain, instead, make friends with people of the same sex and hang out with trusted friends from your past. You may want to keep a little distance from mutual friends for this period, especially if you are going through a bitter separation, and discussions about your ex could be awkward. Just like the person dealing with the death of a loved one, avoid regrets and feelings of guilt. You did marriage, and it has not worked out, don’t beat yourself up about it. There’s life ahead to be lived. If you have children, make the season easier for them by being there and allowing them to express themselves. If they express a wish to see the other parent, arrange to make it happen if the situation permits, otherwise, explain to them why the timing is wrong. Go out with safe family friends or relatives and don’t hide out in your room crying and with only candy crush to keep you company. Don’t turn to alcohol either; the relief it offers is not worth the pain it brings. Take each day as it comes and realize that this season only lasts a few days.

For those dealing with departures of the non-permanent kind, it might not seem so serious, but your emotions could equally be raw. This year I find myself separated from my nuclear family for the first time in over twenty years, and I am shocked at the depth of longing I feel to be with my family. It is not going to be possible, and after shedding a few secret tears of longing, I have come to realize that truly, the holidays are about people and not about things. So if you are away from your loved ones this season, for whatever reason, try to focus on the positives. Concentrate on the cause for the separation and do your best to give it your all. Music is a good companion when friends and family are far away, listen to good uplifting music and dance to your heart’s content where you can. Take the time to reflect on all the beautiful things about your family that you love and be thankful for it all.

Write long, loving letters and make frequent phone calls where possible. Again, don’t turn to alcohol and avoid over-indulging with food. It might be a good time to finally sit down and work on that book, or plan the next year while reviewing this year. It could be a time to do a lot of introspection and sort out a lot of things in your life.

But merrily or not, this Christmas too will pass!

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