Christmas Grief

Reprinted from My Life Class

The restlessness, when identified, emerges as grief.  It is stomach-wrenching, soul-disturbing, mind-shuffling grief.

But why?  What?  Who?  It makes no sense to me.  My choices are my own.

I have talked to each of my children and grandchildren in the last few days.  Knowing that I wouldn’t see any of them over the holidays, and worried that I wasn’t reaching out, I did.  I reached out.  And it was successful.  I had good  satisfying conversations with each of them.  Some more deep than others.  Each in keeping with my ongoing relationship.

So what is it?

Christmas Eve was with my husband.  Uneventful.  Not special.  Just together.  Just fine.

I spent Christmas day with my husband and friends.  I had a moment…just a moment…in which it really felt like Christmas. And it was pretty much what I expected – a group of stragglers who are good friends.  Easy. Natural.  And it bit longer than it needed to be.

And still the grief hung with me and cast an internal pall over my enjoyment of the day.  After a while I fell victim to the “shoulds”.  Should I be calling my sisters?  Should we be pursuing our children?  Were my grandchildren all okay?

My children called.  And I went to bed with grief.

It wasn’t until Boxing Day that I ferreted out the source of the discomfort.   I realize that there is some cultural overlay of expectations that I have swallowed whole.  I can only describe it as an uneasy discomfort with my way of doing Christmas this year.

My husband and I did not exchange gifts.  We need nothing.  What we gave, we gave to charity.  And we are fine with that.

We weren’t with family.  And they are fine with that. Maybe I’m not.

I didn’t call and talk to each and everyone of my kith and kin on Christmas Day.  And they are fine with that.  Maybe I’m not.

There is only one child in our family who is young enough to be truly excited about Christmas.  We weren’t with him.  He is fine with that.  Maybe I’m not.

I am grieving from the absence of the familiar essence of Christmas.  There is no tree.  There are no gifts.  The stockings hanging from the mantel are not filled.  The creches representing the meaning of Christmas are static and not bathed in the holy light of my faith (which seems missing this year.) The Christmas carols playing in the background are empty of meaning.

I want to work my way through this grief to the satisfaction of knowing that I did what I chose to do.  The unreal expectations of a Hallmark Channel need not be mine.  I want to lift the heavy blanket of expectation for myself and for the generations to come so that what we have is what we love instead of yearning for what is not.

Then Christmas will be joy within – unassailable!

The Student




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