“BAH HUMBUG”, she cried out as we discussed the upcoming holiday season. As I hung up the phone with a friend, I thought of a handful of conversations I’d recently had. Three friends of mine are all going through different, yet similar, struggles. There are so many moments of frustration, innumerable waves of grief and and a plethora of mental health issues this time of year. It made me start thinking of the Charles Dickens story, ”A Christmas Carol.“
I thought about the ghosts that visit Scrooge. Each ghost represents a time or event in Scrooge’s life. They’re there to teach life lessons. Maybe the frustration, grief and mental health issues that are visiting so many of us can teach us something? Maybe they’re like the ghosts that visit Scrooge?
The holidays are not the most wonderful times of the year for all, pandemic or not.
While it is light and cheery for some, it can be a dark and lonely time for others. During non-pandemic holidays, parties and cheer can trigger lots of tough emotions. Yet this year’s lack of parties and get togethers is also really hard! How many times have you heard or thought “this year has been challenging.” And the dumpster fire of 2020 isn’t ending any time soon (will 2021 be its sequel??). Combine the pandemic stressors with regular discouragement and you wind up completely frustrated.
You can feel the tension growing within! As you drift off to sleep that night you will be visited by the first ghost of the pandemic Christmas.
Welcome our first ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Frustration.
You open your eyes and find yourself surrounded by darkness. While some are entering “the most wonderful time of the year”, others aren’t as excited to see the holidays come. That feeling of frustration you felt while you fell asleep remains. You feel like you’ve been washed over with frustration. Wanting to get back to “normalcy in life.” Frustrated by rules, stagnancy and all the conflicting information. CoVID fatigue has set in. While I agree that the immediate future is looking a bit lackluster, it’s how you approach these feelings that can make a difference. The Ghost of Christmas Frustration is there to simply show you what it will feel like if you keep traveling down this path. There is despair and little hope! You have the power to turn things around.
The frustration ghost waves goodbye, this phase may have passed for some of you earlier on. Now the rest of us are waiting for the grief ghost to appear.
Enter the Ghost of Christmas Grief:
What is grief? It is something I find to be open to interpretation. Grief isn’t only used to describe death, it represents loss. Sorrow, sadness, suffering. CoVID has brought loss to all of us, in some way or another, even if we haven’t been infected ourselves.
The grief ghost appears and shows me a friend I mentioned earlier. He is alone and grieving the loss of his mother. She passed right before CoVID-19 hit. He has had to grieve one of the most important people in his life, not only at an early age, but during a pandemic. Family support is there, but from six feet apart. Activities that could help bring him peace and distraction aren’t allowed to be open.
For some of us this may be the first major holiday since the passing of your own loved one. You may also be grieving the loss of your previous life. Your career, your postponed wedding, your social support structures.
They say Grief is like an ocean. I see grief as the boaters on the ocean. All varying sizes and shapes of grief, all weathering the storm in different ways. Some better than others. The ocean may lift me up today and sink me tomorrow. The grief ghost reminds us that not every day is dark. When we awake the sun rises again. Choose the light, don’t let the darkness consume you.
And finally, the Ghost of Mental Health Struggles.
The third ghost appears showing itself like a tornado. Fear, anxiety, worsening depression and addiction. Any mental health struggles you may deal with can be exacerbated during the holiday season. I know I, a self-proclaimed Christmas Elf, have had difficulty seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.
The ghost shows me others. I see many of my friends and family that have struggled with at least one of these mental health challenges. From struggling with sobriety to dealing with the relentless anxiety of this unprecedented time — the Ghost of Mental Health struggles has quite a reel.
The future is bright, believe in it.
As the story comes to a close, Scrooge comes to the realization of what matters in life. If this is resonating within you, you have the power to do the same. Don’t succumb to the gloom. this year doesn’t have to be the best Christmas you’ve ever had. You can feel as merry as you want. What I hope is that if you are being visited by any of these Pandemic Christmas Ghosts, that you acknowledge it and talk to someone. Seek help, go to a meeting, make the first step. There are people out there who can and will help.
This doesn’t have to be a sad story. This can be a story with a purpose. While we can’t wave a wand and make Coronavirus disappear, you have the power to make the effort for a happier future and self. I hope you find comfort and joy.
The final quote of Dickens’ story is a good reminder. I’m trying to let this year be a lesson and remember what the ghosts of Christmas Pandemic have taught me.
“I will honor Christmas in my heart , and try to keep it all year. I will live in the past, the present and the future. The spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out they lessons they teach.“