3707861693_e0bcb09bfc_zThe first few Christmases after my sons died were unbearable. Having Jesus as a baby, when you have no baby in your arms, was incredibly difficult. Seeing pregnant Mary hurt. Here she was, with apparently no difficulties carrying a baby to term despite being a teenager, living as a nomad and giving birth in an unsanitary barn! At the time, I saw my childlessness as proof that God probably hated me.

My rainbow daughter was born just before Christmas, and I approached the holiday under the illusion that it would be perfect. After all the pain and stress I had been through to have her, after all the grief and sorrow of the previous Christmases, there was no way I would be denied!

And yet, Christmas still wasn’t perfect. My expectations were shattered as I still struggled with depression, still desperately grieved my sons. Yes, my daughter was here, but my boys were not and it seemed everywhere I turned was a reminder of that fact. A 6-week old baby doesn’t really understand Christmas, so my rainbow daughter wasn’t ready to celebrate with us. I was exhausted, crying all the time, and angry at myself for not being the perfect mother I always thought I would be. The model of Mary as beatific mother was just a huge trigger for all the things that I am not!

I’m trying to be kinder to myself at Christmas. I’m trying not to worry if the decorations look more like the Dollar Store exploded than an HGTV set. Or that I used store-bought pies to serve for dinner. Or the kids didn’t get the gifts they wanted because I refuse to buy any electronic product that sings (seriously, who invents this stuff?!? Not parents!) I’m not singing in the Choir at church because I can’t handle the stress. And I will do all my Christmas shopping online because I hate crowds. And that’s ok.

Since that first Christmas, my faith has recovered too. I know many people on this site are of different faiths, or no faith at all. Some of us haven’t come back to the faith of our childhood as a direct result of losing a child. I get that. This is often a blow from which faith does not recover. So how did I do it? Or maybe, why did I do it?

The how is slow and methodical. They call it ‘practicing’ a religion for a reason, because there are times in your life when you are just going through the motions. But I continued to go to church and to pray even though I felt nothing because a tiny part of me said…maybe. And slowly over time, I began to feel that little tiny part of me grow.

They why is more complicated, but I can only say for me that in losing my sons I already felt that I had lost the whole world. I simply couldn’t face losing one more thing. And I wanted desperately to believe that I would see my sons again and my faith provided for that belief.

My husband is an atheist. Or not, because I don’t think he has ever articulated what he does or does not believe, even to himself. He was not raised in a church, doesn’t understand why I would want to go, and doesn’t see a reason for faith. Even in losing our sons, he doesn’t see the promise of heaven as anything worthwhile. And while I have a hard time understanding that, I can see it as a normal response to a situation that is anything but normal.

Wherever you are in your journey through life, as a spiritual person (or not), as a pregnant mother, as a grieving mother, this time of year can be hard. The weight of expectations can be heavy upon us. So take things one day, one hour, one step at a time. Christmas too, shall soon be over.

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