I found it hard to find the right Christmas card for hubby this year. Most of the ones in the shops had sentiments looking forward to a “magical Christmas” or “the best Christmas ever” or “making happy memories” and other similar thoughts. Trying to find one that expressed what I wanted to say – that I was thankful for having him by my side at Christmas, and for being there throughout the good and the bad was difficult. There seemed to be no room for any thought other than Christmas being magical, exciting and full of wonder.
But Christmas isn’t always magical.
Christmas can be stressful, overwhelming, isolating. A time of trying to juggle too many balls, do too much, be too much. A time when you’re supposed to be happy and jolly and full of festive cheer or else be labelled a Scrooge or a Grinch or a party pooper.
But Christmas isn’t always magical. And we shouldn’t hide that fact.
It’s easy to think that everyone else is having a wonderful time; that everyone else is full of festive cheer. Social media is full of twinkly lights, piles of presents, Christmas cheer and celebration. But those moments are just snapshots from somebody else’s highlights reel. They are not reality.
My own Instagram feed shares my little moments of gratitude. One thing that I was grateful for each day. I choose to try and focus on something positive but that does not mean I am always positive. It doesn’t show the moments when grief is overwhelming; the moments when I find myself punching the bathroom walls and sobbing my heart out at the unfairness of having to face Christmas without my eldest child.
I am trying to make Christmas magical for my two living children. To keep going; to enjoy the festive season as best we can. In all honesty, I have never felt less Christmassy.
I am far from alone in struggling with the festive season. Sadly there are many other parents in my shoes, other families facing the loss of a loved one. There are families who are struggling financially, or with illness, or with other situations that mean that Christmas is a difficult time.
Christmas isn’t always magical and we shouldn’t pretend it is.
It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to express emotions and concerns. Doing so does not make you a Scrooge, or a Grinch or a party pooper. Just a human being with feelings.
Christmas is a time for compassion, for showing love to others. That includes giving them space to be real and honest. It’s great if you love Christmas, if you’re full of festive cheer and embracing the season. But please don’t dismiss those who might be finding it difficult and struggling to find that festive cheer. Sometimes it just helps to have someone to listen. Someone to just acknowledge that Christmas isn’t always magical and that sparkly lights and tinsel can’t always make it so.
For us, Christmas will be a time of being kind to ourselves and remembering others who have empty spaces at their Christmas table. We will try and make it as happy as we can, whilst still acknowledging the sadness that is there too. To be gentle with ourselves and allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel, taking each moment as it comes. To remember Jessica and to try and create new ways of making her part of our Christmas.
Christmas isn’t always magical. But if you’re struggling with the festive season, please know that you are not alone in doing so. I hope that Christmas will be gentle with you all.