When Holidays Hurt

Entering into the holiday season it would be easy to do some sappy, pretty worded sharing of all the things I’m grateful for (and I am!) but that would be to expected and not raw or real.  So let’s be real!

What happens when holidays hurt?

I suppose we could launch off on all the ways you could hurt during the holidays.  Grieving a loss would top the list.  The obvious loss of a loved one (person or pet), finances, possessions, dreams.  These are all reasons that cause grief, pain and loneliness.

The bottom line is we have encountered the loss of joy.  The loss of expectations being met, the expectations can be impossible ideals or very real and valid needs.

I remember many painful holidays.  Probably to many to list, we had the Thanksgiving morning at 5 a.m. announcing the death of my Mother in law.  We were numb, I made the turkey, we didn’t want to tell the kids that day, we thought we could “be strong” and hold out until the next day.  Boy was that a dumb impossible idea!

The many pained holiday seasons with issues from my daughter having multiple disabilities and her quadriplegia CP, seizures etc. causing the reality of life to meet the ideals of holidays in a train wreck leaving little sanity in tack.

There was the Christmas Eve we took our family pet to the ER and had the Christmas morning phone call that he had died.  No faking it through that one – I didn’t even bother trying to make the turkey meal.  I think we had turkey about 3 days later just so it wouldn’t go to waste.

The Thanksgiving with a table with few if any people sitting around it or people but little food or food that was burnt, raw, dropped on the floor….

There is the painful and awkward Christmas gift you bought someone and it just sits there because they died a week before Christmas or the family fight means you won’t be seeing them or exchanging gifts after all.

One of the worst was entering Christmas with my son lost and on drugs.  Wondering if he was dead or alive, wondering how I would ever be able to be “strong” for my other kids.  How would I decorate a tree, wrap gifts, make cookies, sing (really – there is no way to sing!)?  That Christmas was a game changer.

I was in my room trying to wrap gifts and crying (bawling actually) but crying out to the Lord (best way to cry).  I have wrapping paper in front of me that says “Merry Christmas” and I am next to screaming in my heart to God “HOW?  It isn’t possible!”  I am cutting the paper to the size of the box and the scissors go through the word Christmas making it say “Merry Chris” (my son’s name is Chris).  I thought I’d lose it, I decided this was a perfect example to show God how impossible it really is.  I said “See!  You can’t even SPELL Christmas without Chris!”  I think Jesus must of jumped up out of His throne seat with absolute joy, beaming at the opportunity I just opened myself up to because this is what I heard next (and it was a game changer).

“Well, I guess you didn’t see the “t” -you know, that letter that looks like the cross.”

Have you ever heard a sentence and it just flooded you with such open eyed wonder and  understanding it’s as if you heard a multitude of things all at the same time?

I could hear in that one sentence things like:  “I know your pain, My son died also”,  “It isn’t about having anything – family, gifts, cookies, it is ALL about the cross”,  “The joy of the LORD is your strength” and on and on and on.  It was an ah-ha moment.  It was a chance to choose to focus on Christ.  To put into practice all those pretty little words I say and sing “I surrender all”, “Rejoice in the LORD always and again I say rejoice”, “I will praise you through the storm”,”it is well with my soul” the list can become endless.  And I am not alone, King David, Jesus, Moses, Job, Paul….. there is a book of history written in which time and time again in the midst of loss and pain and suffering broken hearts are given a choice between being sensitive or turning cynical.

I love Psalm 42:1-11

These verses in particular are good to meditate upon if you are entering a holiday with grief:

Psalm 42:3  My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where [is] your God?”

4 When I remember these [things], I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And [why] are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him [For] the help of His countenance.

It is my prayer that you can be real.  Be fair to yourself, open up the Pandora’s box of emotions (dangerous as they are) and lay them before the LORD.  He is big enough to handle it.  He knows you better than you know  yourself and He is waiting to walk you through your sorrows, He alone can turn your sorrow into joy.  He can give you reason to be thankful, for He alone – if nothing else existed, is reason enough to be thankful.

If you are hurting, crying, dying then close your eyes and take a deep breath and thank the Lord for breathing the breath of life into your lungs.  I have had learned (the long 40 years in the desert way) that the sacrifice of praise is just that – I praise whether things are right or wrong, it is my sacrifice to the Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving!






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