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Honour Yourself at Christmastime
By Christie Thomas©

The Christmas season is coming. The lights are going up as the daylight disappears into the long evenings that are coming. And with the season, comes all the myriad feelings associated with it – memories of joy and laughter, along with memories of pain and loss. It can be a difficult season.

We are each at different stages on our own hero’s journey, and so different things trigger us at this time of year. The season is loaded with smells, sights, tastes, sounds and feelings. And these sensations bring forth the images and memories of times past, when your loved one was still with you. I think Christmas must be the season most associated with time travel. In this instance I mean time travel in the sense of wandering back to those images frozen in time – reliving them.

Take a deep breath. The feelings and images will come and go, and you will still be here. And you will be okay.I have been through a great deal of grief in my lifetime.

I “lost” two sons who each passed away in their early teens. Christmas brings a deluge of memories for me. But I know that my boys are with me, in spirit, whenever I need them; just as my other two almost grown children are with me as well – even if they are out and about.

This time of year can be about loss – the dying of the leaves, and the loss of warmth, and light. And then there are the family dynamics that seem magnified with the close quarters of winter weather, and the coming together of relatives for rituals of celebration. Sometimes being together is wonderful and comforting. At other times the getting together just brings reminders of your loss.

I did find that Christmas brought some heartaches, but as each Christmas succeeded the next it became a bit easier, as new family patterns developed. However, one thing that I always found frustrating was that no one ever wanted to mention my boys. It was the white elephant in the room. It felt as if they never existed if we didn’t talk about them, it was always up to me to bring their names up in the conversation. But I guess that that’s just the way it has to be sometimes. At least if I did mention their names, people (and my other children) would know that it was okay to talk about them. But that never went very far. So last year I came up with the idea of lighting candles. I had heard of setting places at the table for the deceased, but that only seemed to magnify their absence to me. So instead I lit all the candles on the table, and then had two special extra ones. I announced my intent – that I would officially like to welcome my sons to the table with us. I felt they were here with us in spirit, so it was fitting to acknowledge their presence in this new way. My other two children, a son, and a daughter, rolled their eyes at each other, but I didn’t mind. They are slowly getting used to my ideas about spirituality. And Christmas I think is truly the season to nurture yourself and your feelings.

A nurturing thing that you can do for yourself is to buy yourself a present. You deserve it – because of exactly who you are. No defense necessary. Perhaps a present from Santa, if it fits your seasonal point of view.

For a long time in my life I didn’t believe that I deserved much. But now I do. We all do. We all deserve something special to honour ourselves and our journey here on this earth.

Buy something for yourself – a pair of earrings, a scarf, a book, a socket set – but something that you really want. Wrap it up nicely, and put it under the tree, or by your menorah, by your prayer mat, or in the mailbox - anywhere that works for you. And open it during this season of gifting, and know that you are loved.

I don’t label the gift from either of my boys because this makes my other two children more than a bit uncomfortable. But you could do that, or label it from Santa, or your Higher Self, or any spirit you believe in. It is to honour you and your losses, and your amazing strength, and grace. It is because you are loved. Never forget that.

Another thing that you can do this season is to try and get out and find people who understand you. Although sometimes you may just want to crawl under the bedcovers and hide until it’s all over, you need to get your feelings validated and released. You need to talk to someone – anyone with a kind ear, who can listen. We could all use some kindness.

So honour yourself this season. Buy yourself something special, remember to breathe, and search out the comfort of another human being who “gets it”. It will be well worth it.

Christie Thomas is the bereaved Mom of Gavin and Jason, and a psychotherapist specializing in grief, loss and transition. You can reach her at 416-200-1532 or christie@christiethomas.com