Its ok to be different. Holidays after loss.
To some this may look a little... small? SAD? A little silly even. And to some it is just "Not Enough". But to me, this represents a nugget of happiness. It is enough. This is our new tradition and it is ok. It is more than ok. I have given myself permission to be just who I need to be; no more, no less, no external or internal pressure. This year is different and it is OK.
Approaching the holiday season of Christmas and family-time, the beginning of a New Year and new season can be really difficult following the loss of someone close. After all it is pretty difficult to ignore that fact that they are no longer here at this significant time of the year, or to forget all of the previous Christmas and holiday times together; putting up a tree, opening presents, holidaying with family...
For some this can be quite overwhelming.
There is a lot of pressure at Christmas time to put up a tree, decorate it in just the right way and let it symbolise all that Christmas and family and fun mean.
To put up lights and decorate the house; to bake, sing carols, and join in the festive fun. But when you lose someone close to you, a partner or spouse, a parent or child, Christmas time can look very different, and it can be devastating, shattering, paralyzing. And yet to do nothing at all would be... desolating (super bleak and empty). This can feel like quite the dilemma. Nothing is the same and every reminder that it is different is another knife to the heart.
So what do you do when faced with this reality, whether this is your first Christmas without someone, or you have been missing them a while longer?
5 years ago we lost my husband, my 4 children lost their dad and holidays ever since have been a struggle and quite honestly very draining. Don't get me wrong, we love Christmas, but the whole lugging of the tree inside, hauling up bags of baubles and lights, finding strength to put it all together and then energy to take it all down again is exhausting.
We did it though, year after year, and it was fine. But there is a certain level of expectation that we have to have the tree, we have to have the lights, we have to do it all the same, because to not do that we would somehow be depriving ourselves, our kids and anyone who happened to look in our window, of the whole experience of Christmas. As though Christmas was trees with tinsel and large presents and lights and inflatable Santas.
This year I found out it is not. Christmas is not about a tree, with just the right placing of ornaments. Christmas is not about lights and inflatable Santas. And as much as I love all of that, the expectation to have it all 'just so' can drain the very life blood out of us, and that is not very Christmassy.
No, Christmas is about love. The very essence of love in fact and that message is not wrapped up in a tree covered in tinsel and lights and pressure to be presented all just so right.
This year I have been on a journey of really looking at expectation and the interplay of expectation with pressure, stress, and burnout. See, expectation can set us up for huge amounts of pressure, stress and anxiety, and bucket loads of disappointment; and comparison is a fast trip down disappointment lane via FOMO (fear of missing out) or FONMU (fear of not measuring up) available readily at our fingertips thru any social media app 24/7. IT doesnt take long to go from having a great day, to feeling inadequate, via the social media road (dont try this at home... though likely you already have). Comparison is a killer.
For a long time I thought the expectation I felt and the pressure that came with it was from others. I realised in the last year that my own expectation was just as toxic as I judged myself 'not enough'.
Just looking at all those amazingly styled instagram christmas posts of white trees and silver baubles and gold lights; presents wrapped and displayed; baking on point...
The #inspo (hashtag inspo) was enough to set me off on multiple panic attacks; realising as a single mum, working full time, still trying to pretend Chronic Fatigue is not a part of my world, there were not enough hours or energy in my cup to possibly live up to my own expectations.
SO this year, as the dread of setting up the large Christmas tree loomed large and my window of time loomed small, I decided to leave the tree on the floor of the shed and instead, put the baubles in a wooden tray on the coffee table. I liked what I saw instantly and with that, the pressure to decorate was off and the fun was to begin.
Next I opened the Christmas crackers and filled an old pottery bowl I had made in high school and put that on the table as well. I was on a roll. I pulled out the tiny table top tree still with its stars and hearts from last year and onto the table it went. Last of all the Christmas snow globe.
Upstairs looked empty and in the corner sat a rocking horse, tiny and proud. My daughter draped tinsel over his back and put a pirate patch over one eye and some Christmas bells on its ears. We stacked stockings at the base and put presents already wrapped behind and suddenly we had created a new tradition; one that did not require big muscles and high energy, we had our Christmas Horse. And I had one big smile on my face.
Who says we have to all be the same. This year I decided being different was ok. We had been feeling pretty different for some time, it was time for that to be OK.
What can you do this year that will take the pressure of expectation off what is meant to be a joyous family time.
If you are missing someone significant this year, we at Enhance Wellbeing Counselling are thinking of you. Make enquiries to book today if you need someone to talk to about this.