I’ll be home for Christmas

words: Dr Bill Webster, Grief Journey
Dr Bill

2020 will go down as the year the world pressed the pause button. It certainly has not been a great year. Very few will be sorry to see the old year out and the new one in.

We are grieving for more than those who died: we are lamenting life as we knew it, and coming to terms with this new reality. Some of life’s most meaningful celebrations and rituals have been cancelled.

Well I’m sick of it, and I plan to do something about it. I’m darned if that pesky virus is going to spoil my Christmas. Different doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Think about it: avoiding that family get-together or party you usually complain about? How wonderful that we don’t have the hassle of travelling, lugging presents and winter woollies.

So here’s how it’ll be:

I’ll be home for Christmas, and so will my entire family. Now admittedly, I will be in my home, and my son, my family and my grandchildren will be in their homes. I will be watching my family on Zoom – and when I need a nap, I’ll just hit the mute button.

Here are a few suggestions, but come up with your own:

1. Spread joy not germs!

2. Organise a scavenger hunt for kids of all ages to find the stocking-stuffers. Use Hallowe’en leftovers for a Christmas hunt. Turning a familiar activity into something fun will ease disappointment.

3. Do the Zoom thing. It has become normal to gather virtually. Before the pandemic, if someone couldn’t make a gathering we simply missed them. Now, we can all meet just to talk, sing Christmas carols, share what we’re grateful for, light the candles, or open gifts. It’s almost as good as being there.

4. Get creative and organise some crazy things:

  • “Look what you missed” gifts: opening ridiculous gifts no one would have wanted can get a good laugh
  • Encourage everyone to wear reindeer antlers, Christmas pyjamas or an ugly jumper
  • Have the kids make and decorate Christmas cookies or cupcakes to show off in the video feed
  • Organize a quiz for adults, kids and families. There are many online resources to give you questions to build a truly comprehensive quiz experience.

In short, virtual holiday parties or get-togethers make new lasting memories and help maintain strong connections with friends and loved ones you can’t see. Admittedly it’s difficult to replicate the joy of being with friends and family, and while technology has made it easier than ever to stay in touch, nothing beats giving someone you love a hug.

But there are those who do not have family or others to share with even virtually. Many are finding that loneliness, isolation and feelings of abandonment have been the worst part of this year. So make a difference:

  • Stay connected to those you love but cannot be with. Phone someone every day. Even small, unexpected surprises and gestures go a long way.
  • Send someone a small gift during a difficult time as an expression of kindness. A gift card to a movie streaming service or subscription to a book club or playlist can be practical.
  • Maybe send them a meal through a local restaurant or service

As Scrooge discovered, Christmas past often seems better than Christmas present. So however you decide to celebrate, remember it’s okay to feel ticked off about this one. This year may be disappointing and it’s hard.

But if we can look at the changes as an opportunity to get creative, you and your family will enjoy more time making memories and less feeling the year is incomplete. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover new ways of celebrating that will become family traditions post-virus.

Also remember that it had not been a great year for Mary and Joseph that first Christmas. An unexpected pregnancy, the teenage mother far from home, away from her mother’s loving support and care, no comfortable hospital care for the birth of her child, no warm fluffy towels or hot water. No room at the inn, just a stinky cattle shed after a long weary journey to a strange and foreboding place.

Christmas cards and carols paint a much prettier nativity scene, but to the Holy Family, their world that first Christmas must have seemed like a very unfriendly, uncomfortable and unpleasant place. Perhaps this can teach us that life can be significant even when it doesn’t work out exactly as we expect; that something good can come out of any situation if we work to make it happen; that life will have meaning again, even though we may not be able to see that right now.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,