It's almost Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. The Christmas season is typically full of excitement, anticipation, joy, warmth, family, and love. It can also be a hard time of year for people, for many different reasons. Maybe you lost a loved one this year, maybe you lost your job, maybe you don't have family to celebrate with, maybe you've had a hard year and are just ready for 2016 to be over. There are a million posts floating around with how to deal with a hard Christmas this year, and what Christmas looks like if you are _______ fill in the blank, missing someone, infertile, alone, etc. And the ones I've read are good, really good, but I don't need to write a post like that, they are out there.
I thought I would explain why Christmas is hard. I have seen comments on blogs and posts and heard comments when I talk about Christmas being hard that are less than supportive. "Why can't you just get over your issues and focus on Christmas?" "I don't understand why Christmas is so hard for you, can't you just be happy?" "Focus on the meaning of Christmas, not your problems." And I think they are probably (hopefully) well-intentioned, but they are not helpful, and are a little crushing.
For us specifically, this year is our third in the adoption process without a baby. Christmas is a constant reminder of what we don't have - last year we thought, "how great, next year we will almost definitely have a baby to enjoy the Christmas season with." And here we are, still childless. And we are okay, but it's a hard reminder. Seeing the "my first Christmas" outfits, seeing others ecstatically celebrate their first Christmas as parents (and trust me, we are happy for them, but it's still a reminder of what we so desperately, with all our beings, want), is hard. We also lost a baby this year, we planned for Christmas, we looked at Christmas outfits, figured out how we would travel with a baby, and the best way to start our own traditions with our child. None of that will happen this year. And that's okay, we are okay, but it's hard, and it's not fair. It's never fair to lose your child. So, Christmas is a reminder of what we lost. So, it is hard, we will be okay, but we struggle. These are not things we can just forget, or put aside for the holidays (or any other time), they are our life right now. It doesn't mean we aren't happy, it means we are struggling. I've been telling people, 2016 wasn't an over all "bad" year, it was just hard; really, really, hard.
SO, I say all this to say, don't say mean, unhelpful comments, no matter how you mean them. Instead, here are some things you can do and say.
1. Be supportive. Understand if the person hurting needs a break, doesn't want to talk, wants to talk, needs to be busy, needs to be still. Everyone's grief (because if we're honest it's all grief, over something we don't have, something we lost, something we dream of) will need to be taken care of differently, so respect that and help them get what they need.
2. Ask supportive questions. Ask, how are you doing with___? Instead of making suggestions, or telling someone what you think they should do, ask them. "What do you need?' "What can I do to help?" Ask often, "do you need a break?" Tell them, "I understand" when they don't meet your expectations because they need a break. Let them bring up what they are going through, you don't need to bring it up. If they want to talk about it past your questions, they will.
3. Understand if they have a moment. Crying, being stubborn, being on edge, all possibilities during hard holiday seasons. Give your loved one a moment, let them get through it and then if you feel like you need to talk about it, wait until it's long over.
4. Love on them. Cook them a meal, bring them gifts, treat them to coffee. Any of these shows that you love the person who is going through a hard time at Christmas. We all just want to be acknowledged and loved and not forgotten.
Don't forget us in our struggles, do try to understand. Don't push, just accept.
Hopefully all of this helps you understand our struggle (and hopefully others' during this holidays season) and gives you some ways to handle/help your loved ones.
Merry Christmas, and no matter what your situation, remember there is always hope, and hope really was born at Christmas time, whether you feel it or not, and you don't have to! You don't even have to focus on the fact that it's a holiday, but don't forget the hope. Your hope lies in someone who is above all our circumstances, so even when it's hard, remember the hope that you have.