Can we turn down the Christmas music and turn off the lights? The season is a little too bright for those who are experiencing grief and loss.
Is anyone taking note of the pile of suffering in your corner of the world? Will we ever clean it up? It’s not trash. It’s the stuff that humans heap on each other.
And it’s only getting bigger. This is on top of all the natural, haphazard, predictable, cut off in traffic, “Sorry, we no longer carry that,” stood in a long line only to be told you are in the wrong line so your waiting really starts now stuff.
It is no wonder why we find ourselves in the fetal position, balled up in a corner crying, pacing the floor or rocking back and forth. It’s just too much to suffer through.
Why does this keep happening? Where am I supposed to put this new pain, this present grief, this shiny new loss? How do I turn off this cycle of grief?
Maybe these questions were tucked in a storage bin and fell out with last year’s Christmas decorations. But here they are again, along with the feeling that I don’t want to do holiday shopping ever again. I don’t want to put up these decorations. Because I don’t feel like celebrating.
To be fair, I never really bought into the Christmas season. As the eldest child, I felt it was my responsibility to inform my siblings that Santa Claus was dead and that our parents ate the cookies. True story. I woke them up to point out our parents wrapping gifts and their hypocrisy.
They had lied to us and, in my 10-year-old mind, for no good reason.
I had to grow up fast and had way too many doses of reality. Because if he had one too many drinks, I knew that things could change quickly. We would no longer feel like celebrating. So, why decorate? Why start pretending?
As an adult, I prefer the truth over some capitalism-induced reality. But how I wish that I could have pretended more as a child, that my life was not upended so soon.
I want old family photos of us in matching red sweaters with a cheap snowflake background. I want childhood memories of family meals and gatherings. I wonder what it feels like for a family to stay together.
Yes, I come bearing bad news, the bearer of the truth that, for some people, Christmas is not marked by red and green but blue.
It’s called a Blue Christmas, and some churches hold a special service for those who are experiencing grief and loss. It is also called the Longest Night and is part of the Advent season.
It is not “the most wonderful time of the year” for me and so many others. For us, Christmas brings up difficult memories and a reminder that a chair is empty because a loved one has died.
It is important that we process this grief, that we not deny our feelings or experience, that we not pretend or try to bargain with reality, that we accept what has happened or is happening.
We give ourselves a gift when we choose not to pretend that everything is okay, that we are okay – just because the calendar says that we must.
You don’t have to cover it up, and I’m going to put this storage bin up — because I don’t feel like decorating. Instead, I am going to point out that we cannot keep lying to ourselves and others.
So, consider this my abbreviated special service for those who are feeling blue, who don’t feel like celebrating.
Hear this: It’s okay to hate the Christmas season.
Sing or scream to the top of your lungs, whichever sounds better to you. Sighing is a breath prayer. Give yourself what you need: rest, tears, food, drink.
Now, receive this benediction: You don’t have to celebrate Christmas if you are grieving. Amen.