Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Other Side of the Holiday Season

When I was folding up the paper bag from my newly purchased bottle of Pinot Grigio, the image of an elephant caught my attention. I thought it had something to do with Africa, but it turned out to be a message about drinking and driving. It was a sobering moment. It got me thinking about how holidays can be an unhappy time for families living with alcoholism.

Holidays and celebrations are often equated with drinking and for some, it means living with parents or spouses who start drinking early on - and keep on drinking until later on. Anxiety can start to creep in at the sight of the liquor bottle on the counter or the drinker having an early morning sip of some of  "the hair of the dog that bit them" (supposedly a cure for a hangover).

It got me thinking about how for many -- Christmas is probably a lonely, sad time of year. I am blessed with an incredibly large, loving clan which means the "small" Christmas gatherings we have every second year still guarantee at least 14 at the table. I have friends that do not have the benefit of a family of such size - and it reminds me not to take mine for granted. There are people who have recently received bad news or lost a loved one, and for them, Christmas may feel hollow and sad. My family had a Christmas like that in 1997.

My Mom passed away a week after her 58th birthday - December 5th. I had small children so needless to say, Christmas went on as usual - as normal as I could possibly make it. My sisters and brother and I did not come together as we traditionally would -- instead we spent quiet time with our respective spouses and children. I think we were all still numb from the funeral and the reality of the loss hadn't fully sunk in. I was writing funeral thank you notes at the same time I was making out my Christmas cards. Surreal.

With the economic pressures on people, the wars being fought, the families being separated, I imagine that this time of year will be a source of stress and pain for many. They need to be remembered; they need people to reach out in love to them; they need the gifts of understanding and caring.

So as I immerse myself in the Christmas joy that is mine -- I will reflect on and remember those who are wrestling with their own challenges, fighting the good fight - and it will deepen my gratitude for all that I have and  who I love in my life. And to anyone for whom Christmas won't be merry -- I will wish  you peace.


  1. My brother-in-law is a high school math teacher and football coach and just last weekend two of his teammates/students were in a car accident - one of the kids died. He was only 17. The other kid was seriously injured. His brother was the driver and he'd been drinking. We, the community, are quite shaken. It's always hard to say goodbye to kids - especially for something so easily prevented. So, I definitely hear your post.

    Also, a year ago Saturday my boss (an amazing woman) died from breast cancer. It was a struggle getting through the holiday season, and she wasn't even my family. So, I can't imagine how horrible it must be to lose someone so dear to you, especially at a time when family is so central.

    Great post Lyn - my heart is with yours.

  2. Oh I understand this one far too well. Both my parents died not long before Christmas many years apart, but even so.
    I was in the middle of treatment for breast cancer this time four years ago.
    and as for my youngest son, well....
    So my little family of me and eldest and my sis and her hubby and her two will all be at the table making the best of it.
    Cause even if it's sad it's about making the magic happen for me. And definately making the best of it.
    So eldest and I will cook together the meal for the others. And the youngest will be with us throughout in our minds and hopes.

  3. I remember the first time someone told me the holiday season was the time of the year with the highest suicide rate. I was stunned.

    Growing up in a large family where the holidays are big deal, I couldn't fathom why. But now, what with more and more people falling into poverty, and the reality of facing Christmas without all of my loved ones at home, I think I can understand it fully for the first time.

    It truly must be terrible for those without family...this time when it is even more evident/prominant than usual. :/

    I think you have a lovely post here, and I agree with your closing sentiments: For those who cannot seem have a merry holiday, let it at least be filled with peace.

  4. A beautiful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking post, Lyn...your compassion and concern for others is inspiring...and I, for one, am grateful for your friendship, and kind words...May God especially bless you this Christmas!! ~Janine XO


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