Posted on 09:32 11/12/2017
It's Christmas time! All around us are images of family and friends coming together and enjoying delicious food and happy companionship. We are shown pictures of people embracing, laughing and smiling. But for many people this isn't the case.
For may people, Christmas is a time of loneliness, sadness and even depression. And often it's made worse because they believe they should be feeling different. It means Christmas is a very stressful time - but it doesn't have to be!
The first thing to realise is that it's okay to be sad or lonely or even depressed at Christmas time. Think about what is causing that feeling. Recognise the reasons - you may have recently lost a loved one or gone through a life changing experience like a divorce. You may be caring for somebody who is celebrating their last Christmas. You may be living in a place which is far away from your family and close friends. These are all good reasons for feeling sad or lonely.
Once you've embraced the reasons you're feeling sad or lonely, consider if this is the way you want to spend your Christmas. You may decide that this year, this is the way you want to feel. And that's okay. Christmas was my mother's favourite time of year and her home was always elaborately decorated for the season. When my mother died, a few months before Christmas, I couldn't even look at the boxes of decorations without bursting into tears. That year, I decided it was okay to grieve at Christmas time and left the house undecorated.
You may choose to be alone at Christmas time. If you are grieving or sad or Christmas holds traumatic memories for you, rather than celebrating, you may prefer to use the time reflecting. Tony hated Christmas: his son was killed in car crash on Christmas Eve. To him, Christmas was a day of mourning not celebration. Tony preferred to be alone on Christmas day; in the morning he would write his son a long letter. In the afternoon he went to the cemetery and put bunch of flowers, and the letter, went on his son's grave. Then he went fishing - and just sat, looked at the horizon and felt at peace. It didn't matter if he didn't catch a thing!
Of course, being alone may not suit you and you may decide that you want to do something - although it may be different to what you've done in past years. Changes in our life give us an opportunity to try something new - and this may be the start a new tradition! Penny was the only child of a sole parent. After her parent died, she felt very alone at Christmas time. Rather than have Christmas lunch at home, she had done with in the past, she did something new: she invited a friend, who was also alone at Christmas, to lunch at a fancy restaurant. This was the start of a new tradition and the two of them continued to have Christmas lunch together for years - eventually including spouses and children!
For somebody who is an extrovert, being alone at Christmas time can be quite depressing. There are many ways not to be alone at Christmas time if you don't want to be. You could volunteer at a charity - maybe serve lunch to homeless people. Or talk to the staff at the local aged care home - many elderly people are alone at Christmas and having somebody take them for a walk or read to them may brighten their day! Helping other people can be a great antidote to loneliness!
Some people who are separated from family and friends at Christmas hold a party for others in similar circumstances. Matt and his wife moved interstate a few months before Christmas. They had a number of new acquaintances but no family or close friends in their new city. On Christmas Day they held a "Christmas Orphans" party: a party for anyone who didn't have a family or other celebration to attend. An astonishing number of people turned up. The party became an annual event and grew so large they moved it to a local park!
Okay, you've recognised why you feel sad, lonely or depressed and made a plan to spend Christmas a certain way - but you still feel the same! Does this mean you've failed? Absolutely not! If you've been feeling down in the weeks or months leading up to Christmas, this isn't going to miraculously make you feel better. But small miracles do happen every day: even when we feel totally miserable, life gives us little moments of pleasure and contentment. Look for these moments through out the day - seeing a nice flower, the sun on your face, a cool breeze on a hot day, your dog's excitement when they see you! These moments occur through the day - Christmas Day and every day - and when you start to catch them, your mood will lift and you'll feel at peace.