When the Holidays Hurt
We are honored to have Chelsea Ritchie guest blogging today. Chelsea shares her life and heart over at Trials Bring Joy, where she reflects on her experience with infertility and her relationship with her Savior. She is also an author of In the Wait, a devotional focused on helping women grow closer to God during seasons of wait. After nine years of infertility and multiple miscarriages, Chelsea and her husband are thrilled to be expecting twins. Chelsea is also hosting a giveaway of our "Ring with Hope" Christmas ornament and In the Wait. Head to her instagram page to enter the giveaway and to follow along with Chelsea.
At Christmastime, when my little sister and I were younger, we would play the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on repeat and reenact scenes of the song.
“Now you be the mom and I’ll be the daughter.”
“Now you be a soldier and I will be the family.”
“Now you be the husband and I will be the wife.”
And we’d sing it over and over and over again to one another with dramatic hand gestures and deep embraces, and by the end of each run through, our little 4 and 8 year old faces would have tears streaming down them, as we felt the sorrow in these lyrics. It was then, at a very young age, that I learned for some, the holidays may be really difficult and heart wrenching.
And yet, that truth became more real to us in 2012, when on Christmas day, after sharing the news of our first, long anticipated pregnancy with our families, I began to miscarry. And for us, our world began to mix with sloppy, unending grief on this very special day.
The Christmas’s after have been difficult. Memories of that first Christmas Eve, carrying our baby to parties and church services, without anyone knowing the joy inside me, were so special, yet heartbreaking. There was a new emptiness on Christmas now, a missing, a longing. Christmas Day would bring anxiety, random fear of going to the bathroom, so afraid to see blood, even though my womb was empty. This holiday of comfort and joy was laced with sorrow and tears. And yet, we threw smiles on our faces, afraid to let anyone know, afraid to even recognize the pain ourselves.
And for many of you reading this today, you understand. You go through the motions, bake the cookies, stuff the stockings, battle the shopping mall crowds, light the candle at church, and yet, inside your heart is aching and breaking, feeling the grief and longing for what could have been.
Friends, we have all learned that grieving takes time, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Around the holidays especially, we seem to put added pressure on ourselves to stuff the aching down, ring the bells and attend every event with a smile. But I am here to remind you today to take care of yourself. If you need to curl up on the couch and cry, do it. If you need to scream as loud as you can, bring a pillow into bed and scream. If you need to pick up a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and watch bad reality TV, eat away. If you need to invite a friend out to a comedy movie to laugh and laugh and laugh, call them. Be immensely gentle with your heart and give yourself the freedom to take care of you.
It’s hard to put yourself first, but healing comes when you allow yourself the chance to deal with it. Trust that those around you know you are doing the best you can.
For us, healing means taking our grief to the cross each and every day, leaving it at His feet and knowing that He can handle it, even if we have no words left to say. In the months and years following our first miscarriage, we lost another two babies. And I have learned that God is big enough for all my questions, compassionate enough to take me in His arms and hold me close, and gentle enough to speak truth into my heart, reminding me that even though to sorrow is great, He hasn’t forgotten us.
Many of us have a scar on our heart, of those who we have loved that are no longer with us. Those scars are beautiful, they will mark us forever, change us for the good. They show that we have loved deeply, but also, that healing is possible. So go ahead and have hope this Christmas season, that God is still good despite the pain, and that we are never, ever alone.