I love this time of year – when the Christmas season is truly upon us. When the lights start going up, and the Christmas music is on the radio and the Festive Special is back at Swiss Chalet. I love Christmas!
Yet, as the season comes, I cannot help but think of those for whom it is painful. I think of those who are facing that first Christmas without their loved ones, and my heart goes out to them. I remember what that first Christmas was like for me, after my sister died. I remember that everything that once made me happy at Christmas now made me sad. I remember that the things I looked forward to were suddenly things that I dreaded.
At the time, I didn’t have words to tell people what I was going through. Today, two years later, I feel I can put words to what Leanne needed to say back then. I couldn’t say it for myself then, so I hope I can say it for others now.
If you are grieving this Christmas, I write these words for you. Share them if you wish. Or read them and know that someone understands, and that, in time, you will find your words as well.
And so, on behalf of the grieving at Christmas, I write:
I need to tell you that this Christmas feels different for me. Even though it may have been a while since my loved one died, facing Christmas without them is a new hurdle for me. Facing Christmas feels scary because I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I am afraid of all of the emotions that are going to come. I am afraid of ruining things for others. I’m afraid I won’t get through it.
I know that you care about me and want to help me. First of all, know that there is nothing you can do to make this all better. This season is hard because I am grieving and grief takes time. But there are ways you can support me through this, and most of them are very simple. Here is what I ask of you:
Be patient with me
I will not always be myself. I don’t know when it will happen. A song may come on the radio and you may notice that I have “checked out” as I step back into my memories. I may see an ornament and it will make me cry. I may see you with your mother, or sister, or father, or child, and that may be painful for me. Give me time and patience. I know I won’t be as fun this Christmas. I hope you can understand.
Don’t Be Offended
Don’t be offended if I say “no” to things. I may be ready to go to your party and then feel like I’m just not up for it. It’s not about you – at that moment a happy party is too much of a reminder of my sadness. I may suddenly step out of a room because I need a minute to myself. I may need to leave places early. Please don’t take these things personally.
Be Sensitive to Me
Be aware of what I’m going through. Please don’t send me a Christmas card with a quick message at the end saying “Hope you have an amazing Christmas!” I probably won’t. Please don’t talk to me about all my Christmas plans without acknowledging that I may be having a hard time. Be sensitive that this Christmas is not “just another Christmas” to me. It’s different.
You don’t have to bring it up all the time, but it will mean a lot to me when you acknowledge my loss. It doesn’t have to be a lot. You can send me a note reminding me that you remember. You can tell me when you see me that you are thinking of me and realize that this Christmas might be hard. Pray for me.
Don’t Give Up On Me
I know it’s not always easy being my friend right now. I know living with my pain can be challenging. At Christmas, it may seem easier to avoid me in my grief. Please don’t. I am doing my best, and even though I won’t always be the life of the party, I still need reminders of life, and hope, and love. Keep inviting me to things. Include me. Maybe I won’t feel up to it, but maybe it will be what I need most.
Someday I will figure out what it means to have a “merry” Christmas without my loved one, but this Christmas I don’t know it yet. This Christmas I am grieving, and that is okay. This Christmas I need some space for my grief.
Thank-you for reading, because even reading this message shows that you care.
Your Friend Who is Grieving This Christmas
(For more thoughts on grieving or struggling at Christmas, you can read two of my blog posts from one year ago: “The Second Christmas After ”
“The Trouble With Christmas Joy”http://friesenandfriesen.com/2014/12/18/the-trouble-with-christmas-joy/).