**Dearest Reader, please know- this blog series is from my own experience with a changing family in the midst of the Holiday Season, and is simply my raw honesty in the here and now. And this post is not meant to encompass all of the grief we may face. I can’t possibly pretend to understand the ache of loosing a spouse, a parent, a child, or a sibling and for those of you facing those empty seats at the table this Christmas- please know I am earnestly praying for you. If you’re up to it, my prayer is that this post gives us all permission to talk about it and I welcome your comments, emails and social media posts.**
I remember the way anticipation would build as we swayed along on the highway, making our way to Grandma Coke’s house (yes, for real that was her name isn’t that awesome?!). The smell of cigarette smoke and perfectly cooked prime rib would greet us under the mistletoe with a kiss at the front door. Grandpa’s eyes always held the brilliance of stars as he’d look around the room and chuckle; the ice clinking in his glass like a well-timed transition of an eloquent speech. Every ornament on their tree spoke it’s own story and the Santa hat became a right of passage. No matter what she was wearing, Grandma always found a way to sit on the floor at the entrance to the living room with a drink in hand and an eager ear for whatever you wanted to share.
This was Christmas. Every year. Until it wasn’t.
My Grandparents both died within a few years of each other. As a family, we followed those Christmas traditions the best we could for as long as we could but it was never the same. One by one, we married into other families, moved farther away or divorced. This will now be the second year in a row where those former Holiday trimmings will just be memories in my soul and not plans in my calendar. And that makes me deeply sad.
“Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to feel the feelings before we can deal with them….” Those words rolled off my finger tips just this afternoon to my friend before I’d even really thought about it—but truth be told: I needed to hear it too. She said she was sad, and after I hit send I realized that I am too. For different reasons, but that is ok, the point is—I’m allowing myself to feel these sad feelings. All of them.
It really doesn’t matter why you feel them, it only matters that you feel them. Sometimes our Holiday is a mix of grieving Christmas-past while struggling to find Christmas-present. And that is ok.
Grab your hot mug and a kleenex, curl up on the couch and cry. I’m right there with you, staring at my pile of Christmas decorations and half-put-together-tree. Because here’s the truth:
Sadness and joy can coexist. (Did you ever see the Disney movie “Inside Out?” if not, go watch it- trust me).
Let me repeat, sadness and joy can (and should) coexist. Friend, you are sad because those things mattered to you. I am sad because the moments at my Grandparents house really deeply mattered to me. Those memories that trigger tears are treasures and those people who evoke such emotion are loved ones and they all matter, each and every one.
So let those tears flow. They are an expression of your heart like the radiant hue of a glittering treasure box.
In the movie Inside Out, the blue character, Sadness, and the bright golden character, Joy, come across another character named Bing Bong who has lost his magic wagon- the wagon that held his hopes for tomorrow and his memories of sweet moments past. In fact, the wagon was destroyed in the demolition of a building and he’s pretty upset about it. Joy tries to change Bing Bong’s focus onto other “more joyful” things which only seems to make it worse. But Sadness sits down and lets Bing Bong cry it out. After a little bit he’s better and they move on with their journey. This dumbfounds Joy and she asks Sadness how she was able to help him like that. Sadness replies,
“I dunno know. He was sad. So I listened.”
No fix, no explanation, just a listening ear. Bing Bong needed a moment to feel the loss of his magic wagon. And if you need a moment to just feel the memories of Christmas past- I’ll sit and listen with you.
Our memories all shiny with joyous stories are preserved for all of time by the sad tears that mean they matter.
I found this quote and found it absolutely fitting to end this post:
“Sadness is not the enemy of Joy. It is the friend to empathy.” Christie Gee
Friend, as we sit curled up on the couch and pass the kleenex, I want you to know that no matter what is making your heart a little sad this Christmas, it’s ok. I don’t want to sit here and try to distract or minimize your heart ache- I want to hug you as you feel your way through it.
Those are cherished memories, treasures of Christmases past and we need them if we are ever to find the joy in Christmas present.
Please join me tomorrow (Friday 12/8/17), LIVE on my author Facebook page to chat about Finding Christmas in a Family that’s Changing. Bring your favorite mug filled with your favorite steamy beverage and join me HERE at 8:30am MST.