Seems my theme this Christmas season is joy.
Joy left me a few years ago and I wondered if it would ever return. I spent a lot of 2018 doing the hard work of recovery from devastating grief.
Grief has been my banner for four years…but not anymore.
I’ve learned a lot over the last several months, things like you really can get to the “other side” of loss. I didn’t believe it at first, but I do now.
Now that I’ve lived it.
I’ve been taking Griefshare, a study to help overcome devastating loss, over the last several weeks and I’ve learned so much. It was during one of the video sessions the idea of an ending to grief was introduced to me. I honestly thought I would grieve until the day I died. Oh, it might get less intense, I mused, but grief would live on.
When I think about it, the idea of being done with grief made me feel like I might “get over it,” and I didn’t want to. The thought of it being “over it” meant mom’s memory would fade and I couldn’t bear that thought. Or what if others forgot about her? Or if I went on with life, and outwardly it looked like everything was okay, how would others know how important she was to me? I carried all of these questions in my heart in the form of feelings, not knowing how to put them into words.
It was a heavy burden.
But what I’ve discovered is although grief may be gone, sadness never leaves. A kind of sadness where your heart begins to unthaw and you start to feel again. It’s good when the time of grieving has ended, the ending is not something to be feared. Admitting your grief is over doesn’t speak to the value, or lack thereof, of the relationship. No textbook definition of the ebb and flow of emotion can define what you shared. The end of the grieving cycle allows you to say your name in the same sentence with the word healing, and that pushes you into a new place.
You’ve crossed from grieving into sadness.
It’s like grieving takes up your whole heart, that’s all there is…but sadness leaves room.
Room for laughter, room for warmth, room for friendship, room to grow…just room.
And now here we are, our fourth Christmas season without mom, and I find myself nearly giddy with expectation. First time I’ve wanted to be jolly since she was diagnosed.
My joy is not JUST because of a deeper healing that has only come with time and the LOVE of God, but also because I finally WANT to celebrate again. I was afraid my desire to celebrate might never return.
So, we put up our Christmas tree ridiculously early and I’m not sorry about it. We’ve strung lights, carefully placed Christmas decorations and most recently hung the stockings…by the chimney with care. We’ve toasted pecans, had too much egg nog, and lit all the Christmas candles; the house smells heavenly. Hallmark is playing Christmas movies on a loop and I’m crafting a plan to make cookies that I don’t like so I won’t eat them ALL!
I’m trying to figure out gifts for all the people I love.
While my mind is on earthly things, I still find myself wondering if Christmas is celebrated in heaven. I started a book, “90 Minutes in Heaven,” and it’s made me ponder what mom might be experiencing. Although it hurts, I can finally smile and mean it when I think of her.
She’s in perfect peace.
And isn’t that what Christmas is really about, peace on earth?
I always thought I knew what peace meant. The absence of fear. But, that’s only a small part of it…peace means being okay even when everything is not okay. Resting in the FACT that although life WILL bring sorrow and pain, it will also bring joy and happiness.
It’s the seasons of each that teach us what really matters.
And what matters?
Well, that’s up to you. For me, it’s family and making memories…lots and lots of memories. One day when it’s my turn to cross over into eternity, those who loved me will be able to laugh and tell stories about our times together. Hopefully, while they’re sitting around a brightly lit Christmas tree sipping egg nog.
Life is short, and it is hard, but it is worth LIVING.
And, this Christmas, that’s EXACTLY what I plan to do.
If you agree, raise your glass of egg nog and let’s make a toast…
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a healed heart.”
Psalm 30:5b “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”