As this holiday season comes to a close, I’ve had the joy of seeing people give, receive, and spend time with family. But I didn’t used to see all that. We all perceive things differently, based on our experiences, emotional injuries, and preferences. It’s just how humans are wired; and I am no exception.
My Mom and I lost my Dad in 1992, just before my 4th birthday; he and I were best friends, my parents were in love, and we had 4 Christmases together. Then, in 1996, we lost my Mom’s Dad; the two of them were best friends as well. In fact, my Mom had a very rough past, but her Dad was practically the only thing that got her through. If the holidays weren’t tough enough after the death of my Dad, they became tougher once my Grandpa had to leave. Of course, I was young and didn’t know a lot about how death worked, but I knew something was off.
My Mom bought me as many gifts as her income would allow as she tried to salvage the joy of the season. She never tried to put on a “happy” act for me; she never drank her sorrows away or disappeared for days on end; instead, she depended on God to help us through this time of year. I’m still so very thankful that I never had to wonder where she was or if she still loved me. Losing one parent was hard enough and she thought ahead of time of how this was when we needed each other the most.
Years have passed, Christmases have come and gone and we both have grown older. For years, we never put much effort into celebrating the holidays; we both thought, “Glad that’s over!” and moved on to the new year. However, something happened along the way. Growing up in church, I’ve known the story of Christmas and why we celebrate, but this Christmas, I began to appreciate it more. I decided to get my mind past the cold weather we have in Ohio (I hate cold weather!) and actually enjoy Christmas; I haven’t given myself permission to do that since I can remember. I think when we lose people close to us, we do go through the 5 stages of the grieving process, but it’s also easy and sometimes comforting to continuously block out the memories that caused us pain. The loved ones don’t have to pass away during the holiday season for it to hurt just as much during the holidays.
After beginning to enjoy this time of year, I feel that I let my heart heal. I have a friend who lost her Dad right before Thanksgiving and I was able to help and comfort her because I’ve been there. But if I had been walking around, thinking selfishly about how it’s another holiday season without my Dad and Grandpa, focusing on all that I’ve lost instead of all that I have, I would not have been able to help a friend. Our struggles are in vain if we don’t learn from them and help others going through the same thing.