Navigating Christmas Without A Loved One


“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 
Anne Lamott

Christmas is not always an easy time. There are many of us for whom Christmas brings stark reminders of families broken, loved ones lost, and empty chairs at our tables.

If you are navigating Christmas this year while also grieving loss or going through great struggle I want to reach out to you. In the midst of the barrage of happy Christmas movies, fairytale endings and Hallmark Moments I want you to know that I am sorry for your pain, and the hardship this time of year can bring. Please also know you’re not alone. There are many of us whose hearts hurt at Christmas, even as we celebrate, because of loss. If your grief is raw and new it’s also okay to put things on hold, to do things differently, or to let the anniversary days like Christmas slide by unacknowledged until you are ready to face them again.

I’d like to share something I do at Christmas that may be useful for you too. I have found it helpful and healing to make a private little Christmas Altar each year. This way I remember the dead, the absent, the lost. An altar is simply a small dedicated spiritual space that is meaningful to you in some way.

On my altar I place fresh flowers, a candle and some favourite crystals. Things that bring me comfort, and a sense of sacred. Then I place photos or objects that represent a loved one who will not be at my table. That way I can still have them near me, and I can flow love to them and have them be part of my life over the festive season.

The beautiful big owl in the photo above was given to me one Christmas by my friend Angela. She passed away a few years ago. It will be central to my display.

I’ll place a tiny wooden boat for my brother, and a ceramic pelican for my dad. A sparkly stone for my sister and roses for my mum and all of the women in her family who have shaped and grown and loved me. My family all live far from me. But now they are here on my altar even if they cannot be here in person.

I’ll add a photo of Ben’s parents from when they were young, and pictures of my grandparents too. I have cupcake-shaped candles for my darling Kate, who passed away too soon in 2010 ( I went back to her facebook page last night and was lost in there for an hour reading her old posts and laughing at what a dag she was and crying cos sometimes I still miss her more than breathing), and Julie who passed away in 2014. My Grandparents, all now passed, are here in photographs too and I will place a glass of sherry, Christmas Cake and some gingernut biscuits out because these are all the things they would have loved to eat, and later I will eat some and think of them. On Christmas Day I will play The Twelve Days of Christmas by the Ray Conniff Singers, because my Pa used to play that for us every year, and shed a few happy-sad tears.

It’s not the same as having them at my table, but it’s the next best thing. People coming to my house will think that I have simply gathered flowers and candles and photographs and a few ornaments together, but for me it is something healing and emotionally significant that helps me to feel the reassuring weight of my loved ones around me.

Perhaps making your own Christmas Altar will help you this Christmas too.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole ❤ xx

Guided Meditation For Clearing Guilt, Grief and Trauma

“But pain’s like water. It finds a way to push through any seal. There’s no way to stop it. Sometimes you have to let yourself sink inside of it before you can learn how to swim to the surface.”
~ Katie Kacvinsky

 

A good friend of mine is unwell right now. I’m not surprised. He is a caring practitioner who goes to great lengths for his patients. When one of them deteriorates or passes away, despite his best efforts, he always feels he could have done more, should have done more…

The emotions of grief, guilt and trauma can move deep into the body. They sit in our throats, our lungs, our hearts, our bellies.

Unexpressed, these trapped emotions weaken our immune function, and our digestion. They affect our physical organs, making them more prone to illness and, over time, dis-ease.

Grief sits in the lungs. It makes it hard for us to breathe. The words we cannot speak stay lodged in the back of our throat. Colds, flu, asthma, strep throat, allergies, sinus – all of these things can move into a body that is holding deep grief.

Guilt is inwardly-expressed judgement of the self. It slows our blood, and cools us. It stagnates our flow. Inadequacy, despair and over-thinking characterise guilt that is trapped and endlessly cycling within the body. Guilt can affect the heart, the lungs, the kidneys, liver and gall-bladder. It wrecks our digestion, and over time our hormone levels and function. Our bodies become unable to repair themselves efficiently.

Trauma is shock stuck within the body. In sensitive and empathic people this usually happens when they are working in a caring capacity, and their attention and efforts are directed at the well-being of someone else in a traumatic, high emotion or distressing situation. Your body fails to process any personal shock and trauma you may experience because you have diverted all of your energies outward in caring for others. It can also happen when you are sitting emotionally open and connected and you suffer a sudden fright or when you tune in deeply to the suffering of another. Fright, trauma and shock are then stored deep within your body, allowing you to continue to function in helping others. But its effect is cumulative. Trauma sits in our gut, eventually causing disruption to our digestion, immune function, sleep patterns and brain function. It leads to anxiety and depression.

Holding grief, guilt and trauma within our bodies is a place that many intuitive, empathic and deeply caring people find ourselves. To love and to care is also to expose ourselves to hurt and to loss. Loving and caring deeply is risky, because when you live in that open-hearted state, love goes hand in hand with suffering. Still, I would advocate that you love anyway. That you care anyway.

One of your greatest gifts is that you care. One of your greatest gifts is that you can live heart-opened. Don’t change that. Just learn to manage it better.

Image from wikipedia

Image from wikipedia

 

 

This short guided meditation will help you to breathe into these stuck emotions, moving them out of the body and creating space that can be filled with peace, flow, love, light and hope.

The meditation is structured around the Tonglen meditation practice of breathing in pain and suffering, and breathing out peace and comfort.

It is simple but effective. It is something I do as part of my self-care routine every day.

To listen to the meditation just click on the play button below.

 

Helpful crystals for emotional support:

Turquoise, Rose Quartz, Celestine, Citrine, Amethyst, Moonstone, Snowflake Obsidian, Black Tourmaline, Brecciated Jasper and Carnelian are all good for helping us to move stuck emotions from the body. Choose what you are drawn to from the stones listed.