Christmas is meant to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ but it can throw up all kinds of mixed emotions when you’re facing some any kind of heartache over the festive season.
Three years ago my husband and I experienced the first of several pregnancy losses over the Christmas period. Losing a baby at any time is incredibly painful, but during Christmas it felt particularly cruel because when everyone else around us was feeling excited, we just couldn’t summon up any joy. And even now, three years on from that loss, the Christmas season still feels a bit bittersweet to me because the fun and festivities continue to intertwine with those memories.
Are you approaching this Christmas with a quiet but nagging sense of dread deep in your soul for any reason too? Maybe your sadness isn’t over facing yet another passing year with empty arms like me. But perhaps it’s the first Christmas you’ve had to face since a loved one passed away, following a relationship breakdown or divorce, in the aftermath of a devastating diagnosis, or something else you’re expecting to be hard. Life can disappoint us in a million different ways, can’t it?
Hard things happen to people every day of the year of course, but when they happen over Christmas time, it can feel especially jarring and difficult to navigate through. For many others, being surrounded by festive cheer can serve to just highlight an existing hardship, challenge or area of lack if their lives.
So how do you cope with Christmas when it doesn’t feel very merry? For a time I honestly had no idea, and some days I just wanted to curl up and stay in bed. But it was Christmas, and we had parties to attend, presents to buy, and family to host… so I just put on a brave face, some good make up, a false smile, and muddled through all the festivities as best as I knew how to.
But now I finally understand where grief and pain fits into the Christmas story. It’s not something that we just have to pretend isn’t there, or hide away until after the New Year begins for fear of ‘spoiling’ Christmas for everyone else.
The truth is that there has to be some space for not everything being okay at Christmas too. Because isn’t that the whole point of the incarnation story that we celebrate? God took on flesh and entered into our world as a baby boy precisely because things were going far from okay.
We need to make space somewhere in our Christmas customs and traditions for acknowledging our sadness, as well as our joys.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Katarzyna Bialasiewicz