Signs of the festive season are all around us.
Downtown Ladysmith is enchanting with the thousands of sparkling lights.
Shopping malls have enticing displays, and Santa’s “Ho Ho Hos” add to the excitement of the shoppers’ experiences. Ferry terminals and airports are filled with families welcoming home loved ones who are looking forward to sitting around the warmth of a crackling fire. Christmas is indeed a time for celebrating.
We know, however, that not everyone will be feeling part of the joy and anticipation of this time of year.
For some, Christmas is a difficult season to go through.
Statistically, the months of November, December and January see the highest number of deaths in the calendar year. Many people experience high levels of stress and anxiety.
The short days and long nights result in an increase in depression and seasonal affective disorder.
There are financial challenges that some will face as they experience the disappointment of not being able to provide all that they would like for their loved ones.
Each year, the number of food hampers given out to families in need increases.
As a culture, we are turning away from acknowledging grief and loss.
In the obituary section, we see fewer families choosing to hold a funeral or memorial service; celebrations of life or no service at all is becoming increasingly common.
Increasingly, we are not making a place for people who are experiencing loss and sadness. And their voices and experiences are silenced in the great wave of joyful expectation that is placed upon us at this time of year.
For some this year, it will be the first Christmas without a loved one. And there are many others who will be facing loss of health, loss of employment, loss of a beloved pet, loss of hope, loss of an important relationship. Still others will experience loneliness, isolation, worry, anxiety and stress.
How will their needs be met in the days and weeks ahead?
First step: acknowledge it! Share it with a friend.
A possible second step: In some communities, local ministerial associations hold a special service reaching out to all for whom Christmas would be a less than joyful time by offering a safe and comforting ritual called “Blue Christmas” or “Longest Night of the Year.”
These are safe and comforting times where anyone is welcome to take “time out” to remember, to mourn, to acknowledge the losses and hurts of the past year that get in the way of finding joy this Christmas. Using reflective words, familiar carols, candlelight and the opportunity to light a candle in memory of a loved one or to acknowledge a painful time, participants may find hope, healing and peace.
I am certain that in our wider region, there would be such services held.
I know that Chemainus United Church is hosting a “Quiet Christmas” (Blue Christmas) contemplative service Sun, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. If someone you know is having a difficult time, perhaps the best Christmas gift you can give them is to offer to go with them. There is comfort in knowing we are not alone.
God bless and have a Holy and blessed Christmas.