Life comes in seasons. Some years are wonderful, with laughter, few worries and plenty of good. Other years, though, it seems that the tears never stop. In the good years, the entire holiday season can be joyful and fun. When life takes a turn for the worse, though, we might just wish Christmas would go away.
And that’s okay.
Yesterday I wrote about enjoying Christmas even if it’s not perfect. Don’t hold back your Christmas joy just because the ornaments are made of paper and the turkey was donated. Laugh and smile and enjoy what you have even if you have to raise a glass to absent ones.
But what if you really, really can’t muster up that joy?
Media and society put a lot of pressure on us to be “merry and bright” during the holidays. No matter what is going on in our lives or around us, we’re supposed to magically be in a good mood.
There’s some wisdom to that. You don’t want to leave your children with memories of Mom crying throughout December or Dad getting drunk at the Christmas party and sharing the family’s financial problems.
But let’s face it, sometimes life sucks. And then Christmas arrives and it’s very hard to put on a show of good cheer.
Some of you know that Christmas is difficult for me. I struggle with it, and I have for several years now. So I’m not ever going to tell you that you need to put on a happy face if every song, decoration and tradition feels like a knife in your heart.
This year, at a parent resource center, I decorated my first Christmas tree in ten years. Halfway through, I had to excuse myself for a good cry. I understand that sometimes all the convincing you do can’t stop the jab of pain in your heart.
The loss of a loved one, through death or divorce or some other long-term separation, is a common reason for holiday sadness. It’s perfectly normal and healthy to be sad in that situation. You miss them and you want to share the holidays with them. This makes it difficult to feel joy or happiness – and when you do, and you catch yourself laughing and having fun, you might even feel guilty.
Worry about money or your job can rob our holiday joy, too. Especially if you have taught your children that Santa Claus brings gifts to good children, you might wonder how you’ll meet their expectations. That’s a huge amount of pressure on top of what society usually heaps on us.
The television shows and Christmas movies lie. Our troubles don’t magically disappear under the sprinkle of Christmas Eve snow. Christmas Eve arrives and we are still grieving, broken and feeling lost.
Life isn’t always perfect.
It’s messy, complicated, sad, and sometimes just plain sucks – even on Christmas.
So what do you do when Christmas arrives and you can’t muster up any joy?
My best advice is that you accept where you are right now. Don’t try to hide it and pretend that all is well. Don’t isolate yourself so that you can avoid facing your pain.
And definitely don’t expect to feel better just because it’s Christmas Eve.
Do your best. Put up the tree and then let the children decorate it with the unbreakable ornaments. That’s what I did because decorating two trees was just a bit overwhelming for me. It’s umm … not perfectly decorated. If you can’t do something, explain to a friend why it’s difficult and ask for help.
Get through the holidays the best you can. Do what you need to for little ones … and then crawl into bed and have a good cry.
Be sad. Be angry. Hit the pillow and ask God why.
Because sometimes, really and truly, Christmas just sucks.
But don’t forget this – life comes in seasons. Yes, there are years when the tears never stop, but there will be other years that are full of laughter, good things and few worries. In bad years, we might wish Christmas would just go away, but in good years, the entire season, from the beginning of Advent to the Three Kings Day, can be joyful and fun.
Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.