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Monday Moment: Seven Types of Christmas

Emma Grey

We’re anticipating a special family Christmas this year—the first since we married in 2009 with all of our five children (between us) and with two of their partners.

But just as we suspect it’s going to be a lovely one for us, I know this year will be a challenging Christmas for several friends.

Christmas doesn’t always turn up perfectly wrapped like a Westjet Christmas Commercial. Some years it’s a bit tougher. Here are seven types of Christmas (and I’m sure there are many more):

The first Christmas without…

The first of every meaningful event in the 12 months after the loss of a loved one can rip open the wound, and that empty seat at the first Christmas table is often the most confronting.

Just as everyone grieves differently, every ‘first Christmas without…’ will be done differently. Several of my friends will be having a Christmas like this. ‘Tis the season to be unwaveringly self-compassionate.

The first Christmas with…

Is there anything more magical than being in in the ‘honeymoon’ period plus Christmas? But while you’re hanging around, smitten under the mistletoe, there’s often quite a bit of adjusting going on behind the scenes. Whose family first? Which traditions? ‘Tis the season to compromise.

Baby’s first Christmas…

This one can be a beautiful thing. Alternatively, you can spend it like I did with one of my kids—pacing the halls while my food went cold, wondering if I had post-natal depression.

In your mind, it should be such a special day, and you have high expectations. For your baby, it’s the same as yesterday. And tomorrow. ‘Tis the season to manage your expectations and ask for help.

Another Christmas without a baby…

This is something I haven’t experienced myself, however my parents waited nineteen years for me and I have friends who I know want nothing more than a positive pregnancy test for Christmas.

With such an emphasis on children at Christmas, I imagine the longing for one becomes even more acute. ‘Tis the season to hang in there.

The first Christmas apart…

The hardest Christmas I’ve had was last year, when my daughters were in Melbourne with their dad.

The second-hardest was the first Christmas Eve without them when they were a few years younger, and still believed in Santa. There’s no way around it, this is tough. ‘Tis the season for distractions.

Christmas away…

Whether it’s away from your own family with your partner’s family, or away from your entire family and friends, some Christmases feel more lonely than others. This year we’re hosting an eleven-year-old at our Christmas, from overseas.

She’s away from her whole family, and while I’m sure we’ll do everything to make her feel at ‘home’, she won’t be… ‘Tis the season to let new people in.

Last Christmas…

Some of the people I’ll be thinking of this Christmas because it’s their ‘first time without…’ are the same people who spent last Christmas knowing this was going to be their last together.

Like ‘baby’s first’ I recall there being a degree of pressure to ‘get it right’ and extra stress levels because of the emotion involved. ‘Tis the season for ‘what really matters’.

And for those of us having (we hope) a ‘Christmas-card Christmas’ this year?

I adore that beautiful quote that is: “Love is what’s in the room at Christmas once you stop opening presents”. To be honest though, the concept also scares me. The more beautiful things are, the more I start to imagine several of the scenarios above…

  • “Is this our last, like this?”
  • “Things are so good, surely this can’t last…”
  • “Touch wood we get another year together…”

I stand there sometimes, trying to imprint into my memory every beautiful thing that is happening in front of me in case it never happens again like this.

It’s what Brene Brown calls ‘foreboding joy’. That sense that everything is going so well it can’t possibly last. You’re waiting for the other shoe to drop…

She’s studied people whose other shoe has dropped. People who are living their worst nightmare already. And people dealing with loss overwhelmingly advise making the most of every moment that we have with those we love, rather than wasting our time together imagining dire outcomes.

So, this Christmas, while I hope to be having a really lovely time with our extended family, I’m pledging to steer my thoughts towards “isn’t this wonderful?” and away from “what if this ends?”

To everyone experiencing one of the seven types of Christmas above (and I’m sure there are more than seven), I’ll also be thinking of you. Because I’ve been you, or will be you. And there’s no doubt what you’re going through isn’t easy.

Image of  Girl in the city at night via Shutterstock

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Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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