when holidays hurt

broken ornamentMy husband’s family lost both mom and dad in the last year. Christmas will feel empty at times, like something is missing… because they are gone. There will be a longing in our hearts, tears in our eyes, and arms aching to hug someone who is not there.

My friends have not had any contact with their daughter for 10 years. They can not see or communicate with their grandchildren. They don’t know what they did. They also lost a younger son to cancer over five years ago. Family gatherings are not easy for them. Pain is always there.

Special friends are terminally ill. My mom is battling cancer. I am so very grateful she is with us this year – we did not dare to hope that a year ago, but treatments make celebrations difficult: energy is low, appetite is gone, fears of the future lurk in the corners of our mind.

My sister’s son lives far away. He is making life choices that are not the best. She worries about him and struggles with how to respond and relate to him – words chosen carefully, trying to show more love and less disapproval, but it is hard. Even a phone call takes more emotional energy than is available at times.

Lack of money stresses others. How to explain to the pleading eyes of a child that “Santa” will not bring that new toy? How to help a teenager understand that the new trendy phone is not in your budget, and they do not “need” what “all” their friends already have?

Even inner battles over how to celebrate can plague us. How many presents do we buy? How much do we spend on (more!) decorations? How many parties do we attend? How much food do we eat? … when we know others around the world have no clean water, or food, or shelter… How do we reconcile marketing pressures with message focus?

Tears and laughter are both part of our life-long journey. No one is exempt. A very wise man once said…  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

I have a burden on my heart to pray for those who hurt this year – that they will have someone near to share a shoulder to cry on and hold them in a hug that says that they are loved. Maybe in some cases, that someone will be me.

I also want to delight in the sweet and happy moments of this year and live them to the fullest – not let petty, insignificant things steal my joy or lose my focus… savor every decoration, Christmas carol, and special flavor, and store them as deposits in my soul… because one day I will need to draw from them… or share them with others.

Is there pain in your heart this year?

How do you help others when they are hurting?