A prayer to get us through the Holidays…
Last night I finally did something I was dreading doing, I put up my Christmas tree. In my heart I was almost thankful the boys were too busy to help me as I knew it was going to be hard. I wanted to spare them the pain of unpacking Elliott’s ornaments and his stalking.
As much as we try to pretend that things are normal now, we constantly face reminders that they are not. I often run into people that ask me how Elliott is doing that have not heard about what has happened. I used to try to explain things, now I just say he is not well and he needs your prayers. I then often sit in my car and cry afterward. I still get mail for my son at times and salesmen still call my house looking for my son. All these things tend to remind me that my son is not here, and only God knows when he will be home again.
As I pummeled through the worn out Christmas tree box and hastily packed away ornaments from last year, I intentionally slowed down and took my time. I kept reminding myself that I made it through his birthday, the 9th. It was a morbid type of inner pep talk I used to pump myself up to handle decorating this tree – reminding myself that I had already conquered the one year anniversary of his first suicide attempt, incarceration and his now passed 23rd birthday. I was mentally preparing myself to face another Christmas without him, as I lovingly separated bulbs and silver glittered ice cycles.
I finally unpacked his ornaments and his stalking. Each one holding memories of a different time. A happier time before schizophrenia presented itself. A time when I looked forward to him coming home with such anticipation. A time when we sat at the table and used glue and glitter to customize these very bulbs and stalkings. A time that seems so very long ago. It only reminded me that if the state of Florida were to get their way – my son may never come home again.
I forced myself to decorate it anyway. I reminded myself that I do have other children and they want to have a semi-normal Christmas. They need the tree to do that, they need their lives to resume. So I proceeded to trim the tree in tears, the past 23 Christmas’ flooding through my mind in flashbacks of past presents, Christmas trips, and the thousands of “good times” we had as a whole family before Dec. 6, 2017 changed our lives forever.
And the the Lord reminded me that I am not alone in my suffering…
I started to think about all the parents whose children will not be home for Christmas this year because they are now deceased – and will never come home again. Their seriously mentally ill children may have completed suicide, died at the negligence of their care providers, been killed by the police or died while incarcerated. Some untreated mentally ill children passed away in sad silence on a street corner or an alleyway, finally succumbing to the elements. There are thousands of people who have passed away because of our absolute negligence as a country to care for their psychiatric needs, and there are literally thousands more right now that are at risk to not make it through until Christmas next year.
Many grieving parents will be facing what I am facing this year, the absence of a loved one at the Holiday season. Some absences will be due to incarceration, some can be attributed to involuntary or voluntary psychiatric commitments, others over the vagrancy of a child and others, unfortunately, will be mourning the actual death of their SMI child.
This is a time when we are taught to be cheerful, thankful and full of the Christmas spirit. This inner expectation to be happy despite our inner sorrow compounds the situation. We have others to think of, other children and perhaps spouses, that expect us to decorate, shop and wrap presents – in spite of our own needs. The pressure to make sure the Christmas show must go on can be immense.
As a Minister in my community, I have been invited to several Christmas Contadas, Christmas Choir Performances, and Holiday Celebrations and Parties. Everyone in attendance is always in that trademark Christmas cheer. People are dressed in their Sunday best, smiles galore, as children happily anticipate all the glory of what this time of year represents to them. It is a beautiful time of year, and yet at times, it is hard to feel the beauty myself.
It is in those times I gently remind myself to focus on the things that eternally matter. That the Bible tells us that this world is temporary and so are our afflictions. I remind myself to focus on the fact that Christmas is about the birth of our Lord and Savior, that in him there is always hope, and that in him we have eternal life. That even in the event of physical death, my child will be redeemed into his loving arms. That he has given Elliott the most precious and powerful and priceless of all gifts already – the gift of salvation. That his hand is upon Elliott, even in jail. As the old hymn tells us that his eye is even on the sparrow, how much more so is it on his child, Elliott.
I understand the feeling of trying to make yourself happy, it doesn’t really work all too well. Happiness can seem fleeting, it is, of course, a temporary emotion but the joy of the Lord is something else. The joy of the Lord can overpower even the deepest of sorrows we may experience in this lifetime if we learn to lean on the Lord in prayer and in faith. I want to let you know that I understand this season is not always that joyous for a multitude of different reasons, but I want to encourage you that the Lord does care and he is there, ready to help you in your deepest times of inward darkness.
Please pray this prayer with me if you too are having a less than Merry Christmas in 2018 for whatever reason, know that God loves you and he is there willing and able to comfort you.
Dear Heavenly Father,
As this Christmas approaches Father, I ask that you guard my mind and my emotions against the feelings of sorrow or sadness that sometimes dwell within me over the situations in my life that cause me pain. I know that your heavenly hand is in my situation and that you want to give me the peace that passes all understanding, Lord. I pray for that peace right now, a peace that transcends the veil of sorrow and brings comfort to my aching heart. Lord, you understand my human shortcomings, you understand my situations and my limitations here in this world and I ask that you give me your strength to walk through the Christmas season with gladness and a joy that I know only comes from you.
Heavenly Father, heal my heart, bring peace to emotions and make still my mind. Send the Holy Spirit to comfort me in my deepest emotional and spiritual needs. Giving my heart and soul that much needed peace and solace that only comes through you. I pray for all those that during this holiday season find themselves having a hard time finding the joy of the Lord. I ask that you renew their faith in you, replace their human weakness with your God strength, and carry me through to a New Year with a refreshed spirit, filled with your love, grace, and mercy for all.
I pray in the Holy name of Jesus Christ,