How The Grief Stole Christmas

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Christmas has always been most special to me, because it was always celebrated near my birthday. Since I was two years old it’s been family tradition to put the tree up on my birthday and we’ve never faltered from that. Christmas ornaments have been collected by me since I was a little girl and I’ve made sure to never lose nor break the ones that mean so much to my heart.

Though after dad left and moved out, Christmas lost its wonderment and magic.  I looked so forward to putting up the tree and celebrating my birthday and the start of Christmas. Let’s face it, Christmas is what a child waits for all year round! When dad left, especially that first year, my mom went through a level of depression I’d never seen before nor knew existed. She lost an extreme amount of weight, lost her smile and her infectious laugh.

Yes my mom was a narcissist and I don’t have many good memories of her, but her smile was big and beautiful and her laugh could be heard miles away. These are a couple of things I’ll always cherish about her.

That first Christmas was rough..and every year after that. Before the divorce on my birthday I would come home from school and find all the Christmas boxes and tree pulled out from the crawl space and in the middle of the living room. Pure bliss would course through my veins! This first year without dad started a landslide for me. I came home from school fully anticipating to find the boxes in the living room, I walked inside with a smile ready to yell “yay”; instead I came home to an empty house and no boxes.

Befuddled, I sat down on the stairs and just stared. About an hour later mom came home with a store-bought cake and a card. Before she had always baked a cake for me and there were always presents to open, but not this year. I was 11 and I was beyond heart-broken. I asked if we were going to put up the tree and she told me that if I wanted to put it up I could have at it on my own, but she wasn’t in the mood.

Now as an adult who suffers with depression, I can completely understand where she was at the time, but as a little girl I felt completely rejected and lost. The divorce was the death of my childhood in so many ways. I couldn’t wrap my head around the rejection and at that moment didn’t realize it was the birth of grief that I have felt every year on my birthday.

I did do just what she said and I dragged those boxes up the stairs one by one. I read the directions for our fake tree and put it together. I wrapped those lights with such care, learned from years of carefully watching my dad. I hung the ornaments with design and meaning. I created a tree of beauty in my eyes and it was lit in brilliant colors.

I finished with decorative nuances around the house, displayed the nativity scene, hung lights in the window and just opened my creative mind. Then I turned all of the house lights off and laid under the tree. As I looked up and gazed at the ornaments I hung inside the tree and the twinkling lights, I day dreamed about being in the movie Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Like Rudolph, I felt rejected, but hoped in the end I would be seen as useful and I would be loved.

From that point forward in my life I made it my tradition and decorated alone every year after that. Each year I hoped she’d join in and want to be a part of “my day”, it never happened. I was a misfit and although I had hope, it didn’t fill the loss deep in my heart.

Friends would invite me over knowing Christmas Eve and Day were hard for me. Their parents knew my life, they knew my loneliness and they knew my grief. They all did their best to include me, I’m still friends with all of these people to this day.

A couple of years I got to spend my birthday with my dad and he made it all Who-ville for me. Singing, laughing, joking around and celebrating. Moments far and few between, but engraved in my memory.

Unlike the Grinch, Joan didn’t try to make it miserable for me, but she sure didn’t try to make it nice either. Her pain was deep and it wasn’t from having a tiny heart like the Grinch.

However, like the Grinch she didn’t want to appear “bad” to Little Cindy-Lou Whoo, so she tried to be kind and complement my decorating. Would brag to her friends about the beautiful job I did. Unlike the Grinch she didn’t steal anything of monetary value, just made me feel robbed of the happiness of family and love.

I never let her see me cry when I was sad, but I was in deep pain. I grieve for the 11-year-old little girl to this day and I still have moments of pure disgust for Joan at Christmas. This year I told 11 year old me that it’s okay now to have been so sad and I had every right to have expected love, excitement and celebration on Christmas tree day. This year my husband surprised me and jumped right in without me having to say anything. He brought all the boxes in, he helped decorate and he celebrated my birthday like we did when I was a little girl. This year is an extremely healing Christmas tree birthday.

Grief on the other hand is an asshole and I hope someday grief see’s how much more important unconditional love is,  and hopefully grief will learn to love and not be so mean.

No matter the gifts, wrapping nor ribbon…I am in awe of the magic of God’s love for me. 

Merry Christmas to you all, now go enjoy your roast beast.

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