Is Christmas a difficult time of year for you? are things feeling bleak like in Rossetti’s (1872) poem / Christmas carol below?
Whilst this poem is seeped in religious connotations, it struck me that the harshness of the physical elements to winter that the poet describes here may actually resonate with many of us, especially this time of year. With the Christmas holidays upon us, the magical essence once experienced as a child, (for which I truly appreciated at the time) seems to have lost its innocence as I’ve grown in awareness as an adult and as a therapist. An awareness of the bleakness, pain and suffering that is happening to us or going on around us leaves me adrift, with a deep-rooted sadness and a reluctance to engage in Christmas festivities and celebrations, at least without doing what I can to help others during this difficult time. Not out of pity but out of the advanced empathy that has grown as I have grown through my own difficult experiences and through work with clients.
Culturally as a nation, unless your faith or beliefs deem otherwise, we seem to celebrate this event even if we don’t have roots in religion. Even St Nicholas who originally gave to the needy has turned into commercialised hype about Santa meeting wants and desires of the most popular toys and gadgets on the market, conditioned by behaviour, ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ rather than being about those who are actually in need. My heart aches at the injustice and unfairness and the bleak starkness of many people’s reality compared to the warmth, happiness, cheer and sense of belonging that the build-up of a commercial Christmas want’s us to buy into. Don’t get me wrong, this is not meant as a Grinch response to Christmas. I find comfort in the essences of connectedness, kindness and compassion that I see, especially at this time of year. However, It feels really important to honour and acknowledge anyone who is struggling to find any sense of ‘Christmas spirit’ this year. This post aims to appreciate those who are alone, suffering loss or wrestling with the social and economic climate at a time of year that really highlights the gap between those that ‘have’ and those that ‘have not’. Where life can and does feel for many, so bleak hard and cold like the hard iron and stone in the poem.
It feels all too easy to get wrapped up in the Christmas traditions, food, family and the buying of gifts- Arbeit stressful at times. But what about the vast amount of the population who particularly at Christmas, due to the hype, may feel very alone or disconnected? Where the following hardships may be real to most of us, at one time or another: financial difficulties; unemployment; relationship breakups; the loss of loved ones; family tension and feuds; battles over child access; divorce battles; those suffering abuse; those fearing the alcohol consumption of caregivers; temporary accommodation and eviction; pressure and expectations on where to spend Christmas and what gifts to buy; a reduced sense of community; ill health; terminal illness; substance misuse motivated by numbing the pain of experience and reality; children and young people in care; military deployment, asylum seekers, refugees or immigrants separated from loved ones back home who have no idea where those loved ones are or if they are okay.
Let’s also not forget the rise in homelessness and it’s link to mental health which all seem to feel even more bleak at this time of year. Especially when the stars, the fairy lights, the twinkle and the Christmas movies and messages of: new beginnings; family; hope; love and gifts shine so brightly, it’s somewhat blinding and perhaps a little suffocating. So if you’re struggling and life is feeling more difficult and overwhelming with the added build-up and pressure, you are not alone.
Whilst there may be nothing that can make circumstances okay, you do not have to carry the weight of it alone. Talking, connecting and reaching out to someone may possibly help to thaw some of the bleakness and sense of disconnection or hopelessness. Please see some useful contact details below and be kind to yourself……..always,
…..but especially over the next few days x
Childline Tel: 0800 1111
Crisis (support for homelessness)
Galop (LGBT National Domestic Violence helpline) Tel: 0800 999 5428
Mind Tel: 0300 123 3393
National Centre for Domestic Violence – Self-referral Tel: 0800 970 2070 OR Text: ‘NCDV’ 60777
NHS Mental Health Helplines (An extensive list of national services)
Refuge (For women, children and Men)
SHOUT (Text Service) Text ‘Shout’ to 85258
Step Change Debt Charity Information on Emergency funding
YoungMinds (For both young people and parents)