Christmas time, as the song goes, is a time of joy and cheer. For me, it serves as a reminder of a specific Christmas season four years ago; the year that everything changed. It was a major fork in the road for me, and as Yogi Berra says, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it” and take it I did.
There are two specific days that I remember those four years ago. The first was his 16th birthday. It was a joy-filled day. I let my son play a little “hooky” from school while I took him to get his driver’s permit. I remember how we high-fived when he got enough questions correct to be granted his permit (he hadn’t studied for the written part of the test, so we went in with fingers crossed). It had snowed while we were in the DMV office, so instead of him driving back, I drove him back to school. Funny the things you remember. We took a detour on the way back to school and enjoyed lunch. We smiled and laughed and things felt different, better. His dark mood and heavy emotions, which had been a dominating force for the month prior, seemed to have lifted. I exhaled somewhat thinking that maybe this is where it all would turn the corner and we’d get back on a good track.
The second day I remember was the 23rd of December and somehow, out of the blue, or at least out of the blue for me, the entire world came crashing down around me. I learned things about my son that broke my heart and shattered my confidence as a parent. I learned about some of the ways I had let him down. It was the first of many times that we would find ourselves in the CPEP (Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program) department of our local hospital. My son didn’t feel safe alone with himself and it became immediately obvious to me that we had in fact turned the corner, but it wasn’t the one I was expecting. What followed was a long, difficult journey that took us on the ride of our lives.
Every year, at this time, I think back to those dark and scary days. I know that they were confusing and mind-boggling for me and I can only imagine how my son was feeling inside. Somehow, we made it through some of the toughest stuff either one of us had ever been through but the scars remain, physically and emotionally.
I continue to be haunted by these ghosts of Christmas past. Now, though, I am choosing to see the goodness in the experience. I honor the lessons; I honor the challenges and the path that I was launched down. I am choosing to continue to heal my heart and love the parts of me that still feel damaged and not enough; that still feel somehow responsible. I am practicing gratitude, especially for my sons and for all who stepped in and helped me survive such a difficult time in my life. Most importantly, I am choosing to find the joy in the Season. I’ve made a commitment to myself to create a magical holiday time from whatever I can cobble together if that is what I have to do. What I know to be truth is that no one can steal your joy when you make the decision to be joyful.
Perhaps there will always be a hint of these ghosts that will show up during the Christmas season. Even so, I know that each year, with work and gratitude, the ache will subside.
I want to share this lesson learned with all who are experiencing pain, sadness or despair during this holiday season. Painful emotions have a way of lessening with time, the sun WILL come up again in the morning and there is always someone you can reach out to when you need to know you are not alone.
Sending out wishes for peace, health and healing in this holiday season and the New Year to come.