Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 22, 2008
Turn a blue Christmas into a time of peace
Grief, loneliness can plunk you in a blue funk when the whole world is celebrating and making merry.
Turn a blue Christmas into a gentle celebration by planning and being kind to yourself.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But if you are alone, it could be a real heartbreaker. And it could be particularly hard on those who recently lost someone through death, separation or divorce.
“I think the issue about Christmas is that people have high expectations of what the season should be,” says Jocelyn Roy, a pastoral counsellor in Edmonton. “Even the commercials on TV tell us all the time that we are supposed to be happy and full of bliss. Those kinds of expectations really intensify whatever it is that we are feeling, whether it is grief or loneliness.”
Be gentle with yourself
So the first thing Roy recommends is to be “very gentle with ourselves” during the season. “We have to understand that those expectations don’t need to be there and that we can change some of the ways that we approach the holidays.”
We have to remember that “Christmas is about remembering that God loves us so much he became human and it’s a celebration of the Incarnation.
“At the same time we don’t want to give up all these wonderful things because it’s amazing that we have so many ways to celebrate the wonder of the incarnation.”
Roy, who works with parishes and has a private practice in Edmonton, says it’s important for people not to just isolate themselves and give up on decorations and nice meals. That can backfire.
“That only brings us deeper into our pain. I think it is important to put up some decorations and to listen to Christmas carols. Those things help.”
And she cited research that suggests “the best thing is actually to do something for someone else. In fact, when we do that, we actually get more out of it than the person for whom we’ve done it.”
Added Roy, “From my own experience, it’s so easy to say ‘What’s the point of putting up the tree, it’s just me?’ And yet putting up the tree lightens my mood. So I think it’s important that we also do what we can with those traditions.”
When people are experiencing intense grief because they’ve just lost somebody, they really need to slow things down without guilt at Christmas, Roy said. “If they don’t want to do Christmas cards and they don’t want to go to Christmas parties, then that (desire) should be honoured.”
If someone has the funds, “it’s really a good idea to do things special (during Christmas). Maybe that’s going to be a massage or a long distance phone call to a friend.”
Roy also recommends watching the intake of alcohol because alcohol is a depressant.
“(Christmas) certainly is a challenging time because its message about joy and happiness and about being together highlights the fact that you are alone,” notes Jackie Allen, a grief counsellor with the Edmonton Support Network.
“So the best thing people can do is, first of all, acknowledge that this is a difficult time, even though the message out there is that everybody in the world is having this wonderful time during the holidays. That’s not your reality.”
The second thing is to sketch out a plan of activities for the season “so you have something to do each day.”
Newspapers and church bulletins are filled with all types of ideas — from potluck suppers to social events at your church.
“See if there are some events going on that you could join,” suggests Allen, saying people who are alone at Christmas should take action for themselves rather than waiting to be invited somewhere.
Take the initiative
“Take the initiative,” she said. “Even if it is one thing each day to get you out, to be around other people, it might be helpful.
“So it might be to go to Mass. You don’t need anybody to take you there. You can go by yourself.
“You are welcome there. You are going to be with people.”
People should also plan in advance to volunteer. “Maybe there is a place you can volunteer — be it helping put up a supper for the homeless or helping the Christmas Bureau, Santa’s Anonymous and the Food Bank.”
Allen said the best he best way to find out where opportunities are is to call the 211 information and referral line. (The 211 line matches people up with volunteer opportunities.)
“If you are alone in your home and you have no place to go after you have done all the things that are there to do, try to focus on what has meaning for you,” she said.
“What does the holiday mean for you? Is it a time when you want to self reflect? Is it a time when you want to attend Church services more?”
Added Allen: “I guess if you are alone you might want to look at the things in your life that you can feel gratitude for and to remember the ones that you love. There are lots of thing people can do when they are alone that can make them feel better.
“So it could be writing letters or emails to people that they miss and would like to be with.”
Even watching a good movie or making a telephone call can help people feel good.
“That’s where volunteering can really be helpful because if you are all alone, now you have a purpose and a place to go where you are needed.”