The holidays get stranger and stranger for me each year. It started in 2014 with the loss of my Papaw right before Thanksgiving. I was in a tough place mentally, struggling with a diagnosis of severe depression. Then the holidays hit one right after the other; Christmas, New Year’s, even my birthday that happens early in the year. To make it worse, there were folks in my life who ignored my struggle and preached the “Don’t be sad, he’s in a better place,” message to me, which made my anger worse and made me resent them. I know the intention was to help, but it did the opposite. In addition, it made me feel like my strong belief in God’s love and eternal life had been compromised just because I was having some bad feelings about life. I was having weird, guilty feelings about being angry even though I didn’t doubt God one single time. I felt judged by people, not God. And for what? Feeling grief. Feeling sadness and pain and anger. Simply feeling. So in 2014, I went into the Christmas season with overwhelming grief and sadness mixed with feeling strongly misunderstood. It was not pretty. It then set the scene for the rest of the following year.
As always, I gave myself plenty of meaningful distractions (that I also happen to love very much) for Christmas. Playing piano and flute and singing at church. Multiple churches actually. Church has always been my favorite on Christmas. I feel all the feelings that I want, and I don’t feel judged. I only feel loved. Over the years, that is the one feeling that has remained the same for me. Physical homes change. Loved ones change, and people fail us. We lose loved ones, and sometimes it feels like all hope is lost. But there is a little church in Mason, WV, always glowing with love and light on Christmas Eve, always welcoming me home. This year I was far away from that church, therefore, far away from that feeling my home church gives me. I was also far away from my family, my friends, my piano and flute, and to make matters worse I became sick with my annual Christmas cold. I was physically removed from everything and everyone that brings me comfort.
However, I did stroll into a church on Christmas Eve here in Paris. It was before midnight mass, sometime in early evening. I slipped in the back of the building, and entered into the glowing sanctuary, hoping for that peaceful feeling. I was unwise to think that a building would give me the feeling. After all, it is the love of God that fills me with that peace. Not a building, an altar, or music, although those are certainly pieces of God too.
I wanted to share this because I want you to know that your feelings of sadness, grief, pain, and anger during the holidays are completely justified. If anyone tells you otherwise, please do not internalize it. Please do not feel guilt over your feelings. You are allowed to grieve. You are allowed to feel pain. You are allowed to miss your loved ones and allowed to feel nostalgia. It is also totally normal to experience conflicting feelings of happiness and grief. You may feel elated over the birth of your new niece and devastation over your loss. You may feel ecstatic about your new love, but distressed over the loss of another. Don’t feel guilty about your happiness either. You are allowed to seek relief, like I did by strolling into that church. No soul is the same. But I will give you this advice: In the midst of your sadness, I hope you find the strength to confront it, however it may be. I hope you find the strength to acknowledge the source and find peace, however that may be for you. For me, it is prayer, meditation, and running. If you are suffering, please feel free to reach out to me. It is my goal to spread love, hope, and peace in 2017. I want to be the light. If you find yourself in the dark, please reach out to me, and I will do my best to help you.
I hope the end of your holiday season is filled with courage. ❤