Be warned, this is not going to be a "feel good" post so if you are expecting that or don't want to read about this topic, please feel free to click out of this window now. I won't be hurt or offended in the least. ;)
Several of my friends have been sharing how the holidays bring on great sadness or pain for them. Whether it be due to a loved one's passing that has left a huge hole in their heart and knowing they will not be there to celebrate with you, a "lost" child, family members who cannot get along, financial hardships or the loneliness of spending the holidays alone with families being so spread out and busy these days. I understand that pain and can fully relate to it. I've been there.
The first time was when I was a sophomore in college. I and my parents were not able to afford for me to come home from Idaho to Hawaii for Christmas that year. It was the first Christmas that I had ever not spent with my family and I knew that it would be my grandmother's last Christmas here in earth. My roommate and I had bought a "Charlie Brown special" tree before she left to go home and spend Christmas with her family. My mother, trying to bring some comfort and a bit of "home" to me, sent me all the ornaments that she had given me over the years so that I could decorate that tree with something familiar. I had upcoming Spring semester tuition bills to pay so I worked the entire Christmas break that year. I did have a friend who was also "stuck" in town over Christmas and he and I tried to make the best of it, but both of us ended up cuddled up together on Christmas eve and day with tears streaming down our faces. He and I were both missing our loved ones terribly but I am thankful that at least we had each other. Thank you Larry, wherever you are.
One of my sons is in the military. Josh is really good about trying to make it home for the holidays when he can, but that does not always happen. I remember the first Christmas he spent away from home and I was miserable without him. Up until then, our family had always been together for Christmas and it just was not the same without my Josh. I honestly tried to find joy that year but would break into tears when I thought about my son so far away. He was all I wanted for Christmas...not pretty wrapped up packages, parties, or anything else, just my son. My husband and I both cried that Christmas...a lot. We have since learned to deal with those feelings but this mom, as much as I understand that he can't make it home and that it is not his choice, still misses him terribly. This year we are hoping to see him sometime after the new year starts...we will celebrate a late Christmas with him then. That will be my favorite gift this year!
That brings us to families that cannot seem to get along. I know that some families will get together, hurtful things will be said and done and Christmas will be ruined. Be there too and have the emotional scars to prove it. Even worse though is when family members choose to exclude others and force the remaining family and friends to "choose sides". This has been the most hurtful of all for us because it is the calculated deliberate, mean spirited way in which it is done. Those people doing this know it will cause great pain and that is their goal. This can go on all year long, but they seem to ramp it up during the holidays. We have been dealing with this for years with certain extended family members and as a dear friend, who is also dealing with something similar, just said to me yesterday, families are not supposed to be like that, they are supposed to love you, not shut you out and turn their backs on you. She is right. Unfortunately though, some people do not think or act in a kind, thoughtful manner because they are too wrapped up in their own little world and agendas. Last year was the absolute worst of all and it nearly destroyed our relationship with someone who was manipulated by those that are hell bent on severing everyone else in the family's ties to us. It has taken us an entire year to try to undo the damage that was done and to be completely honest, there were times when we almost gave up. The toll it took on us physically and emotionally was huge. I am so thankful for the close and loving relationship that we had with our immediate family, my parents and siblings and close friends that got us through.
So yes, I do understand. My son Josh will not be home for Christmas this year but we will celebrate later with him, and the extended family drama continues to this day, but we refuse to play into it. Who knows if we will be spending any time with that part of the family this year...that is up to them and is still up in the air at the moment. However, I am going to focus on my grandchildren, grown children and other family and friends and try to not stress about the rest. I refuse to let anyone steal my joy this season.