By Gretchen Addison
It was Christmas Eve, 1992 in Forest, Virginia. I was attending a dinner party at the home of folks who would later become my in-laws. I remember it being the most beautiful Christmas Eve moment I could remember. The house was decorated with style and class, everyone was elegantly dressed, a warm fire crackled in the stone fireplace, as a delectable Christmas dinner was being served. As the evening ended, I stepped outside into the dark, silent night and was mesmerized by the most perfectly shaped flakes of the whitest snow falling gracefully blanketing the frozen ground. It was a scene out of a Hallmark movie that I would never forget. Twenty-seven years later, I still appreciate that memorable evening.
Christmas is a time of joy: friends, family, parties, food, and gifts all encourage us to celebrate the holiday season. But for those who have lost someone they love; the holidays can seem more like something to endure rather than to enjoy. The traditions and events that once brought happiness and meaning to the season may now be punctured with painful reminders that a person, we love, is not there to share it. Christmas now arrives like a pretty package full of grief triggers: an empty chair, a missing face, or a silent voice. To those who are hurting deeply this holiday season, I am so sorry. I know you feel so alone. I know people believe your phony smile, but they don’t know you scream and sob in the shower or when you’re alone in the car. I know you are tired of hurting from a pain that has no cure. I know you feel like nothing matters anymore, not even you. I know you sometimes feel like a burden, like you’re pulling everyone down with you, so you want to be alone…round and round you go, like the circle of grief.
When life is hard, the Christmas season has a way of making it harder. Let’s be honest. Sometimes we don’t want to cut down a live tree, wrap presents, or sing carols. We want, more than anything, for the pain we cannot escape to be gone. And while pain is often what shapes us, it’s the moments of hope, in the midst of pain, that sustain us. For those of us struggling to make it through the holidays, I encourage you to look for moments of joy, to find hope. It’s in those moments when the pressure on your chest eases, the knot in your throat dissolves, your anxiety lifts, and light peeks through. Just for a minute, as you are able, look for these moments. You might find them in the beauty of a Christmas tree lighting a darkened room or in the kitchen where children are icing cookies. Maybe you’ll experience a moment of peace during a Christmas Eve service or while enjoying a meal or conversation with loved ones. You may feel a glimmer of hope as your favorite Christmas song plays on the radio, by the warmth of a fire, or at the sight of a child unwrapping gifts. I pray you find moments like these, that will give you hope, and perhaps a bit of joy in the midst of your pain this Christmas season.