Monday, December 6, 2010

Have a Holly, Jolly Griefmas

From Crisis Care with Dr. H. Norman Wright, video workbook, pg 89.

From Crisis Care with Dr. H. Norman Wright, video workbook, pg 136.

From Crisis Care with Dr. H. Norman Wright, video workbook, pg 96.

I'm not dreading Christmas... not exactly. It's just that it's accompanied by nausea. It's been harder than I ever imagined to perform simple tasks like making a wish list to give to Jeff's family. Or putting up decorations. Or singing carols.

No one I know is pressuring me to be joyful, but I still feel pressure. My McDonald's to-go coffee cup had "Celebrate the JOY of magic little beans" printed on the outside of it.

A friend of mine suffering similar loss heard "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" on the radio the other day and thought, "Yeah, right."

Christmas cheer even had the power to transform the likes of Ebenezer Scrooge! The joy of giving! The joy of friends and family! The joy of frosted window panes! Be joyful! RIGHT NOW! Have a holly, jolly Christmas!! OR ELSE!!!

They say grief intensifies around special dates and the one-year anniversary. Which is to say that Christmas would be nauseating even if it didn't coincide with Dad's death. Combining the two means there is no possible way I can even begin to handle the pressures of this "joyful" season and simultaneously process all of these normal responses to grief:

*distorted thinking patterns, "crazy" and/or irrational thoughts, fearful thoughts
*feelings of despair and hoplessness
*out of control or numbed emotions
*changes in perceptions (sight, taste, smell, etc.)
*increased irritability
*may want to talk a lot or not at all
*memory lags and mental "short-circuits"
*inability to concentrate
*obsessive focus on the loved one
*losing track of time
*increase or decrease of appetite
*difficulty falling or staying asleep
*dreams in which the deceased seems to visit the griever
*nightmares in which death themes are repeated
*physical illness like the flu, headaches or other maladies
*shattered beliefs about life, the world, and even God

(Excerpted from here.)

Last week, through the general haze created by the above swirl, something made sense to me for the first time. Ever. I'm going to tell you what it is, but it's really going to sound very trite, unless you're as desperate as I am for some semblance of hope to cling to during this oh-so-festive time. Here it is. Are you ready?

Jesus is the reason for the season.

See? I told you it would sound trite.

But it's not. It's hope, actually. Real joy.

The Setting Captives Free Facebook page says it this way:

"Problem-Solution: Lost your job-Jesus. Have cancer-Jesus. Failed relationship-Jesus. Fell into sin-Jesus. Lost your home-Jesus. Getting old-Jesus. Kids left the faith-Jesus. Lonely-Jesus. Enslaved-Jesus. Depression-Jesus. There is not a problem that you can think of that Jesus can't fix, heal, forgive, or restore."

There is not a problem I can think of that Jesus can't fix, heal, forgive, or restore. Forced into Christmas cheer when my heart is screaming? Jesus. Trying to keep from puking while I sing a Christmas carol? Jesus. Can't get "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" out of my head? Jesus. Wish Christmas would go away and never come back? Jesus. Miss my daddy beyond words, and spending last December with him means every minute of this December reminds me of last December and fast-forwards me all day long, over and over again, to the crushing end of it? Jesus.

I will celebrate Christmas this year. I am celebrating it. The tree is up. Decorated. The wish list is done. But this year, I find no joy in magic little beans. I find no joy in "the most wonderful time of the year." I find no joy in frosted window panes or holly being jolly. Those things all make me smile, mind you, and I'm actually having fun with the simple magic of Christmas as my children delight in it, but... joy is this: the incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, reign and return of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, who is not just the reason for the season, but also the only real joy of the season... the only hope of the season... the only lifeline of the season.

And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." ~Luke 2:10-11