We are now three days before Christmas Day, and we are so deep in the holidays they are like the pile of blankets we can’t find our way out of. For some, that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I thing for most people, the holidays are the blankets they want to wrap up in and stay because they feel good. They feel like home. Who doesn’t want that?
I’ll tell you who.
People who are dealing with a home that has been shattered for some reason.
This year I know three families that have lost children. I know four partners and spouses who have lost their loves. I know multiple friends who have lost parents. I know others who have lost marriages.
For those folks, this holiday season may not look like home at all.
In 2010, my marriage came apart. My mom passed from cancer. My stepfather blamed me. My brother had his own sadness and depression, and then in early 2011, my husband died of a heart attack. Family, friends, and church associates disappeared.
The holidays looked NOTHING like home or family or joy.
They looked empty and hard, and when my two kids and I sat at the table to eat Christmas Day, all I saw were empty chairs, and it was all I could do to pull myself together to have a conversation with my 10- and 13-year olds instead of sobbing in my bedroom floor.
The first two years we didn’t have a Christmas tree. We didn’t buy presents. We didn’t eat the usual food, and we didn’t watch our traditional movies. In fact, if you came to our house, it didn’t look much like Christmas at all. It looked like what it was. Three people trying to figure out how to get through a lot of empty in a place and holiday that used to be so full.
In time, we found our new normal, filled the tree with new ornaments, lit the yard with Christmas lights, and gave up movies for games. We found our joy and laughter and delicious food. We found our full and whole. In time.
This Christmas I want you to know if your Christmas looks like ours did and you see so much empty where there used to be full and you feel like it is taking everything you’ve got just to breathe…then just breathe. That’s enough.
Just don’t quit breathing.
Go to the dinners and lunches…or don’t.
Go to mass…or stand outside the church and let the tears pray for you because walking in is too hard right now.
Buy gifts…or let time together be the gift.
Put up a tree…or don’t.
Eat turkey and ham…or pizza and Big Macs.
Go to the cemetery…or don’t.
There is no one right answer for getting through joyous holidays that carry a hellish edge. The big thing is simply to get through.
And frankly, some years, that’s enough.
For each of you walking through hard this year and feeling the heavy emptiness of the holidays, my heart and prayers are with you because I know prayers are sometimes the only thing that gets us through.
May the Lord God be with you, and may the Prince of Peace be your comfort.