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Christmas dinners and the syndrome of the empty chair

Christmas dinners and the syndrome of the empty chair

June 6, 2023

The Christmas dates, especially New Year's Eve, are in principle moments of joy, expression of affection and reconciliation. For decades this has been the idea of ​​Christmas that we have been creating together in a large part of the western countries whose roots are linked to Christianity, and the truth is that, believers or not, there are many people who appreciate these dates precisely because of the values ​​they represent .

However, there are some people who have difficulty experiencing these days while maintaining a good mood. Many of these cases are due to empty chair syndrome .

What is the syndrome of the empty chair?

The empty chair syndrome is the feeling of loss generated by what is perceived as a significant absence , something that also takes on a special intensity in an environment that is supposed to be cheerful and festive, like a dinner. That is why this concept is linked to the idea of ​​psychological grief.

A notorious absence at the table can trigger a process of psychological grief even when the missing person has not died. This is because, in the empty chair syndrome, the key word is not "death," but "loneliness."

The empty chair it is a silent testimony that there is a vacuum at the table that makes us a little more isolated of the rest of the people that before. To the feelings of sadness, discomfort (and, occasionally, guilt) that this provokes, 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 therefore both do not condition the appearance or not of the syndrome of the empty chair.

That is why, when we talk about this type of mourning, we must bear in mind that the most frequent feelings are those associated with isolation and loneliness.

What role does Christmas play in this?

Christmas can become an important factor in the appearance of the syndrome of the empty chair, since On these dates, informal ties of attachment are very important between people with a strong relationship between them (even among those who are not usually in contact with each other). On New Year's Eve, specifically, the appreciation of moments shared by people who love or care for each other is emphasized.

This, which in principle is something positive, may have the counterpart of accentuating absences during this period. In addition, the contrast that can be seen between the absence of significant people and the typical staging of Christmas in which all families come together in full can generate a sense of "abnormality" and misfortune whose triggers can not be fully explained, or they place the origin of the absence in facts of which we feel guilty.

Recommendations to combat the syndrome of the empty chair

The truth is that there is no definitive and universal recipe for facing the syndrome of the empty chair, since the grieving processes of each person are unique.

But nevertheless, yes there are some general recommendations to combat the moods that generate strong discomfort and that usually work in a large number of cases. Here are some of these essential indications to manage this type of grief.

  • Not isolate or remain silent all the time : interact with other people who share a table and make contributions to the conversation, even if this does not feel like it.
  • Reinterpret the way of perceiving the physical space who previously occupied the table absent persons, so that an empty chair is not synonymous with loss and sadness. This is one of the best ways to build resilience.
  • The syndrome of the empty chair has a strong symbolic component , the most usual being the empty chair itself. That is why it is possible to turn the situation around using alternative symbolic forms to remind the absent loved one so that pain and sadness difficult to manage are not generated.
  • Avoid the use of substances to abstract from the memories that generate sadness and discomfort , and use drugs only to the extent prescribed by a doctor. This point is of the utmost importance so that the grief is chronicled and that it does not become a serious problem in many aspects of life.
  • If necessary, go start psychological therapy to identify specific needs and facilitate the implementation of the steps described above.

A final reflection

It is important to bear in mind, also, that although Christmas is a date linked to love, love and camaraderie, this does not have to be limited to the family. Many of the New Year's absences are irremediable, but it is also practically impossible that throughout our lives we do not come across people with whom it is possible to feel a strong attachment and a fraternal friendship . The syndrome of the empty chair can be very difficult to overcome if we understand that the only valid presences are those of a group that can be losing members with the passage of time, but not win them.

That is why it is worth reconsidering the traditional New Year's dinner plan as something in which only blood ties matter, a model in which absences weigh much more if there is no generational change and in which, therefore, , that there are more or less people at the table depends on the number of couples and births.

Managing grief and loss at Christmas is also reflecting on the type of attachment we have to appreciate at this time. And the one that is created spontaneously, even well into adulthood, is very valid. Both to enjoy it and to rethink what our concept of loneliness is.

Watch a Boy Accidentally Punch A Million Dollar Painting (June 2023).

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