When Christmas is sad
It’s impossible not to feel a pang of guilt getting to wake up this morning, snuggle my kids on the couch and spend the morning making Christmas treat bags for our neighbors when there are parents planning funerals for their kids who are the same ages as these pajama-clad ones around my living room. Impossible.
A decade or so ago I remember being twenty-something and pondering with a fairly light, optimistic heart that indeed Christmas must be sad for many but it surely was only joy for me. I would think kind thoughts, do kind things and pray for those who must know sadness this time of year. But the people I loved that were synonymous with holiday tradition, happy moments and love were all still alive….my parents weren’t divorced so I didn’t know what “splitting Christmas” or “trading off” looked like….I’d never truly gone without a basic need met.
As the years passed though, beloved grandparents died, friends dear to me had to navigate the challenges of broken families and so many different places to go every December to appease everyone, and our growing family made it just till payday on our food stamps balance more than once.
Then just a few years ago only 4 weeks after Christmas, Chris’ dad died on a hunting trip. Our whole-family-Christmas photos were fresh from the photography studio and I was sure we had at least another decade or two of our Christmas Eve traditions. Eleven months later my oh-so-precious Grandma who’d flown in for the festivities had a stroke the day after Christmas and passed away just before New Year’s.
The heavy weight of loss, the burden of sadness that threatens to completely overwhelm has so many times seemed just too much. I can only imagine it seems that way to mama’s in Connecticut who already had gifts wrapped to put under the tree for their sons or daughters.
Just too much.
The brightness of the season dims a little (or maybe a lot). And though we celebrate fully and delight in the gift of Jesus, sometimes the night is a little too silent. Sometimes there is a face we want so badly to behold, a lame joke told that we’d love the chance to laugh at, a velvet soft Grandma-hand that we long to squeeze, a giggle we would give anything to hear, a baby-belly that was supposed to be growing – and that these things are missing? Deep sadness. There’s just no way around it.
Last night the weight pressed so heavy and I took so many deep breaths, kids stung with words and I ate dinner alone in my room. I tucked myself in under the covers as if that would ease the hurt, take away the sense of loss I felt so acutely. But it didn’t. Nothing does.
Nothing but a quiet whisper under the darkness, under the sadness. A whisper of love. His words that are life to me, ringing in my mind “The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) It’s all I can do to believe those words for the families across the nation attending memorial services instead of Christmas parties. And to believe it for me in my own sense of loss.
There is no way to know if the people who live on my street or the ones who live on yours have their own stories of sadness, but I’m pretty sure most of us do. And one way I’m learning to lift my heart up is to love, to do something thoughtful or fun no matter how much I don’t feel like it. Today it was putting together Christmas treat bags with goodies we made and cards the kids drew themselves, for each house on our street. Most we’ve met, some we know. There is something lovely and beautiful about spreading kindness. In the process of blessing, we are blessed.