The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

Empty chair syndrome: why Christmas is taking on new meaning this year



The pandemic not only takes away our friends and loved ones, but also forces us to choose relatives with whom we will celebrate Christmas. How to come to terms with the fact that this time the New Year holidays will not go as we would like, says

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We will not see distant relatives, since our meetings are limited in the number of people and time; grandparents will not be able to hug their grandchildren; we celebrate a special holiday alone or with loved ones, but online ... These days, against the backdrop of the pandemic and all the restrictions imposed due to the growing number of coronavirus infected, many have to manage their emotions and not indulge themselves with illusions about what will or will not happen in such unpredictable situation.

One of the most dire consequences that most families face this Christmas is empty chair syndrome. It occurs when feelings increase after the loss of a loved one at certain times, such as at Christmas. As psychologist Xavier Savin explains, melancholy intensifies, usually during family gatherings, when we often have the feeling that we are missing someone at the table. In many families, one chair is left empty at the table.

According to psychologist Alba Valle, this syndrome, like "amputation", is especially intensified on holidays, during times of happiness and joy.

“At Christmas we are immersed in the memories and emotions associated with those who are no longer with us. We experience both joy and longing for those who are not. That is why it is so difficult for us, ”says Alba Valle.

As the specialist explains, partly we understand that we are plunging into grief again, because on the first Christmas after a great loss, we experience an emotional conflict.

“On the one hand, we do not want to enjoy the holiday without the person we miss so much, but on the other hand, we are eager to have fun, because our family deserves to be healthy. We want children to have a real holiday, ”Alba Valle is convinced.

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What can help us cope with an avalanche of feelings in such a difficult situation? Allow yourself to feel what you want. Hear yourself. “When we start to judge ourselves or do not allow ourselves to feel something, then we are even more absorbed by emotions, an internal struggle begins. You shouldn't dive into sadness and find comfort in it, but you also don't need to suppress pain and pretend it doesn't exist, ”explains Alba Valle.

Xavier Savin believes that you need to be frank about your emotions, as this can help you accept a new reality.

“There is no need to invest energy in something that can harm the family and relationships, because in 2020, relationships and social support are especially important for all of us,” says psychologist Alba Valle.

Emotional swing

On some days it will be harder for us, on others it will be easier. The melancholy may come, we will want to cry. As Alba Valle advises, at such moments you should not restrain your emotions, you need to cry and be sad. However, then we can enjoy pleasant moments, laugh with loved ones, share dreams, show generosity to those with whom we celebrate the holidays.

“The main thing is to appreciate what we have and those who are with us. If this Christmas we don’t allow ourselves to have fun with our family because we are sad about those who are not with us, perhaps next year there will be more empty chairs and we will just miss the opportunity to enjoy the holidays. Perhaps this Christmas can be the last for ourselves. And next year we will be gone, ”warns Alba Valle.

The psychologist and mindfulness specialist suggests mentally finding ourselves in such a situation and asking ourselves how we would enjoy these holidays if we knew that they would be our last.

“If we could talk to ourselves from the future, perhaps we would tell ourselves that we should be more attentive to those who surround us today, we would understand why we are important to them and that they need us. Even if not for our own sake, then at least for the sake of loved ones, we would allow ourselves to enjoy life again, and with it the Christmas holidays, ”explains Alba Valle.

Therefore, a balance must be maintained between paying attention to what we are feeling and feeling the hopes and emotions of others. “At first we are on an emotional swing, like on a roller coaster, and experience ambiguous emotions in conflicting situations. However, after experiencing this emotional swing, we will rediscover life for ourselves, ”says Alba Valle.

Other empty chairs

This year, at Christmas, an unusual situation will arise, which will also involve empty chairs. Many families will have to choose who they meet for dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas, as well as other New Years. Such choices can affect a person's feelings or even relationships. In this situation, emotions such as disappointment, longing, anger, guilt can arise ... However, as Xavier Savin emphasizes, understanding how important and necessary it is to avoid infection as much as possible can help us accept that we will not celebrate this Christmas like this, as we would like.

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In such an exceptional situation, it is impossible to find a solution in the near future. Because of this, according to the psychologist, we must understand and accept that any decision will not be ideal. The main thing is to choose the lesser of two evils.

“Open discussion of proposals without any judgment and consideration of all possibilities will allow us to find the right solution. The decisive factor will be confidence in the correctness of your choice and attentiveness to your feelings, ”says Xavier Savin.

As Alba Valle notes, the main thing is to help each other, because difficult decisions have to be made. Uncomfortable situations may arise, so the advice of a specialist is to develop emotional intelligence, not to take everything dramatically and to heart, and also to understand: "What happened at Christmas of the pandemic remains in the history of the Christmas of the pandemic."

“Let's not hypothesize and not dwell on these decisions, which can cause conflicts in the family. The main thing in our life is relationships with people. Let's take care of them, there is no need to invest energy in something that can harm family and relationships, because in 2020, relationships and social support are especially important for all of us, ”advises Alba Valle.

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