Dealing with sorrow in a season of joy
I've never found the prospect of Christmas so difficult as I do this year. November and December have been a whirlwind: a period of pressure, too much busyness, and loss.
In November, I lost a good university friend to leukaemia. Just over a week ago, Stan's grandpa passed away after a short hospital stay, his third in as many months. Both deaths have brought shock and grief, but there has been so little time to process them, and so many other commitments to fulfil. I'm bad at saying no at the best of times, so at the less than best of times I still seem to cling to the mistaken belief that I can carry on as normal.
As Christmas approaches I've been mentally focused on trying to cope and pull everything together, rather than engaging with friends and family and looking forward to spending time with them. The list of things to do seems endless, and there are never enough hours in the day to complete it. Simple things have felt overwhelming at times, and I've wanted to crawl into bed and hide until life is better.
Obviously I know it doesn't work that way, and most likely there are many others suffering at a time of year we expect to be perfectly, festively happy. Crying in supermarkets and wondering if your family will think you are thoughtless for not sending cards isn't what we signed up for.
I've realised that Christmas is a difficult time for plenty of people on an annual basis and not just as a circumstantial one off. Family politics, grief, stress and financial worries are not uncommon at this time of year. What I find myself desiring is a return to the simplicity of what Christmas actually means, without all this shopping and self-imposed social pressure. To come back to this truth: that Christmas represents the hope the world needs and the promise that love can overcome our many failings.
If you too are dealing with sorrow in this season, can I encourage you to be gentle with yourself? Life demands so much of us, but really many of those demands are self-imposed. If we're willing to let go a little, we can find the breathing space we need.
Rest when you need to. Cry when you need to. Allow yourself margin in the days you plan, and the freedom to change your plans if you need to. Trust that the people who matter will bear with you.
My hope is that you all have a peaceful Christmas, whatever you are facing in life.