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Katie’s Musings: Blue Christmas

Katie Miller
December 20 2018

My dad hated Christmas.  Like, really hated it.  Mom says it’s because his mother was always sick at Christmastime, making it difficult for him to feel festive.  I say it was because Christmas always meant a lot of stress and work, and he hated anyone having to make an extra fuss over anything.  Hence his dislike of the holiday.

Dad said he was just a humbug.  Which may have also been true.

The first Christmas after he died, my mom, sister, and brother-in-law packed it up the day after Christmas and headed for a giant cabin near Eureka Springs, AR.  We’d heard it was a nice place to visit around Christmas – smaller crowds, no snow, and lots of touristy wandering to do, fit to distract a family experiencing its first Christmas with an empty chair.  So we did all the touristy things, like buying assorted musical instruments from the quirky little instrument shop on the square, and we joked about how Dad’s hatred of Christmas was one of his parting gifts to us.  Harvest time may always be difficult because that was dad in his element, but I always assumed Christmas would be different, thanks to Dad and his dedication to his Grinch status.

We’re on Christmas #3 now.  It is my long-awaited sweet nephew’s first Christmas, which its own kind of magic.  He’s obsessed with Christmas lights and the fireplace, and he lights up whenever we FaceTime and I greet him with a, “Hi buddy!  I love you!”  And Mom has done so many renovations that she essentially has a new house now, big enough to house a giant Christmas tree and to host the whole extended family for the holiday, something she’s dreamed about for as long as I can remember.  My church’s Christmas Pageant went off without a hitch, the kids did absolutely awesome, and I’ve got Christmas shopping done, which is a Christmas miracle unto itself.  My house is kind of a mess, but, to quote the wisdom of Kevin McAllister, “other than that, I’m in good shape.”  

Except…

I have to admit that I was wrong about the whole grief and “Christmas would be different” thing.  (I’ve been wrong about grief a whole lot, so it’s not a huge surprise.) The problem is that, as Grinch-y as dad could be, he was our Grinch.  And he was there.  And he should still be there, to see all this new stuff.  And the fact that he’s not there is amplified at the holidays. 

Amplified by smiling, complete families who don’t realize their own luck.
(And why should they?  I never did.)

Amplified by angry, fighting families who you can’t help but want to grab by the shoulders and say, “You realize you only get one shot at this whole family thing, right?!”
(And you should not throw away your… shot.  #hamilton)

Amplified by being aware how selfish all of that is.
(Grief can be selfish.  Even a couple years later.  *shrug*)

All of which is SUPER amplified by being a minister and therefore totally realizing that family systems theory exists for a reason and humans and our relationships with one another are way more complicated than any of this might suggest, not to mention the general awkwardness that always accompanies grief.
But who said grief was rational? 

Oh yeah.  No one who isn’t selling something.  Because it’s not. 
It’s a cluster map of suckiness, and it hits you at weird times.  Particularly when you think you’ve got it beat and MOST particularly when the contrast between “griever” and “happy people” is set on high.  Like at Christmas time.

All this is to say that if this is you, too… I see you.
And I’m sorry, I don’t have an answer because I don’t actually think there is one.
I think it’s just going to be difficult.
And I’m sorry for that, too.
But here’s a hug, if you’re a hugger.  *hug*
Here’s a handshake/awkward shoulder pat if you’re not.  *handshake/awkward shoulder pat*
Talk to someone if you can.  (I can count as someone.)
You’re not alone in feeling this way, and I hope you can be gentle with yourself.  Consider this my annual reminder:  there’s no wrong way to deal with grief.
Just don’t do drugs.
Or get arrested.
Or anything that would get you on the news in a negative capacity.

Good tidings of comfort and joy to you all this holiday season.
Be gentle with yourselves.  I’ll try and do the same.  <3