Merry Christmas! How was your holiday? Was it wonderful and peaceful? Was all calm and bright? Or did your plans go awry?
It’s okay. So did Mary and Joseph’s.
In all seriousness, the post-Christmas blues are pretty common, but they can be especially difficult when you throw special needs into the mix. Sometimes it feels like our version of the “perfect Christmas” is pretty small. Maybe it's just a holiday at home instead of at the hospital. Or being able to make it through mass as a family. Usually, we're not looking for something magical, we're just hoping for a bit of happy normal.
I love planning. Come to my house and you'll find two notepads, several different color-coded calendars, and a chalkboard. They are all full of plans, lists, and schedules. God is slowly teaching me that it's good to make plans, but it's important to be able to set those aside if He calls me in a different direction. Even if my plans seem pretty awesome. Even if they worked before. Even if I spent a really, really long time making them.
I think having a child with special needs has thrown an interesting spin on this part of my personality. In one sense, I plan even more rigorously than I used to. Going over to someone's house feels like a military mission: do we know the territory? Is it safe? Do we have the necessary provisions? What's our exit plan? Yet even with all of that preparation, I know so well that a simple outing can end in disaster. I’m not as devastated or surprised that my plans have gone awry (most of the time).
So here we are a couple days after Christmas. And maybe it didn't go as you planned. It might feel like you didn't get to really have Christmas. Maybe you feel pretty let down.
It’s easy to get stuck in these feelings. I can quickly convince myself that I’m powerless to change my situation and that I’d better just suck it up and move on. I don’t think that’s in God’s plan for us though. He came to Earth as a tiny child to save our broken world. To bring peace and joy. He came for me, and He came for you.
If your Christmas was disappointing, don’t let that be the end of the story. Our God loves to redeem, if only we’ll let Him. The good news is that Christmas is not just one day, it’s a season. The big day may have passed, but you still have a lot of time to make beautiful memories with your family and celebrate the joy of our Savior’s birth.
A Christmas Re-do How-to
Acknowledge your sadness and bring it to God. He knows. He wants to comfort you. Perhaps you can even sneak out for a holy hour in the beautifully decorated church?
Back up a little and figure out what was really important to you. What was your heart longing for? Was it time with extended family that somehow didn’t happen? Was it a peaceful mass? Was it just one nice picture? Is there a way you could still get what you really wanted, even if the particulars have to change a little?
Maybe what I had originally hoped for just isn’t going to happen this year. Can I let go of that and plan something new?
Do something kind for someone else. When I can’t shake the post-Christmas blues, I try to remember that this can be a difficult time of year for a lot of people, not just me. Is there something I could do, however small, to bring joy to someone else? I sometimes forget that even with all of the limitations surrounding the special needs of my family, I can still bless others. It doesn’t take a lot of money or time to make someone feel loved. You can even get your whole family involved.
This year, I’m planning (as in, I’m writing it on my color-coded calendar) a Christmas do-over. In the day or so after Christmas, I’m going to take a breath, sit with a cup of coffee, and try to figure out what kind of joy God wants to give my family and I in the rest of the Christmas season. Join me?
Jane Stanley is a wife and mother to five children. She reads, writes, and homeschools in Central Virginia.