You’re not alone this season

Published 10:26 pm Friday, December 6, 2019

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.

I spent a good part of Friday morning lying in bed and silently sobbing. It was the seven-year anniversary of the death of one of my best friends from high school, and her mom had posted on Facebook about that fact. I clicked on my friend’s old Facebook profile and read seven years’ worth of memories from people, including her husband (also a good friend of mine from high school). Once I surpassed the seven-year mark of scrolling, I was reading his regular updates on her declining health during her battle with brain cancer, and then, scrolling backwards somewhere around the end of October 2012, I finally found myself reading some of the last things she had been able to post herself.

I thought of what loss her family must have been feeling that holiday season, and every one since. Eventually, my thoughts drifted to the losses my own family has suffered in the last five years.

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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. There’s also a service of remembrance you can take advantage of. West End Baptist Church, 105 Saint James Ave., is holding one at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 15, and there may be others happening, too.

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.