As the seventh Christmas without Dominic rapidly approaches, I am pondering the question: “Why, oh why, is Christmas so hard?”
I think I’ve figured out at least a few reasons why.
For me, probably THE biggest reason Christmas is hard is because it throws off the routine I depend on to shepherd my heart through a day. It’s easiest for me to manage when I have at least a couple of hours of quiet time each morning. I need those silent moments to let my heart feel what it needs to feel, to cry if I must and to orient my thoughts after, once again, “remembering” that Dominic isn’t here.
Changing schedules and extra commitments mean that some nights I stay up later than usual and can’t manage to get out of bed in time to have those hours. Extra people in the house mean that they may get up and join me in the living room. While I love the company, I have to be honest and say I would love it more a little later in the day 🙂 ,
Another reason I struggle at Christmas is because all (almost all!) the family is together in one place. This may sound odd to anyone who hasn’t buried a child, but when every single person I care most deeply for is together, it highlights the space where Dominic SHOULD be but ISN’T.
Other times of the year we are more or less a full circle-as long as one or two others are missing, it kind of feels like maybe, just maybe, Dominic is away for awhile instead of away for the rest of my life. But when we are all gathered round the table or the tree or the fireplace, it is oh, so obvious that he isn’t here.
Buying presents and filling stockings I go down the list. I have to skip Dom because he won’t be here to open gifts or pull out his favorite candy from a Christmas sock. I can’t even mail him a package where he is. So I try to focus on the fact that his Christmas is the best one, because he is with the One Who IS Christmas.
But my heart still hurts, still yearns for one more hilarious morning when the camcorder won’t work or one of our sleepy young adults refuses to roll out of bed while the rest of us are waiting.
We are waiting now for a different kind of morning-one where the light dawns and never dims.
While I am in no way ashamed of the grief I carry-great love means great grief- I do try not to burden others with my tears at events or in places where smiles should rule. The Christmas season multiplies those occasions and calls for so. much. energy. just to maintain my “happy face” for the masses. It’s exhausting in a way only other grievers can truly understand.
And, of course, we celebrate Christmas in the US during what my grandmother used to call “the dark of the year”. Shorter days, longer nights means less time outside, less sunshine to generate the feel-good hormones I depend on to get me through each moment. When the nights come early and linger long, my mind has more time to ruminate on what was and what will never be again.
Finally, because Christmas is stressful for everyone for different reasons, people can just be a little harder to deal with-less flexible, more impatient, quicker to take offense or give it. All that emotional drama can overwhelm my heart in a flash-leaving me speechless, crying and anxious. It’s no one’s fault. It just is what it is.
For all these reasons-and dozens more-Christmas is an especially difficult time of year for this hurting heart.
So I try to be gentle to myself and to extend the same grace to ME that I extend to others.
I remind my heart that it is perfectly OK to turn down invitations when I just. can’t. go.
I lean into the Promise born in the manger-Emmanuel, God with us-and hold on with both hands.