Grief & Bereavement Issues

A Christmas Wish

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

a little christmas treeTonight is Christmas Eve; arguably the biggest night of the year as holidays go, at least here in North America. The shops have closed down for the evening, and most of them won't be open again until Wednesday. All commercial activity has closed down now save for a few restaurants. People are retiring home to be with their families, and possibly to attend services later this evening or tomorrow. It's a family time. Probably the biggest family day of the year. Merry Christmas to all people celebrating tonight. May you have a warm, happy and meaningful holiday.

Some are not celebrating tonight.

Some are outsiders to the whole Christmas thing for one reason or another (often because they are not Christian). Many people will say that Christmas has been so sanitized and commercialized these days that it is no longer really a Christian holiday, and while there is some truth to this position, the holiday remains essentially Christian at its core, existing as it does to celebrate the birth of the Christian savior. Maybe more to the point, it is a holiday that people either grow up celebrating, or watching other people celebrate. If you do not identify yourself as a Christian, you can start feeling very left out this time of year; marginalized by all the attention given to the Christmas celebration. It can be depressing. It can leave you feeling angry or upset. It can leave you feeling lonely.

Some fully identify with Christmas and have joyfully celebrated it before, but for one reason or another, simply cannot celebrate it this year. A common reason for this is grief. People may be grieving recent losses, or older losses that occurred around this time of year in the past. Some losses did not occur at this time of year, but the pain of the loss is felt very acutely right now, tonight, simply because this is the very most nostalgic time of the year when family means the most, and the experience of having to endure the holiday without the lost loved one is unbearable. You recall the loved one at their last Christmas holiday and the pain of the loss cuts you.

Some people's holiday is undercut by worry; over illness (mental or otherwise), over finances, over struggles to stay sober or calm or solvent, over personal concerns.

Some people are simply alone, or away from home and wish they weren't. Their awareness of being alone and apart from loved ones is magnified on this particular night.

It's such a relentlessly nostalgic, inward turning, family oriented time of year, and there is so much accumulated memory to overcome. So much inflated expectation that few can live up to.

To all of you who do not feel like celebrating this Christmas Eve, please accept this Christmas wish that your pain or depression or anger or upset or whatever will pass quickly. I am hoping that you will feel better soon. You are not alone in your loneliness; keep that in mind. Keep in mind that negative experiences pass.




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