Christmas dinners and empty chair syndrome

Christmas dates, especially New Year’s Eve, are in principle times of joy, expression of affection and reconciliation. For decades, it is the idea of ​​Christmas that we have created among all in most of the western countries, the roots are tied to Christianity, and the truth is that, believers or not, many people appreciate these dates precisely because of the values ​​they represent.

However, some people find it difficult to live these days while maintaining a good mood. Many of these cases are due to the empty chair syndrome.

What is empty chair syndrome?

the empty chair syndrome is the sense of loss generated by what is perceived as a significant absence, Which also has a particular intensity in an atmosphere that is intended to be cheerful and festive, like a dinner. This is why this concept is linked to the idea of ​​psychological grief.

A noticeable absence from the table can trigger a process of psychological mourning even if the missing person is not deceased. This is so because in empty chair syndrome the key word is not “death” but “loneliness”.

The empty chair is a silent testimony that there is a void in the painting that makes us a little more isolated of the rest of the people than before. In addition to the feelings of sadness, discomfort (and sometimes guilt) that this causes, can be added those that cause the death of the person who does not sit down to eat with us, but this factor may not always occur. and for that does not condition either the appearance or not of the syndrome of the empty chair.

That is why, when we talk about this type of grief, we should keep in mind that the most common feelings are those associated with isolation and loneliness.

What role does Christmas play in all of this?

Christmas can become an important factor in the onset of empty chair syndrome because on these dates, informal affection becomes very important between people who have a close relationship with each other (even among those who are not usually in regular contact). On New Year’s Eve, in particular, the appreciation of moments shared by people who love or feel affection is highlighted.

This, which is in principle positive, may have the counterpart of increasing absences during this period. In addition, the contrast that can be seen between the absence of significant people and the typical Christmas scene in which all the families fully gather can generate a feeling of “anomaly” and unfortunately the triggers cannot. be fully explained, or they place the origin of the lack of facts for which we feel guilty.

Recommendations for tackling empty chair syndrome

The truth is, there is no definitive, one-size-fits-all recipe for tackling empty chair syndrome, because each person’s grieving processes are unique.

however, yes, there are general recommendations for dealing with moods that cause great discomfort and that they tend to work in a lot of cases. Here are some of these essential guidelines for dealing with this type of grief.

  • Don’t isolate yourself and stay silent all the time: Interact with other people sharing a table and contribute to the conversation, even if they don’t like it.
  • Reinterpreting the way of perceiving physical space that were once occupied by absentees at the table, so that an empty chair does not mean loss and sadness. It is one of the best ways to build resilience.
  • The empty chair syndrome has a strong symbolic componentThe most common being the empty chair itself. This is why it is possible to turn the situation around by using alternative symbolic forms to remind the absent loved one so that pain and sadness is not generated which is difficult to deal with.
  • Avoid using substances to ignore memories that generate sadness and discomfort, And use drugs only to the extent prescribed by a doctor. This is very important so that grief is chronic and does not turn into serious problems in many aspects of life.
  • If necessary, begin psychological therapy to identify specific needs and facilitate completion of the above steps.

A final reflection

It’s also important to keep in mind that while Christmas is a time of affection, love, and companionship, it shouldn’t be limited to family. Many New Year’s absences are irreparable, however. it is also practically impossible that throughout our life we ​​do not meet people with whom it is possible to feel a strong affection and brotherly friendship.. Empty chair syndrome can be very difficult to overcome if one understands that the only valid attendances are those of a group that may lose members over time, but not gain them.

This is why it is worth rethinking the traditional New Years Eve dinner scheme as something in which only blood ties matter, a model in which absences weigh a lot more if there is no generation transfer and in which, therefore, whether there are more or less people at the table depends on the number of couples and births.

Dealing with grief and loss at Christmas also means thinking about what kind of attachment we should enjoy on these dates. And what is created spontaneously, even until adulthood, is very valuable. Both to take advantage of it and to rethink what our concept of loneliness is.

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