Sean and Ed did a podcast on how to be alone and it got me thinking. So here is my offering for those of you facing Christmas alone, with thanks and credit to David Harkins.
It starts around the beginning of November, maybe earlier. It is the same each year and there is no escape. Christmas ads on the TV, decorations being put up in the shops and houses lit up like Blackpool illuminations. Everyone asks each other ‘What are you doing for Christmas this year?’
This question can cause feelings of panic and desperation for someone who has lost a loved one in the last year, or lost a relationship that was important to them. I love Christmas and everything about it especially being with the people I love. Don’t get me wrong it also used to be filled with stressing myself out, trying to have everything perfect for the big day. Then I started working in a cancer centre and the meaning of Christmas (and life really) changed.
Suggestions for facing Christmas without a loved one:
DO try to talk to your friends and family. They will be grateful if you tell them what you need as they care about you and will be conscious of your loss. Just because they don’t mention it, it doesn’t mean they don’t care, it just means they don’t know what to say and are afraid of upsetting you.
DO try to schedule time in the day to perform a small ritual in memory of your loved one. Light a candle, look at some happy photos, and tell others of a happy memory that you shared. Shed a tear, but be grateful for the time you had them with them and focus on this rather than their absence in your future.
DO try to plan at least one thing during the day just for YOU. Be selfish. If you want to watch your favourite TV programme with a glass of wine, or go for a walk to a favourite spot or indulge in your favourite treat, make sure you are able to plan this into your day and visualise it and look forward to it. Your loved one wouldn’t want you to feel miserable all day.
DO try to ask for support from friends. If you must be alone, ask a friend to call you at a set time so you can share a favourite memory of your absent loved one.
DON’T be a martyr. Tell people how you feel, and how difficult this Christmas will be for you. Don’t expect people to read your mind or intuitively know what you need. If you haven’t had an invite try asking someone if you can pop in during the day. Your true friends will be more than happy to help and support you through this difficult time.
DON’T beat yourself up if you feel sad and depressed or cry; know that this is completely normal and that the first Christmas will be the worst. Look into the future and believe that it will get easier. If you feel really desperate don’t forget you can always call ‘The Samaritans’ on 08457 90 90 90 or cruse on 0844 477 9400. if you just want an ear at the end of the phone. It is not weak to reach out for help. You are grieving and you are in pain.
DO try and find an inspirational reading or poem that you can read during the day if you feel down. Choose this in advance and know that it will lift your spirits if things get too bad; this is your back up plan.
DO enjoy a Christmas drink, but avoid numbing your pain with alcohol. This will just make you feel worse in the long run. Have a glass or two, but know your limit.
DO try to have FUN. I know this is the last thing you want to hear but all the clichés are true, ‘Life goes on’ and ‘life is for the living’. Above all think about if your loved one would want you to have fun. I don’t feel it is disrespectful to laugh during your darkest times; sometimes it is the only way to survive.
DO celebrate when you get to the end of the day; you took control and not only survived, you found some pleasure in the day, and you will enjoy many more Christmas days and create new special memories as well as always remembering the special times you shared with your loved one.
An inspirational poem by David Harkins
He is Gone
You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on
I will make sure I find some quiet time in the day to reflect and be grateful for all the years I had with my Nan & Grandad. As I face the rest of my life without their physical presence I try to keep their memories alive.
I will find ten things that I am grateful for in my life today (everyday i try to find at least three) and make a commitment to myself that I will make the best life possible because I know only to well how precious life is.
I wish you all a Happy Christmas and Healthy New Year.