I felt my anxiety crank up a notch back in the first week of November. My sister and I sat in Starbucks, chatting and sipping on our coffees when suddenly my ears picked up and caught the opening notes of ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’ as it started to waft through the busy café.
Oh no, it’s started already. I felt my insides drop.
Now this response is as far away as you can get from the usual exitement I feel about Christmas. I normally throw myself into the celebration 150%. I usually love every song, every movie, every tradition that has been formed in the name of this glorious season. Christmas always seemed to me, a time when the world allows itself to become magical again.
In my home, Christmas has always been a big deal and we could never get our decorations up fast enough and make our home sparkle for the festive period. My husband and I would become like little kids at Christmas.
But this year I want to run away and hide as far away from it all as I can, until it’s all over.
As I put my decorations away at the beginning of this year, lovingly wrapping each glass ornament in tissue, I wondered to myself what 2018 would bring. I tried to glimpse into the year ahead. I saw my husband and I happy, I saw holidays, memories and laughter being had. The main hope in my heart, was that we would be blessed with the baby we had been dreaming of having together.
What actually unfolded from that point on was the absoloute furthest thing from what I had imagined.
I have felt as though this year has been a nightmare that I simply cannot wake up from. I look back nearly every day at the memory of that girl putting decorations away and the naive, innocence she possessed and I dream of going to her and warning her of what is about to happen.
This week everyone around me has been putting up their Christmas trees and dressing their homes. And rightly so! Family, friends and work colleagues are excited to share pictures of their end results, each of their trees beautifully individual and hung with memories and keepsakes. I try to connect with their exitement but it feels so alien to me.
Christmas now seems to be in full swing and although my outside appearance might appear normal and calm, smiling at those around me and their excitement, inside I feel like I am slowly crumbling.
I have lost so much, it is like the locusts have ripped through my life and emptied me of so much love, joy, security and the hopes and dreams that I had. I find myself sat in my home, alone. My husband, gone. My hopes and dreams for my life with him, gone. All that remains are worries for the immediate future; the divorce process, the effort to keep my home, starting to live a life without my husband.
The place where our tree proudly stood each year is bare, the fireplace naked without the garlands that normally adorn it. But still, I have come to understand that there is one tiny corner of my broken heart where the spirit of Christmas still shines as bright as ever, if not more brightly. In all of the heartache, all the loss, all the memories, there is one thing that remains, the birth of Jesus. The birth of hope, of unconditional love and of new beginnings. This is something I don’t want to keep stored away this year, like our once loved decorations, now kept out of sight. No, this is something I don’t want to hide from.
I have been thinking a lot about why Christmas is stiring so many difficult feelings in me.
Christmas is an extremely nostalgic time that is about being with the ones you love. We share cards and presents with loved ones, letting them know that they are precious to us. We come together and celebrate our love for each other. Christmas is a wonderful time but at points in our lives it can also feel pretty cruel.
I have become aware, more this year than ever, of how advertisers play on the sentiments of Christmas. The stores and television commercials are riddled with heartbreakingly sentimental songs. Songs about coming home for Christmas, of being with your loved ones at Christmas, of counting down until we are back with those we love at Christmas. Gulp.
How difficult it can be for those who are grieving, for those who have lost loved ones. How hard it must be for those who are battling illness and their families. At times in our lives the sentimentality of the Christmas season can feel overwhelming and unwelcome.
But still, in the midst of the sadness I feel this Christmas, I have hope in my heart. One thing that remains and hasn’t been lost is hope. The hope in my heart is bigger than it has ever been and it sustains me. I will get through this Christmas and look at it as precious time with family and as a time of finding peace.
Above all, I will look at this Christmas as a time to truly reconnect with its real meaning. Stripped back, bare and simple.
Simple, like that stable where Jesus was born. It didn’t have bows, tinsel, bells and twinkling lights but in that place everything began. It was a place where new life became possible. God sent his Son to us, to offer us all a promise of new beginnings.
It is for this reason that the spirit of Christmas remains unshakable in my heart.
I was so touched this week when Gina from alifelesslived kindly reached out to me with a song that has helped her through some very difficult times. It really spoke to me and gave me peace. I would like to share this with you and it is my hope that no matter what you are facing, it will help you too.