This last month, the thought of the upcoming holidays has brought many tears and anxious nights lying awake. I wanted to fast forward to June. How can I be happy for Christmas? How can anyone in my family be happy?
I lost my mom this past August, and I never fully realized how much she played a part in even the most mundane details of my life. It’s amazing how many times a day I’m faced with some question that I need to ask her: “How do I cook chicken?” “What am I doing with my life?” “Can I hem a dress without sewing?” She was the type of mom who literally could do and did do everything.
Thanksgiving this year had been “difficult.” There were times when people wanted to talk about mom, but didn’t. Grace before we ate was a choking, awkward pause in which we all wanted to say something but just couldn’t find the words. I wanted to hide outside on the porch for most of the night. But my family managed to celebrate Thanksgiving, giving each other love and support in our shared grief.
I was, however, still afraid that Christmas would be worse. As the days of Advent continued onwards towards the birth of Our Lord, I turned to him countless times in prayer to ask Him how we are meant to deal with grief. I brought him my anxieties about Christmas. He showed me some things about myself.
You Will Be Sad
Here is one: When you are grieving you will be sad, and your loved ones will be sad too. I’ve asked myself again and again and again, “How can we distract ourselves this Christmas?” “How can we fill every quiet time with distraction?” “What if it gets too quiet or there aren’t enough people around to keep us busy?”
The very simple answer is, those are not the right questions to ask or worry about. St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “True love hurts.” We hurt because we love and that cannot be bad, for it is one of the things that makes us human.
I’ve always been afraid to show sadness, but I am slowly learning that it is good to express feelings. It allows you to be vulnerable to the love of those around you, whether they are family, friends or colleagues. Let them be sad and let them ask you for help. They need you as much as you need them.
Catherine Hieronymus teaches at the Trivium School in Lancaster, Massachusetts. “How Can Anyone Be Happy at Christmas?” is a shorter version of a story that appeared on Catholic Exchange and is used here with permission.