December is a magical time of the year. Excitement grows in the young and the old. Houses sparkle with lights inside and out. Stockings are hung, trees are trimmed, cookies are baked, knick-knacks are packed away and replaced with small nativity sets, Santa statues, bells and snow globes. Calendars fill up quickly with activities, events and parties. All of these preparations are completed to celebrate the coming birth of Jesus Christ. What a glorious and majestic Advent Season, and such a time to be thankful, joyful and celebratory!
December is a grief stricken month for many. It is a reminder that someone we love will not put the Angel on the Christmas Tree this year. A painful sight of a stocking hung that will not be filled or opened on Christmas morning. A place setting at the table that no one will fill for Christmas dinner. Those same decorations and ornaments that bring us joy and expectation also bring memories of past Christmases and sorrow.
Being on this grief train is not a choice I had to make. No one chooses this, but so many live it each day. We mask it well, most of the time. Every so often, you may see a glimpse of the roller coaster speeding downhill a little faster than we were prepared for. We never quite know when it will occur.
So, how does one like myself, (a mom of two girls living and a wonderful and loving husband), share the excitement and expectation of Christmas while feeling the stark pain through my heart as I hang my late son’s stocking? The little voice of my 5 year old sings behind me and tells me how much she loves that her brother’s stocking is in the middle this year. I smile to her and blink away the tear in my eye.
My husband is out with my daughters right now choosing a Christmas Tree. We always put up our tree and decorate it the second weekend in December because it also happens to be my son’s birthday. (This doesn’t make the season any easier for us.) However, it is a nice way to celebrate our son and Jesus together and it gives us something productive to do as a family. I didn’t want to go with them. This morning, I was so happy and very “Merry Christmas Everyone!” This afternoon, I am more like, “Call me in January and not before!” It’s a quick ride this roller coaster.
So how do you cope? One day at a time? Sometimes that is even too much. I am 7 1/2 years into this grief journey and yes, sometimes one day at a time is still too much for me, especially in December. So, maybe one hour at a time? That seems to work most days. If I feel down, I take an hour “off”. Maybe read, pray, just take a short nap or rest somewhere. The ride is so quick, within an hour, I may be ready for baking or tree trimming.
You see, inside my heart is a constant battle. One part of my heart is joyful and excited for Christmas, just the way you would imagine a small child at this time of the year. I get excited when the Christmas specials are on TV and I want to watch them live with the commercials because it reminds me of when I was a child and my parents would let me stay up late to see them! We couldn’t DVR or buy the video and watch it 1000 times a season. You would watch it when it was on or you had to wait a year! The other part of my heart feels heavy, so heavy I can’t move. My chest aches like there are bricks lying on it. Having these two conflicting feelings occurring simultaneously is confusing, difficult and makes you feel just plain crazy!
I don’t have the answers. I just know that I might tell you Merry Christmas or I might tell you to call me in January. Either way, I know I will find my steps through this glorious, grief-stricken, magical and dark season of Christmas.
God Bless you all and please be sensitive to those who who are celebrating this season without a loved one. It doesn’t matter when that person died, this year or 50 years ago. The loss is still evident everyday.
Merry Christmas to you all! Call me in January!