So December is here and we’re focusing on the festive season.
Christmas isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year. New Year isn’t always an exciting fresh start.
Let’s all spare a thought and show some compassion to those who struggle in the festive season. I hope this post gives some hope or at least acknowledgement to those who find it hard. I know that place.
The Not So Perfect Family Christmas
If you ask people to be honest about their families many will say that there are problems. Hardly any of us have the loving, tight knit family we are sold as a marketing tool, in abundance at Christmas, and yet we can work hard to have it.
Some parents buy ridiculous amounts of presents because the media tells them this is the way your child is shown love.
Broken families feel more shattered when we watch the Christmas films where everyone loves their relatives and can spend days with them without bringing up that huge family secret or issue from twenty years ago.
Estranged families notice the absence of relatives who aren’t at the dinner table. Old hurts burst open at the noticing of an absence.
People who have endured miscarriages, infertility or the death of a child are reminded they don’t have children to lavish gifts upon. Instead they are expected to show affection and generosity to others’ offspring while no one thinks how it hurts them inside not to be able to do it for their own children.
Christmas can place so much pressure on us with the false ideal of the perfect family. It doesn’t exist. Even The Waltons had arguments.
I have no magic fix for this. All I can suggest is being mindful.
Consider the parents who are trying their hardest with gift buying. If you’re old enough, tell your parents things aren’t everything. They really aren’t. A few days after Christmas, the gifts are laid to one side and often forgotten. Love and giving others time never is.
Be aware that members of the family will not want to be part of it for their own reasons. Reach out if you can but know that family isn’t always everything. This may sound controversial but for some family is a war zone not a Disney movie. Hold on to those that love you most. Friends can be family too.
To those who cannot have children, are trying or have endured child bereavement, please consider them when you barrage them Christmas photos and tales of your children. Don’t go overboard with your sympathy as they will hate to spoil your fun but just remember when they’re playing with your children, inside they’re probably wishing they could do this with their own.
Not a Time for Lovers
I was dumped on Christmas Eve. True story. On reflection he did me a favour. He was a loser. My seventeen-year-old self didn’t know this. I was gutted and miserable throughout the Christmas period.
It’s hard sometimes being single at Christmas. Everywhere you turn couples are holding hands when doing their Christmas shopping. Everyone seems to be getting engaged. Couples kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
I’m not knocking the single life. I lived it and enjoyed most of it. There’s nothing wrong with not being in a couple but please be aware that it can be hard too.
Don’t patronise your single friends by setting them up on dodgy Christmas dates. Don’t remind them of their singledom by making them the only single person at your party.
Singletons are just fine as they are. They are not a project and although they may be begging Santa for a partner for Christmas, they need your companionship, not your cringy intervention.
I’m fairly certain that although the three kings rocked up with expensive gifts we’re not expected to go overboard with our presents for each other. They were kings. Most of us are just trying to make our pay stretch throughout the month.
I’m not going to patronise here as I am blessed to have the main things I need in life. I try to be more mindful of those that don’t.
Consider donating to a charity close to your heart instead of sending out Christmas cards. They will only land up in the bin come January anyway.
Maybe we could donate our time at Christmas or any time in the year in volunteering at shelters, hospices, food banks, and the like.
I’ve had Christmases where I’ve not had much money. It was so hard to tell friends and relatives I couldn’t afford gifts. I was lucky they were all understanding. Please be so for those who cannot buy a gift for you.
It’s so wrong that people go into debt they cannot pay throughout the next year because of one day.
I’m not judging anyone. I’ve been in debt in the past and know how easy that is to fall into. I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t place such a value on material items, especially at Christmas. I have no solutions for remedying this. I do think we need to be more mindful of those who don’t have much money, if any, though.
Let’s try not to embarrass people with fancy presents when we know they cannot reciprocate. They shouldn’t have to.
Let’s offer time and actions. Make a voucher book of tasks you can do for your weary friends. Many people will remember how you did their ironing when they were ill rather than a bread maker gathering dust for years.
Grief can hit harder over the festive season. Loved ones who are gone feel more distant than ever.
Sitting at the table for Christmas dinner can be painful when a seat lies empty.
Mothers who used to make the dinner are replaced by their spouses or children who wonder if they can ever do a good enough job of it.
Traditions seem hollow when there is one less, very important person, to take part.
New years are a reminder that it is another year where your loved one is further away in time. It is another year where you will face the anniversaries of their death, birthdays, and sometimes significant days like Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.
Please check in with those who are bereaved over the festive season, particularly those left alone. Life is not the same. Christmas is not the same. You cannot replace their loved one but you can show you care.
The festive season can be bring a series of triggers for those who have a mental illness.
Depression can crash into a deeper, darker place among the mocking lights on the tree.
Anxiety can be heightened by the never-ending lists of what needs to be done.
Social anxiety goes through the roof at the prospect of all those Christmas gatherings.
For those with mental illness, please remember self-care. I know we hear it often but it really is important. Christmas is just a day, no matter how some people are intent on celebrating it for months. It will pass.
The new year is not a barometer of your failure. I know how it is to look back on the year and feel like everything was bad. Illnesses like depression will lie to you. They will tell you not to bother with the next year either.
I recommend a five minute strategy. Getting through a day is often overwhelming. Aiming to get through five minutes at a time is more manageable. Do one set of five minutes. You’ll be surprised how if you also find a distraction you will make it. Then aim for the next five.
If you have loved ones who have mental illness please be mindful of them over Christmas as well as the rest of the year. Check in with them. Sit with them and let them know people who care exist.
Campaign for mental illness stigmas to be eradicated. Support mental health charities. Just be there and listen.
It’s no coincidence suicide rates rocket over and just after the festive period. Nothing makes you feel more lonely, helpless, and useless than seeing others congregating, connecting, and having fun when you can barely function.
Suicidal feelings are not your fault if you feel them. They are not you. The shame is not yours to carry although I know you cannot help that you do.
I promise you something I know is absolutely true; suicidal feelings pass. You may feel them often but there will be moments when there is a reprieve.
If you can, take those moments in between and reach out. Just because it has passed does not mean you don’t deserve support. You fought a battle and you need recovery time and care. Take it. You deserve it more than you can possibly imagine.
Please note I’m not refuting reaching out when you’re feeling suicidal. Of course, this is the best option. I also know how hard it is to do in that moment. A fog descends and you can barely breathe, let alone ask for help. I hope you will but here’s someone who understands and will not judge you if you can’t.
To those who have loved ones who have suicidal thoughts, this is so hard for you. You cannot believe someone you love so much wants to die. It’s not about their feelings for you.
Please support them by getting support for you too. It’s a hard thing to do. Love them. Show you love them. Tell them you love them. Sometimes it makes all the difference.
The elderly can struggle over the festive season. Some are widowed and live alone. Some cannot get around easily. Some will not have much money, trying to live on a pension.
Let’s consider the elderly in our neighbourhoods. If we know they’re alone, could we show they’re not by visiting them? It shouldn’t be a chore. The older generation have knowledge and stories to tell. They have so much to share with us.
Could we invite them for a slice of Christmas cake, dinner, or a gentle stroll?
Could we volunteer in elderly wards or in residential homes?
Could we not expect our grandparents to go without because they spent their pension on our Christmas presents?
The elderly aren’t always given the respect they deserve in Western culture. Let’s start at Christmas and keep it going.
Over to You
Have you ever struggled at Christmas or are you dreading this festive season? What do/did you want or need?
Do you have any tips or advice for remembering those who struggle at this time of year?