I am writing this from a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. I know, its pretty obnoxious. I’m sorry. It’s been an amazing Christmas break with my boys. It doesn’t really feel like Christmas because it’s 85 degrees and we are in our bathing suits paddle boarding instead of fighting crowds at the mall. But then again, that was kind of the point. You see, Christmas stopped being the most wonderful time of the year for us when our family became fractured. And frankly, for a lot of people, Christmas is the worst time of the year; and not just because of the fruit cake.(Though surprisingly enough my grandmother could actually make an edible fruit cake. But now that I am thinking about that, I’m a little more sad because she is no longer with us and we won’t have her pink icing cookies or new hand made Christmas balls or our annual cousin get together with her. See, there it goes again. See how Christmas can make you sad?) For 11 months out of the year most people are coping and dealing with their hurts, losses and grief, but at the first sight of christmas decorations ( usually before the halloween candy is off the shelves) or the first sound of a christmas carol, all the pain and sorrow rise to the top like the D@#* angel I had to put on top of the tree that I had to drag out of the attic every year. And that is exactly how I felt that first Christmas after my divorce. And, the second. And, maybe the third.
All the Christmas traditions that used to bring me joy; the decorating, the baking, the shopping, the music, just made me mad and sad. People wishing me a merry christmas just made me want to punch them in the face. Literally, all the happy people made me want to hit someone. I know I am not the only one. There is just something about Christmas that shines a spotlight on our pain and grief. The first sign of the season tears open old wounds that were just beginning to heal. Christmas time conjures up memories of a painful childhood before we even realize whats happening, or it replays the happy memories that are no longer there because a loved one is gone. Something about the season brings our grief back into focus. Something about that baby born in a manger goes right to our core and exposes our deepest losses. I don’t want to take anything away from those of you that still see Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year. For those of you that haven’t experienced a loss, it is a magical time of year. It is the hap, happiest time of the year. But, I can’t help but think of those families that lost precious children in the Newtown tragedy. They may have finally been able to feel something again after the loss of their child, only to have Christmas come and remind them they wont be able to surprise them with their favorite toy on christmas morning. I think of families that have lost a spouse or a parent recently. The second Christmas without their loved one is sometimes harder than the first. The numbness is beginning to wear off and what is left is the reality that there will be no more memories to make with them. I think of people that are struggling financially and can’t provide their kids with the Christmas they dream of or deserve. I think of so many military families that sacrifice their happy holidays because they are separated by deployment. And, of course, I ran away to Florida to try to create new memories for my boys as Christmas for us is a reminder that life can beat you up and memories of those “perfect” Christmases past are just that, past. Which brings me to my point. It’s Ok to not have a Holly Jolly Christmas this year. Some Christmases are like that. It may take many Christmases before you feel like singing Joy to the World again. Christmas is steeped in so many personal traditions. It is one of the many reasons that makes the holiday so special and powerful. The problem is when those traditions are forced to change due to a loss, it hurts, and it’s sad and sometimes very lonely. If you are one of those who wants to punch something when you hear It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year; hang in there the urge will pass. If you are one of those that every time you hear Silent Night you break out into tears because it brings you back to the candle light services you shared with a loved one who is no longer here; let yourself be sad. If you are one who just couldn’t muster the energy to drag the tree out, or the thought of baking dozens of cookies put you in the fetal position; stay there for a while, that may be where you need to be. I’m here to tell you time really does help. (though I used to hate when people told me that) And when you are ready, it gives you the opportunity to create new memories and traditions. And frankly, I could get used to the tradition of having Christmas in the sand.
A thrill of HOPE the weary world rejoices.