real life

"If today fills you with dread, you're not alone. I've been there too."


Today is just one day, and it’s fine to be dreading it.

For many people the only Christmas miracle they’re praying for is to survive today in tact. I should know. I’ve been there myself.

So I just wanted to write a little note to acknowledge those of you who are finding today unbearably sad or excruciatingly difficult or just utterly, utterly shit.

And I suppose what I wanted to say is that it’s okay. YOU are okay. And you’re not alone. Not by a long shot.

You are not alone.

If rather than floating around your house in white linen serving three-bean salad to your loved ones while Michael Buble croons from the stereo, you are instead watching the clock and wishing for whatever reason that today would just hurry up and be over so you could go to bed and pull the sheet over your head and listen to Adele and eat Milo out of the tin – well, I get it. I do.

For millions of people Christmas is a day to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Sometimes it’s because someone you love desperately is missing. Maybe their passing was recent. Maybe it was over thirty years ago. It’s irrelevant. That’s what I know. Pain can become less raw over time but that ache for the late person’s presence never leaves you and it’s heightened on days like today. It’s a painful day to endure when a loved one is missing and you are forced to be jovial or act ‘normal’ when a chair is empty in your house. Maybe you are grieving a parent or grandparent you adored. A sibling. A soul mate. A best friend. A much cherished pet. A child. A baby that should have been here but never quite made it. Christmas is forever bittersweet.


Is Christmas bittersweet for you?

Sometimes it’s because today you’re separated from the people you want to be with. I’ve seen up close through friends and family how excruciating it can be for separated or divorced parents to be away from their kids at Christmas. You’re wondering what they’re doing, eating, watching. Did they like the present you bought them? You hang out for a phone call and end up sounding needier or more emotional than what you wanted. You spend they day trying to ‘fake’ happy on the phone when in reality you just want to go to bed and wake up when they’re home.

Sometimes it’s because you don’t have the happy family that everyone else seems to have. Maybe you’ve been forced to cut out of your life certain family members because they were toxic. Maybe these people are still in your life and Christmas Day sees them behaving like an emotional cyclone of destruction. Seeing images of everyone else’s families makes you feel flawed. Or maybe you’re (unhappily) single or in a relationship that makes you feel desperately alone – today can be a reminder of everything you don’t have.

And sometimes it’s simply because despite your best efforts the day has just gone belly-up. You’re fighting over the money you did or did not spend, the presents, the food, her brother, your sister, both of your mums, a joke that backfired, a horrendous present choice … or, you know, all of the above. Nothing like Christmas Day and receiving a totally inappropriate present to make you feel like nobody knows you or gets you.


It’s just a day. One day.


So here’s the thing I want you to remember. It’s just a day. One day. And how ‘well’ you do Christmas, how happy you are TODAY has no bearing on your self-worth. It’s not indexed to your future happiness. 2015 won’t be a success or failure for you based on how today plays out.

So whatever you need to do to get though today – do that. My personal advice is to stay off social media if you can (it’s all smoke and mirrors so don’t be fooled. Few people have the courage to tell the truth on Facebook: “My husband just gave me a Bunnings voucher for Christmas so I called him a moron and it’s not even 10am yet. CHEERS!”).

If you’re missing a loved one, Petrea King offers beautiful words of understanding. If you’re surrounded by emotionally cyclonic relatives – find a place where you can have time out. If you’re alone, call or Skype a friend and if they invite you over and you feel up to it – GO. Many helplines are running today – so it things seem bleak call Lifeline on 131114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224636. Anyone affected by the death of a baby can contact the Sands support line around-the clock via 1300 0 SANDS (1300 0 72637) and talk to a bereaved parent volunteer or visit

Be gentle on your heart. Have that fourth mince pie. Watch the deliciously appalling Christmas In Connecticut. Most of all – be kind to yourself.

And from me to you, Merry Christmas.

 Want more? Try:

The Empty Chair at our Christmas table.

Christmas. Dreading it?