September 28, 2020

You’re not alone this season

If you’re feeling pretty sad for whatever reason as we approach the Christmas season, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. A lot of people are struggling with some kind of sadness or loss.

They say that the first holidays without a loved one are hard. I would venture to say that the last one with them — if you know at the time it’s the last one — are hardest.

My mom and I have done it three times in the last five years. In 2014, we took my dad to the emergency room in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, because he couldn’t breathe. His battle with lung cancer, COPD and emphysema had been interrupted by an even more insidious condition — pneumonia — and he would never be off portable oxygen again. We were able to have him at home for Christmas before he died in the hospital in mid-January.

That entire holiday season, every well-meaning person who gave me well wishes — especially those who said “Happy New Year” — only filled me with grief and dread, even as I smiled and returned the saying. I knew it would be the year I lost my dad, and I didn’t see anything happy about it.

This time last year, my mom and I were preparing for what we knew would be the final holiday season for both of my grandmothers. My mom, a former hospice nurse, was caring for both of them in her home and was familiar with the end-of-life trajectory for the elderly. They weren’t too bad off last December, but realistically, we knew the next Christmas would be in Heaven for them both. They died 24 days apart earlier this year, on May 25 and June 18.

I didn’t mean to get too personal, but I say all that to repeat what I said at the beginning — if you’re sad this season, you’re not alone.

If you’re struggling, I would encourage you to talk to your clergy or a counselor or even a trusted friend. If you need to, reach out to somebody — even if it’s just sending me an email. I can tell you from experience that there is hope. As the psalmist says in Psalm 30:11, God can turn your mourning into dancing and your sorrow into joy.