Best present is being safe at Christmas
While Christmas has many different meanings for different people, for some it is about being safe and escaping the abuse in their lives.
Some people will have the chance to share the holidays with their families, many will not have that opportunity. And for those seeking help in emergency shelters that could be for the best.
June, not her real name, came to the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter on Dec. 8 with her two daughters. When she arrived she thought she’d be out of the shelter before Christmas, but that hasn’t been the case.
This year she’ll be spending Christmas in the shelter, away from the rest of her family, but with her two daughters.
Her family celebrates Christmas the way a lot of people do with presents, dinner and family, but this year she will not be a part of it.
She hasn’t told her family she won’t be home this year. But on top of leaving an abusive relationship, she left behind abusive siblings.
“A part of me feels bad for not being there, but I’ve never apologized for it yet and I don’t feel that I need to,” she said, in an interview on Monday. “The situation I left from was definitely not a good one and nobody heard me and nobody understood. And nobody apologized to me until after the fact I left. I guess in their eyes the way I was treated wasn’t wrong.”
June is taking the situation day by day, which she said she has to.
“You can’t worry too much about seeing family or disappointing anybody by not going to dinners,” she said. “The shelter here, they care a lot about your needs. Obviously it’s going to be a hard time for the mothers here.”
Coming to the shelter has been emotional for June, but she said it is definitely better than the situation she came from.
“At first we all had difficulty adjusting,” said June. “Sleep wise, attitudes and eating habits. As we’ve been here longer, we’re adjusting quite well.”
Her goal when she first arrived was to get re-established before Christmas.
“I’ve never spent Christmas in a shelter. I didn’t want to, because, I don’t know if it was weird or wrong, but it was just different. It just feels different as opposed to spending Christmas with family and friends.”
Because of her situation, June doesn’t have much money for presents. While she bought her kids a few little things, she hopes they understand and keep the importance of family in mind.
“I don’t have an income right now, I’m more or less trying to save for when I get out of here,” she said. “Being here I try to explain to my daughter that Christmas is more about being with people you love and appreciating that bond, that special time. A gift, sure that’s great, but there are also a lot of less fortunate people out there besides us that don’t have family, food or a place to live. We’re still very lucky.”
Being able to spend this Christmas out of an abusive situation and with her two daughters is what is most important to June this year.
“Christmas is not a big deal for me,” she said. “It’s being happy, being safe is a big deal. I know they’re my family and I love them, but I have children I need to watch out for too.”
She knows Christmas will be a difficult day and even if her kids don’t understand this year, she hopes they will eventually.
“I’m nervous about tomorrow (Christmas) because it’s very different as opposed to waking up at home,” she said. “I already explained it to my daughters, ‘you won’t get everything you wanted and desired because Christmas isn’t always about getting everything you want from Santa. Just appreciate what you do get.’”
She hadn’t really decided how she was going to go about Christmas morning with her kids in the shelter.
“There’s a tree, very few ornaments left, but it’s still a tree,” she said.
She said the staff make her feel comfortable and they are helpful and supportive in these
“Christmas is just another day,” she said. “I’m more Christian than Christmas has become, more about gifts. I just thank the Lord I’m still here, I still have a roof over my head and I still have my kids. As long as I have that I’m very happy.”