In Anticipation of Christmas Mourning
As I gaze out of my window here in sunny California, I don't see snow, or even clouds today. They do come and go, as does the rain, but on this particular day, the sun has conquered and streams of sunlight flood my living room. It is two days into December and I am blasting Bob Marley instead of my favorite Christmas songs, and contemplating replacing the Douglas Fur with a planted palm tree. I am holding onto summer. This is mostly an internal power-struggle, as I could never disappoint three wide-eyed children begging to decorate a Christmas tree. Still, the sun has been my best friend of late. For now, I evade the inevitable feelings of loss that await me. It is my first Christmas without my Mom.
I know that I'm not the only one balancing joy and grief this Christmas. In fact, it seems like nearly everyone I know is missing someone this year. So, in pondering this new way of celebrating a season marked by joy and gladness, I can't help but ask the question... “How?" (I never claimed it was a deep question).
Still, it begs for a complex answer, one that I'm not qualified to give. I can, however, share my own experience with loss. I'm 32 years old and I've lost both of my parents in a period of four short years. Grief upon grief, I've found myself mentally and emotionally exhausted more days than not. Within those same four years, however, I also recall countless beautiful days filled with laughter, adventure, and love. How is it that I can remember the same few years as being joy-filled and grief-filled?
This is the concept upon which I've built my method of surviving this "year of firsts" following my mom's death. As one well-acquainted with grief, I know what stands before me as the days begin to grow shorter and shorter. After my father's death, I spent many December nights sipping wine with a sleeping infant on my shoulder. I would drive my kids around to look at Christmas lights because they couldn't see me crying while strapped into their carseats. I embraced grief so tightly, I missed out on the blessings that were still with me that year.
I could resolve to do that again, and perhaps it would be justified. But maybe I could approach the holidays in a less agonizing manner - one in which I am able to be a grieving, broken-hearted daughter AND a fun, loving mother, just as my history is marked with both pain AND gladness.
"How?" Well, I still don't have an answer, but I know that there are definitely some God-given gifts that can weave themselves together with our own grief to create a beautiful mosaic of memories to cherish, if we let them...even during a painful holiday season. I believe peace is there, seeping through the cracks of our hearts as we experience holiday traditions without our loved ones for the first time. Gratitude is definitely a part of it, gliding between precious moments, as we take time to acknowledge them. Grace, a lot of grace, especially for ourselves as we set tasks aside to shed tears of pain and remembrance. And lastly joy, which, if we allow it to, infiltrates every part of our being and enables us to, one day, reflect upon this season with gladness.
This year I am mourning great losses, and that is ok, but that's not all. This year, I will also rejoice, because there is still adventure, there is still laughter, there is still life. Truthfully, Christmas is about the birth of hope, and that hope is something worth holding onto.