Hello, my little lightbulbs!
How are you?
‘Tis the season to be jolly, so why the f*ck is Jess writing about grief? As well as being a sneaky little goth – I think it’s a very important time to talk about the seemingly not-so-Christmassy experiences of grief, loss, sadness, isolation, and depression. Now, more than any other time of the year, there is societal pressure to be happy, productive, and social. Shops are chocker with middle-aged women scrapping over sprouts, families are arguing over Christmas dinner condiments, and Mariah Carey is screeching in every space with a speaker. The overall message is ‘be merry’, ‘be bright’, and ‘don’t be a humbug’. All this toxic positivity can take its toll, especially when we aren’t feeling it.
And we may not be feeling it for a multitude of reasons. You may have lost someone around this time of year, or this time of year reminds you of someone you lost at another time. You may be struggling financially, and pressure to socialise, buy gifts, and donate to charity just adds to that struggle. You might hate dark nights, cold weather, and rain. Maybe you’re not a fan of crowds and have found that, as with every year, crowds are all over the place. You might feel like your culture becomes even less considered/ recognised at this time of year. You could feel at risk with the increase in drinking and, as a result, violent behaviour. You may be listening to everyone’s yearly reflections, hearing them talk about their successful resolutions and feeling like a failure in comparison. You may have another reason for not feeling it, and whatever that reason is, it’s valid!
I’m going to chat through a couple of these reasons with you, and hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll feel a little more at ease with your feelings.
You aren’t vibing with the family/community/people rhetoric
‘Christmas is all about family’
While a seemingly lovely statement, this Christmas rose holds a couple of thorns. What if you don’t have family or a significant member is no longer here? Or your family aren’t around at Christmas? Or there are strains within your family that make meet-ups difficult?
Like, how are you expected to gleefully gobble down gravy and roasties while your Great Auntie Julie grills you on being single, not earning enough as our John, eating too many carbs, wearing ripped jeans, etc.?
Similarly, Christmas is a time when work-dos, socials and just general nights out are upped. We can feel a pressure to attend everything, even when it’s getting to be a bit too much. You might be scared of being called a Scrooge for staying at home and spending time in your own company.
To help this, you could aim to enjoy company when you want to, with the people you want to – avoiding forced situations that will drain your energy and impact your mood. The most wholesome memories are made with people we love, and it doesn’t have to be picturesque snowman building or sipping hot chocolate at the Christmas markets. You could stay home and try baking, gaming, painting, watching horror films- whatever floats your boat.
No matter what time of year it is, you are in control of who you spend your free time with.
You’re sick of consumerism
As the very wise, and marginalised, Grinch screamed at the Whos – ‘the avarice never ends!’
Christmas shopping is starting earlier and earlier, meaning that before we even hit Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, we might be feeling a little worn out from all of the sales.
You may find yourself buying things for yourself and others on impulse and kicking yourself for it down the line. It’s bound to happen. You’re surrounded by messages telling you to buy, get it on a credit card, pay in instalments. Alongside this, you may have this expectation that you need to buy gifts for people in your life, otherwise they’ll think you hate them.
Time is the greatest gift of all and it’s something that you have year-round. Meet people for tea, organise errand days, try out new hobbies with friends and family. I’m sure that your nan would much prefer an hour with you than a Boots beauty set.
At a time where there is so much pressure to speed up, act on impulse, obtain, store and hoard – why not slow down, reflect, practice gratitude for what’s already there and utilise it?
You feel confined in your grief
With people throwing edible glitter and tinsel over everything, you may feel a little self-conscious sharing your negative feelings with the people around you – scared that it’s ‘not very Christmassy’. This post alone should show you that you aren’t the only one feeling that way, and other people around you may feel it too. Also, true friends and supporters are beautiful emotional evergreens. They’re there all year round, and I’m sure they’d prefer you to give the Christmas gift of truth rather than feeling awful on your own.
I thought about this while driving home from work one night in the dark. ‘Hey Jude’ came on and I usually switch it over because it reminds me of my dad and being a boss b*tch, I rarely have time to actively grieve in the working week (unhealthy right?) Instead of skipping, I sat with it. I reminisced, driving past all of the houses flashing with fairy lights and inflatable Santas, and bawled my eyes out. I chuckled at the memory of my dad deciding to sing ‘Hey Jude’ in a karaoke bar dedicated to John Lennon in Miyazaki. I laughed harder when remembering that he entered into an impromptu sing-off with over a dozen Beatles tribute singers who just happened to be having drinks in the small bar.
As I laughed and cried alone in the car, I thought of how many other people, in that exact moment, may be losing someone, or crying about someone they have already lost; how many people are realising that there’s one less person to buy for this year, or one less person to visit. And despite that welcoming another wave of sadness, I felt comforted by the reality of life. All those people, the ones crying, laughing, staring into the distance, distracting themselves with Christmas shopping, or trying to create the best festive experience for their loved ones are linked by humanity. We are the ones who have survived, the ones left missing people, and the ones with the time left to make the most out of life. It’s a very beautiful thing and something that I think brings us together.
You didn’t complete your new year’s resolution
Boss, neither did I!
I was going to have my own place, to pass the N4, to have a fight sorted for kickboxing, to stop biting my nails, to be able to do one bloody pull-up! Not one of these has come to pass, and the pull-up one has been going three years on the trot. Does that make me an absolute loser? Should I dissolve into the floorboards of my house to save bringing shame upon the family name? Does my mum love me less because I can’t speak fluent Japanese?
Nope, nope, nope.
New Year’s Resolutions are goals you set a year ago, they may not even be relevant to you anymore and if they are, that’s fine too. This time can be for reflection and forgiveness. Tune into yourself and ask questions like:
How do I feel about not meeting that resolution? Why do I feel like that? Should I keep trying at it? What can I do differently to increase my chances of doing it better?
What are some things that I’ve achieved this year that I may not have listed as a New Year’s Resolution? What are some unexpected wins from this year?
What (or who) has stayed in my life this year that I can be grateful for?
Loss reminds us that the people in our lives are not a given. So when I start battering myself over the head for not doing a pull-up, I can stop and think – how lucky am I to have my sister in my life, to have my mum, Rachel, my godfather Mark, supportive friends and family?
The biggest Christmas present is your presence. You do best when you show up as your healthiest, most cared-for self. So, worry not about the ‘perfect Christmas’ because you are already perfect as you are and there is nothing more beautiful than you radiating true, authentic humanity – in whatever form it takes. Be it grief, giving, resilience, rest, reliance, progress, or forgiveness.
Whatever stage you are in this time of year, you’re a gorgeous little lightbulb and I love you so much!