Joy In Spite Of The Holidays: Part 3: When You And Your Children Are Sad During The Holiday
It's the most wonderful time of the year. That's what we keep hearing, anyway. For many people, it is true. Unless events around you have become oppressive, overwhelming, or just plain sad. You want to be happy, but you simply do not have the strength. Please be encouraged. It won't be like this forever. You will be happy again. How can you get through this? Here are some ideas that I have used. Read and know that you will be okay.
I can still remember waking up on those mornings feeling as though I just couldn't do it. The sleep I somehow managed to get had done nothing to take away the heavy weight that had settled in my heart, and despair was becoming my closest companion. I honestly couldn't remember the last time I woke up ready to face the day ahead. I felt like Sisyphus; the character of Greek mythology that was forced to push an enormous boulder up a hill for all eternity. No discernable progress, and the boulder rolled back down every time it got near the top. I was discouraged, lonely, frightened, sad. At Christmas. With children.
If you are in a dark place now, stop and breathe deeply. Feel the breath going in and out of your body. Now, read this and believe it: As I write this I am praying for you sweet mama. Rest in that thought for a moment. A woman that you don't even know is praying for you right now. Praying for your heart, your circumstances, your children. You are held by a loving God, and He is near. Even if you can't feel it, He is keeping you intact.
You may wonder how women of faith can be in such turmoil. Especially at a time that, traditionally, is a season of joy, goodwill, peace, celebration, and generosity. I have never been able to satisfactorily reason through this. But I take comfort in knowing that the Bible is full of people who were in despair and yet were blessed and used mightily by God. People who experienced deep grief, but were then blessed beyond measure.
Joy and despair each have their seasons in our lives. Each has its purpose for our greater good and God's ultimate glory. But still, times of hopelessness and grief are hard to bear and heavy to carry. You are desperate for a bit of Christmas joy. Where can you find it? Can you find it? Has joy gone forever? Take heart. Joy remains. Joy always overcomes despair.
There are many ways to let little glimmers of Christmas joy in through the cracks of your broken spirit. Even small rays of light will help brighten the hope that has grown dim. There probably won't be an amazing breakthrough that instantly makes all your cares disappear (that's a Hallmark movie, not real life) but you will experience moments of happiness if you allow yourself to. Leave the door open for joy and joy will come in. Don't resist happiness, even if happiness has not come easily for a long time. Stand ready to embrace it.
Here are a few things that I did to keep myself and my children celebrating the Christmas season even when the world seemed dark and empty.
Do the favorite things. Keep the traditions going. Decorate the tree together while watching Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer. Bake cookies. Have cocoa and watch a Christmas movie. Wear the matching pajamas. Sing the songs. Stay in the habit of making Christmas happy even when you don't feel like it. Stand up to despair and meet it head to head with activities that are associated with joy.
Accept the invitations. It is very tempting to lean into the exhaustion that often accompanies sadness, and then decline invitations or activities that would help you and your children enjoy a few hours. Having a good time is a good distraction from the issues that are disrupting your holiday. Go and play. Invite friends in. Join the fun. Be in the Christmas play. Go caroling. Build a gingerbread house. Then eat it. Try a new recipe. Bring out an old recipe from your family history. Let happiness in.
Remember happy times. Tell your children your happiest Christmas memories. What was the best Christmas gift you ever received? Were you ever in a Christmas play? What was that like? Tell your children about their first Christmas. What did you give them? Who was there? What did you do? What do you remember about that time? Tell all the happy things. Talk about funny things. Tell a few Christmas jokes. Here's one to get you started. "If athletes get athletes' foot, what do astronauts get? Mistletoe!" Laughter lifts the spirits and boosts the happiness hormones in your body. Go out of your way to smile and laugh. Even when you don't feel like it.
Christmas has a purpose. The holidays of winter were not born in a vacuum. They were born of supernatural events. God reaching down to His people and giving eight days of light from one day's worth of oil. God reaching out to His people with the miraculous birth of a baby that would change all of human history. Think about this. If the spark of faith that is within you has begun to grow cold, give it some fuel. Consider what the holiday season is to billions of people on the earth. For the vast majority of people the holidays are a time not for buying things, but for worshipping God and giving thanks for His presence in our lives. Lean in to faith. Give it a chance to truly blossom in your heart. Go to church or synagogue. Speak to those who are strong in the faith of your people. Ask them to explain their faith.
I have had a few very dark and sad Christmas seasons. I thought that happiness had gone away. But I kept on inviting happiness to return. It wasn't easy, but it was worth it. I remember very well those difficult days, and I am certain that I will have others. But I stood up in sadness and did what I could. The Lord did the rest. He carried me through it all.
If you are having a sad holiday season, know and believe that you will be happy again. Make room in your life, your heart, and your mind for happiness to come back to you. These sad times don't have to define you. They will pass and you will remember them. And you will be grateful and celebrate even more. Stand strong this year. Celebrate what you can.