Wed., Dec. 12, 2018
John 11:35 – Jesus wept.
Today, I want to be real. I want to dig a little deeper. I want to address the Christmas elephant in the room:
For some people, the holidays aren’t all that holly and jolly. Some people would love to just skip from Dec. 1 right to Jan. 2 or 3 and forgo all the merry-making.
“Can this be true?” you wonder.
For someone else, you may be thinking, “Finally! A word for those of us who have little or no desire to tackle all the Christmas traditions that everyone else just SEEMS. TO. LOVE.”
There can be a variety of reasons why people feel the holidays are just one hot mess waiting to happen. Maybe it’s the first Christmas without a loved one. Possibly, the holidays brew up a whole bunch of memories of past-Christmases-gone-bad. For those who feel very alone or isolated, everyone’s cuter than Pinterest Christmas cards and perfectly decorated cookies and houses are JUST. TOO. MUCH.
For some people, the holidays are one big pot of anticipation that only ends up in let-down, disappointment and anxiety. I can’t say that I know how you might feel. What I can say is your feelings and emotions are very real. No, you aren’t crazy if you’d rather keep Christmas wrapped in a box shoved to the back of a closet rather than letting it be something wrapped and under the tree.
So, what is a person who feels the only possible Christmas this year is a Blue Christmas to do?
Breathe. And then breathe some more. And then, rethink your approach to the holidays. The worse thing to do? Plow right through the holidays, thinking “everything will be just fine …” when you know they won’t.
Your best opportunity to make it through the holidays in one piece? Do some pre-thinking and pre-planning to prepare yourself with a possible game plan. Decide in advance how you might best cope. And then, live out our ideas to the best of your ability.
Here are a few suggestions for trying to live through a Blue Christmas:
- Decide that everything doesn’t have to be the same as it always has been. In 2000, Hubby Rick’s eldest son was killed in January. We were married in August. Come December, we would celebrate our first Christmas together as a married couple. However, Rick was in a funk. The one-year anniversary of Nate’s death was approaching. He was reeling in grief, just trying to make it through each day. Throw in a whole bunch of holiday anticipation, I knew we were in for a disaster. What did we do? We decided that we would only do the things that we wanted to do over Christmas, not what had always been done previously. Ironically, we cut our tree during a perfectly nasty snowstorm. We invited Rick’s family to our house on Christmas Eve. We decided not to purchase gifts for each other and began our long-standing tradition of giving gifts to needy families instead. We lowered our expectations to what seemed manageable. And we survived. Rick survived. We decided in advance what to do and not do. When an emotion came up that we hadn’t planned for, we punted and came up with a new game plan. We built space into Christmas week when we could just be together and watch the lighted tree. And nothing else.
- Add something which help you remember a missing loved one. Every year, I take a wreath to the cemetery and hang it on Nate’s grave. We hang this ornament we received from the funeral home in honor of Nate on our tree. Light a special candle or sing a favorite carol in honor of someone. Make this tradition something special and meaningful, if only for you. I make rosettes every year because my Dad loved them. Making them is a little “gift” I give to myself to honor and remember my Dad.
- If being with certain people is a challenge, be realistic about time together. Establish a timeframe which is doable for you. If a big gathering is overwhelming, plan smaller, shorter get-togethers with people important to you.
- Be mindful of how much you drink and eat. Go for a walk and get some exercise. Plan time to clear your head.
- Share stories and memories of a missing loved one. Often, it’s difficult for families to talk about a person who is missing. I think it’s often therapeutic to recall things rather than avoid sharing them.
- Give space to others who might be dealing with loss or disappointment. Sometimes, words aren’t necessary. Being present is more important.
- Allow yourself to be sad and disappointed. Sometimes, we forget that even Jesus wept. When his dear friend Lazarus died, Jesus chose not to rush to be with his family right away. Instead, he waited three long days. When he finally arrived in Bethsada where Lazarus lived, he was ambused by Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. John’s gospel records a so-important detail of this story: Jesus wept. We see the Son of God expressing his emotions and grief in the truest of ways. Give yourself permission to express your emotions and grief as well.
- Have something to look forward to in the New Year. Plan a trip, an outing or something that you know will lift your spirits. Have the time established and in place, so all you have to do is go through with your plans.
Grief and disappointment at the holidays can come in many ways. We often think it’s a person who as passed away. However, this disappointment can also come because of a fractured relationship, knowing that “things aren’t the same as they used to be,” or a variety of other reasons. Whatever the reason for your Blue Christmas, give yourself permission to acknowledge your feelings and emotions. Lower your expectations. Take bite-sized bites of the holidays this year and let this be enough. Read the story of Lazarus and see Jesus’ emotions. They were very real.
For the possibilities of dealing with a Blue Christmas, I am grateful.
Almighty God – while this is often a fun and exciting time of the year, you know those people who really aren’t looking forward to Christmas and the reasons why. Pour out an extra dose of grace upon these people. Surround them with your love and peace. Help others recognize their reason for a Blue Christmas and allow space for this. Amen.
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