Thursday, December 12, 2013

Giving Grace: a Hall Pass for the Holidays

Just before Christmas 2005, Dan and I were in the waiting room of our Fertility Clinic awaiting yet another round of "trying."  I had been a regular in this room for months by this point, so not much of the reading material was new... except for a pamphlet they had out that talked about "Protecting Your Heart During the Holidays."  I read through it and felt as though someone understood our struggle.  It talked about giving yourself grace during a season that could be potentially difficult.  It mentioned giving yourself permission to skip walking by the Santa in the mall and seeing all the happy families with sweet babies waiting to see him.  It went as far as to say that if being around your own niece and nephews would be too hard, to excuse yourself from that year's holiday celebration.  While I was not about to walk away from our family's traditions, I imagined that having that "hall pass" was helpful to some people even further down the road than we were.

The "protecting your heart" theme has run rampant in my life in the last 2 years, and especially since we lost our baby in April.  I have had conversations with friends who have new precious children in their lives and apologized that I've not been in a place where I've been able to love upon them yet.  I've struggled with buying baby gifts- not at all because I begrudge them their happiness, but because at moments I've still been drowning in our own sorrow.  Friends who were due the same time I was, in full disclosure, were hard for me to see.  As their baby bellies grew and then became amazing miracles in their families, all that was growing for me was the vacant space in my heart.

Through the years, that brochure has popped back into my mind on occasion.  There have been moments that while they are non-baby related, I've relied on those same words.  In 2010, I was about six weeks out from losing my Stepmother to cancer, and I found myself stuck in a room where people were making jokes about death and dying.  I piped in and asked if we could change the subject.  I'm sure that it was not intentional, but my pain from that recent loss wasn't on the forefront of their minds.  They continued a discussion about "donating (someone's) body to science"... at which point I left the room.  In that moment, rather than lash out at those speaking, I instead needed to excuse myself.  Grace.

Pain seems to hover just at the surface of the holidays for so many people.  I remember one Christmas Party my family hosted in the early 90's- a friend came who had recently lost her husband.  My Mom was playing "The Carpenters' Christmas Album", and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" came on.  Very gently and tactfully, our friend asked my Mom to skip that song.  When Mom skipped ahead to "Merry Christmas, Darling" and saw a similar look of pain in our friend's eyes, she jumped ship and moved on to The Beach Boys instead.

So with all of that hurt ready to erupt during "the most wonderful time of the year", I give you your very own hall pass.  While you may not need to use it now, please understand that someone in your life might... and please accept their pass with grace and and understanding of all that it took to have them present it to you.

-Too hard to be around kids because you find yourself longing for one or missing one of your own?  Say no to the activity that will cause yourself pain.  The kindhearted people who invited you will understand your need to miss a year.

- Miss your spouse/partner/ex so much it hurts? Skip the "Couples Only" event where there will be lots of laughter and memories shared in lieu of some pampering just for yourself.

- Can't be around certain family members because they say hurtful things?  Excuse yourself from those painful situations.  It's okay.  They're family.

- Don't feel like hosting even though you always do and people expect it?  Let someone else take on that burden this year.  Shoot, go out to eat for once!  It's one year- people will survive.

- Just don't think you can handle one more sad holiday at home?  As a wise friend said to me last week- "I knew I'd be sad at Christmas, so I told my husband I'd rather be somewhere sad... and WARM."  Take off!  Get out of town!  Or even take a day trip to get you out of that memory drenched location.

- Old traditions too hard to handle because someone won't be there?  Make new traditions!  One of my favorite holiday traditions- our neighborhood Christmas party- was started because my Dad had just moved out and Mom wanted to do something fun and new.  She succeeded... even with the occasional music fail.

Now one caveat in the way of a warning: just like "Baby Blues", sometimes "Holiday Blues" are a much deeper seated issue.  Rather than just escape or hide or run- if you are at a place of significant pain, please get professional help.  Don't know who to talk to?  Message me- I have good connections with some mental health professionals.

Protect your heart this Christmas.  Use the Hall Pass when you need to.  Accept the Hall Pass when it's given to you.  Give grace, receive grace.

And God bless us... everyone.

No comments: