The Voice of Experience: Not all Christmas wishes are the same

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Christmas is a time when we are thinking of lonely or sick friends and relatives and how we can brighten their festive season. We can’t imagine how they would get through Christmas without being surrounded with all the gaiety and noise that often accompanies such a festive occasion.

Such noise and bustle may not be what that person has in mind. They may need the peace and quiet of remembering past Christmases with their own family rituals, special moments when a grandchild played the piano or just said something that touched them deeply, which they like to hold within their heart and allow to warm their loneliness.

We are all so different, and we all have a different “essence” or identity that makes us unique, special beings. We seldom know what really makes another’s essence. It isn’t something we talk bout. In fact, we may not come to terms with that essence ourselves until, or unless, we are in a highly stressful situation. It is that essence that forms our integrity, our moral character, keeps us going through rough times and helps us rise out of the ashes of despair, poverty or remorse, and go on to lead a more meaningful existence in our own terms.

For those of us who are “rescuers”, we can’t bear to see someone in what we regard as pain; we want to remove all the thorns to make them happy (in our terms). In other words, we tend to work with what we interpret in another as unhappiness instead of perhaps considering it a process of healing they are going through.

It becomes a balancing act of acceptance and support combined with compassion and love. It means we can’t always give or do for another what we think or see is best for them.

I believe we have each chosen a path or purpose in life, and we need to accept that there are many ways of walking along this path. We often take wrong roads and have difficulty finding our way back. Sometimes we get lost and don’t want to accept that there may be an easier route.

As a friend or relative, we can only support our loved ones and friends, and offer a helping hand, suggestion or plant and idea. It is difficult to watch someone going down the “wrong” path, “losing out” on life opportunities, throwing away their education or talents, and sinking into depression, loneliness or poverty, or even crime. The worst thing we can do is to make them feel worthless, wrong and not respected. There may be times when we cannot support them, and we reluctantly have to detach from the relationship altogether and leave them to work thing out in their own way, or not.

We all like to believe we are in control of our lives, and even though we may be fading physically, are forgetful or even bedridden, that essence, so much a part of our core identity, may still be our driving force. As world renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl noted while in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany, once we lose our core identity, we die. We all know those for whom Christmas brings up many sad or terrifying feelings. How we wish we could wipe out all their bad memories.

So this Christmas, let us be aware of supportingly and lovingly respecting the wishes of close relatives and friends if the choose to spend a quiet time away from the lively, boisterous celebration we enjoy. Maybe they might like to spend just a part of the day with us or find pleasure in a quiet, more intimate tea with grandchildren or children just after Christmas.

Christine Munkerud is a volunteer with the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors.