Welcome to Door 3 of the Awesome Advent.
What is behind today’s door has a sombre message, but is no less important for that.
Christmas is for many a time of joy and happiness – but not for everyone.
Christmas is all-encompassing, and hard to escape from. The whole extravaganza is in the shops, newspapers, magazines, and all over social media for weeks before the big day.
The ads usually show happy families enjoying each others’ company, smiles and love abound. Even if you love Christmas you’re likely to understand that these ads are selling a dream, that it is not real.
But when you are hurting – bereaved, grieving, perhaps – or lonely and isolated, without family – these ads can feel like an extra barb, salt in the wounds to remind you of all that you have lost.
Christmas 2013 was the last festive time that I felt truly happy. I was about 16 weeks’ pregnant with our long-awaited first child, and at that time all was going well. We had moved in to a house from a small flat a few months previously, and for the first time had space for a proper tree and decorations. The house looked so pretty with lights and festive trinkets, and we looked forward to the following Christmas, when our new baby would have been six months old and gazing in wonder at the twinkly decorations.
Sadly, just a few weeks later that dream fell apart. We have not felt like celebrating Christmas since. All the fuss about Christmas, especially as there is such a focus on young children, is painful. Everything that Hugo should be enjoying, and that we, his parents should be enjoying with him.
Christmas is near-impossible to avoid, of course. I have found positive distractions useful for previous Christmases, and this Awesome Advent is my happy place this year.
Talking to others about my Christmas sadness, I have discovered that, sadly, I am far from alone. People dread Christmas, and experience their own sorrow at this time for many different reasons. It is another of those things that we don’t talk about publicly, perhaps because of the perception of how we ‘should’ be feeling, or what we ‘should’ be doing.
Too often we call those who don’t enjoy Christmas ‘miserable’, ‘Scrooge’, and say ‘bah humbug!’. Usually it is in jest, and yes there are some people in the world who are generally grumpy.
But choose your words carefully. If you know or come across someone who does not enjoy Christmas, or who is dreading the day, try to find out why. The person might value the opportunity to talk. Or, if not, don’t pry but respect their wishes. Don’t force them in to festivities if they really don’t want to be included, but try to find another way to show them that they are loved, and that they have not been forgotten.
That will mean the world to them, and will in some small way ease the strain of the festive season.
To borrow a phrase from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (one of my all-time favourite films):
“Be awesome to one another.”