Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf © December 2018
Printed in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of December 6.
Each Christmas season, others remind me when I write my feel-good column about the holiday season that many people struggle with the holiday. I decided to be honest and share my issues so that it doesn’t feel as if I am not empathetic with seasonal depression.
As an adult, the fun and joy continued on as my own family grew. I loved decorating the Christmas tree with my children and then with my grandchildren when they were small. Putting up the tree and decorating my home was a family affair. Teaching my kids about the Christmas story and having them participate in the Christmas programs at church was also a highlight and one of the reasons I loved the season.
It is 2018 and times have changed. I no longer have that family here to help me get in the mood for the season. We used to do it when the family was here for Thanksgiving, but now with everyone being so busy, our time together is short if our family get-together even happens. It seems like a struggle to figure out a time to celebrate any holiday as a family.
Six or seven years ago I suffered from an illness and depression, and I did not put one single decoration up in my home. I didn’t even go to church that year. It was a dark time in my life.
The severe depression and illness, through a lot of work, have passed, and I again like the Christmas season, but with it still are feelings of sadness. I miss the hubbub of children helping me with the tree and oohing and awing over Christmas decorations and remembering who made what. My husband isn’t one to get involved except to set up the actual tree. He will help if I twist his arm, but there is no excitement in the task. It just isn’t his thing. It is hard to be excited when you are alone in the feeling.
A couple of years ago, since we never had Christmas at our house anymore but at one of the kid’s homes, we gave our big tree to our son and his family. We now have a small tree that we leave decorated, put in the closet and haul out every year. I no longer cover every nook and cranny with Christmas bauble. But the already decorated tree isn’t the same.
This morning, as I was viewing pictures on Facebook of families decorating trees, I realized part of my sadness at Christmas is because I miss having someone to share the excitement of the season with me. I miss my kids and grandkids helping me with the fun points of making my house feel festive. The other part is me missing those family members who have died, meaning my mom and dad who always joined in the fun too.
We are having Christmas back at our home this year, and I am looking forward to that. I have some decorations up, but they will be mellower. I know I am blessed to not have to spend Christmas alone, and I will have my family with me. The reasonable part of me says it is no big deal to have to decorate by myself and get ready for the hoopla. But yet there is the niggling feeling of missing days gone by — happy times with my mom and dad’s families and those with my children and grandchildren.
Last year, too, was a struggle for a different reason. My best friend, Jan, was in the last days of her life. I marveled at her peace and joy in the season. She taught me to count my blessings, but yet this year I feel sadness she isn’t here to share the season with me. She, too, loved Christmas. I will never look at an Old World Santa without thinking of her. She also loved the hospitality of the season, always hosting friends and family. And her voice — her beautiful voice — lifting in praise and worship at our church or when we were out caroling will never be forgotten. Joy shared with her, together as friends, kept me going. When I was in my depression, she lifted me up and encouraged me to live in the season of love.
I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. That is not the purpose of my sharing this. I have a choice. I know this from the past. I can leave this sadness to overwhelm me, or I can count my blessings and feel grateful. I will tell you, for me, it is work. It is hard work pulling out of the doldrums. I do know writing down what I am grateful for eventually turns into peace. But I also know there will be an occasional day when it won’t work, and I will have to accept the sadness but not let it carry me away. I know how to reach out if I can’t figure it out myself. Each person has to take care of themselves the way that works for them. But if you feel trapped, and can’t work your way to find a little joy in the season, please reach out to a friend, a pastor or a professional. Your life is worth living, and you deserve joy, peace and love that Christmas can bring. It is there if you reach for it.