Christmas challenges many, for all kinds of reasons. December arrived and with it our ICU welcomed suicide attempts, ODs and road trauma. It began with the tinsel, early December. Already the stores heralded Christmas consumerism.
Among the decorations, fake snow and up beat carols, shoppers milled and mulled looking for the perfect gift. Some faces shone with the sheer pleasure of it while others fondled the array of offerings in a distracted way. Obligation.
“Why is it so?”
I think back to the Christmas’ of my childhood, our silver tinsel tree laden with glass baubles which spontaneously fell at times shattering. I remember the light in my mother’s eyes as we decorated the tree. In the evenings I lay on the floor and looked at the lights.
Our tree had one blue light, I loved it. We were three, no other family but our tree shone and underneath it presents bulged forth. Ma always bought many little things, those she knew dad and I loved. Unwrapping them I felt such joy.
It stopped one year, my mother died and the first Christmas without her hurt. Fortunately my children still very young gave me a reason to continue. Then ten years later I lost my dad. My children on the verge of adolescence also lost a loving grandfather.
Christmas hurt. All the memories of all the years of family fun flooded back abrading the healing. I continued, we all tried but it felt wooden and feigned. I looked down at some of our patients who ventilated and sedated lay there alive.
I felt their pain and wondered why Christmas which should be one of the pinnacles of our Christian celebrations, drives people to acts born of desperation? I realized the need to heal my relationship with Christmas.Here are some things that worked for me.
- Remember happy childhood memories, relive them
- Share your table friends and those family members who uplift you
- Buy small gifts people will treasure
- Have a neighbourhood gathering
- Pick a date in December to have a family picnic, invite extended family
- Drink alcohol in moderation and only if it makes you happy. Abstain if necessary
- Each year get to know someone better
- If all else fails set limits and stick to them
- Time alone can be precious too
Being alone can be very special. I found being alone on the night of Christmas prior to an ICU shift on Boxing Day, healing. In my mind I remembered the great gifts my parents had bestowed on me and lit a candle for each. I faced my grief and became whole.