Fractured Christmas

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I wish you a Merry Christmas – but that’s a tough ask for some people. Some people will be dreading Christmas. Christmas is not meant to hurt, but for many people it does. People die, fortunes falter and relationships fail, and Christmas may bring these losses for you and your kids back with awful freshness.

So, be kind, especially to yourself. This is not the year to organise a Christmas dinner for 50 people. Treat yourself gently. Of course, reengaging with normal family life will be cathartic and healing after a loss but do it at your own pace. Gently bounce requests with, “Thanks, but I don’t think I’m up for it yet.” People get over losses at a different rates – your kids and other family member might be ready to join in with things far sooner, or more slowly, than you. As much as you can, leave a bit of ‘slack’ in your planning to work around individual responses.

Don’t be offended if your kids act like kids. By definition, children are immature, so do not expect them to handle big life events like bereavements and family break-ups with adult-style maturity. If they get excited about presents and parties, then just be happy for them. If they get moody, grumpy and selfish, then realise that you could be witnessing child-like grief – they are feeling strong emotions but they don’t know what to do with it. Kids have a more limited ‘emotional vocabulary’ so they feel things but don’t know how to express those feelings appropriately. Sometimes they feel like they should put on a ‘brave face’ but it may appear like they are being flippant. They also grieve in bursts – at times they seem so to get over things so rapidly they seem callous but the emotions can come rushing back on them later on.

Your honesty and courage will help them immensely. “Yes, I miss him too. At times my feelings swell up inside and I feel terrible, but it passes and I can carry on. If you start feeling terrible, you can always tell me and get a hug, and I know you will get through too. “

The nature of grief is that the sting fades to an ache that comes and goes with increasing periods when you are surprised to find that life is not too bad after all. If you find yourself having a good time on Christmas day, great! If you have lost someone, it is what they would have wished for you, and if life has dealt you a cruel blow during the year than this proves that that you are recovering from it well.


About Author

John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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