I look out my window and see a picture perfect landscape covered with fresh snow sparkling in the sunshine, against a backdrop of the spectacular Canadian Rockies and a robins egg blue sky. I smile as I think about Christmas drawing near. The fact that I am smiling makes me smile even more. Because I didn’t always feel that way about Christmas coming. Maybe you don’t either. This is for you. I feel you. I am painfully familiar with the apprehension, anxiety, grief, and even fear over the impending holidays. I won’t go into it all, but I will give you a snapshot.
I was eight years old. I was fascinated by all things Baby Jesus. After all, we almost share a birthday, only two days apart. I read Luke chapter 2 in my Bible over and over again. This story further cemented what I wanted to be when I grew up — a mommy.
I cast myself in the role of Mary. What was she thinking? What was she feeling? What was it like to be promised to a man that chose me over his reputation and respected status in the community? What was it like to nurse that brand new baby knowing he was the King of Kings?
I asked the only person I knew that could give me a frame of reference for all my ponderings. I found my mom in the kitchen at the sink. I really should have thought this through. I knew better, even at age 8. Despite better judgment, I asked The Question.
Mom, how did you feel when you found out you were pregnant with me?
“Hmmph! How do you think I felt? The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed.”
And just like that the happy haze disappeared and harsh reality firmly took hold.
Everything made sense. Every time I had been told by my siblings that I wasn’t wanted. That I was dropped off by the police and they were forced to raise me under pain of imprisonment. Walking into a room — Get Out! Attempting to join a conversation — turn off that radio! That noise is so annoying.
Please understand that I hold no bitterness over those things. I am the youngest sibling of nine. The first eight were born in ten years. They were supposed to be done with babies and crying and diapers. Four years later I appeared. So I get it. I am the outlier looking in on an already complete family. I understand my place and I am comfortable in it. Even more, I am grateful for it. I learned how to stay in my lane. I learned how to build relationships with intention and compassion. My heart is full to overflowing with family who I get to love and who love me and express that love often. I am whole.
At 8 years old I didn’t know any of those things. I just knew God had given me to a family that didn’t want me. My mother provided the final confirmation of this truth. Every Christmas from that moment on required great effort. I sang in the Christmas Program at church. I baked. I wrapped presents. I helped prepare for a house full of people. I smiled and laughed when it was safe to do so. And then I retreated to my room where I could decompress and be at peace. I didn’t know it then, but I was learning how to deal with the long-lasting grief of the loss of feeling wanted and safe in this world.
There have many moments of grief since.
The loss of my grandparents, and my precious Great-Uncle Henry. The loss of my parents. The loss of still-born and newborn nephews. The loss of special family pets. I still miss our little Dusty-Poopers. I also experienced other kinds of losses that required a healthy grief process. The breakdown of my marriage. Raising challenging teens. Expectations that remain unmet.
An unmet expectation is a loss that sometimes requires grief.
I was struggling to parent my young teen. I had a very clear plan for the kind of mother I wanted to be. But I was rejected at every turn. Again. This triggered all kinds of yuck from my childhood that I had yet to understand was connected to current events. All I knew was that I was trying so hard to be the loving, involved, nurturing mom I wished I had experienced. And I was rejected time after time.
My therapist helped me understand that I needed to grieve the loss of my expectation of what being a mommy would look like. That changed everything for me. I wasn’t a bad mom. She wasn’t a bad kid. But she did need a different kind of mom. Kind of like some individuals have a different learning style that we no longer identify as a learning disability, just a different learning style. My kid needed a different parenting style. And it was my job to step up, learn what kind of parenting she needed, and be that mom. Not easy. A long learning curve for sure. But worth it all.
What are you grieving that is stealing your joy?
It’s OK to grieve. It’s not OK to grieve alone. Get with a trusted sister or brother. Call your best friend. Find a therapist. Just PLEASE TALK ABOUT IT!! I give you permission, should you feel the need for permission. And if you don’t have anyone else to talk to about it, you know where to find me. Seriously. Leave me a message in the comments. Let’s talk. I’ll be your sister. Because you matter. And you ARE WANTED! Even if it doesn’t feel like that right now.