“Have yourself a merry little Christmas…. let your heart be light”

Well, I can’t; my heart just isn’t merry.

The pleasure of stressing about the timeline of the Advent traditions has to wait. The grocery list. The recipes and baking. The gift list. The Christmas cards. All will have to wait.

My heart is not there. My heart is laying on a set of frozen train tracks somewhere in Romania. How can I put on a smile, laugh and enjoy the scents of Christmas if death still wheezes down my neck and its smell overpowers the cinnamon spice, the whiff of evergreen? It is a complete paradox. Christmas is both my least and most favorite time of the year.

I wonder what my Decembers would have looked like if I hadn’t lost my brother so many years ago. Tragedy during Christmas season is like life has a sick sense of humor.

My brother chose death in December and I can’t get over it. I will never get over it. So every December, my heart wallows in pain.

My brother put a stop to pain and for that, I envy him. I’m still here feeling it in my bones.

I hate that I lost him ten days before Christmas. It freaking hurts.

How does one stop grieving at Christmas?

Before his pain turned him against us, the ones he loved, he chose to give up his own life. I know he loved us, although those damned voices never let him tell it to us again. You see, my brother suffered from schizophrenia. It’s a really crappy way to live. But he loved us so much, that he chose death over hurting us, over listening to that pain telling him to hurt us. I can say that my brother gave up his life so his illness-filled mind won’t make him take mine. So he chose a set of frozen train tracks; and he did it close to Christmas.

The problem of pain has crippled my beliefs since always and I know I’m not the only one. Pain gives birth to a longing within me that cannot be satisfied by this world’s holiday traditions, as much as I love and enjoy them. I could listen to the Hippopotamus Song all day long, I could drown in eggnog, I could scream Holly Jolly at the top of my lungs, I’d still slide back into grief faster than I could say Merry Christmas.

Christmas… Christ. Sacrifice. What is Christmas without Christ? I feel it would be just another season of senseless spending and overindulgement. So thank God for faith. It saves me every time (pun intended).

So I need more than the traditions. I need supernatural help. That’s what Christmas is to me. That’s what Christ’s advent is to me: the coming of help incarnated. The arrival of a perfect ending to my story of loss and grief. I am desperately longing for it. I am craving for a happy ending for my brother’s story too.

And so maybe the fact that my brother chose death in December is not a gruesome prank after all. But an act of grace. Maybe it was so that my heart doesn’t get stuck on those train tracks like a tongue to a frozen pole. Instead it can soar away relieved by the good news that the Hope of the nations came to die for us. The stone was rolled away and I can say “yes, my brother died and it hurts like hell, but I have hope. Pass the mulled wine.”

Merry Christmas. Christ is born.

One thought to “Grieving at Christmas”

  • Arnold Dorenkamp

    Laura you are in our prayers. Wish you were here so could give you a hug. You are so strong to have gone through so much and keep such a good attitude about everything. When we see Jesus he will explain the things that we question and we will understand. You and your family have a blessed Christmas.


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