After watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for the umpteenth time (yes, I have my Christmas rituals), I had the urge to join Charlie Brown and visit Lucy’s Psychiatric Booth for some advice. After all, her advice was quite sound.
At the start of the movie, Charlie Brown was feeling down as the holidays approached, much like 45 percent of the population at this time of year. He told Lucy, “I feel depressed — I know I should be happy, but I’m not.”
Lucy counseled with, “The mere fact you realize you need help indicates that you are not too far gone.” After ruling out a multitude of phobias, she suggested “involvement.” She suggested he direct the upcoming Christmas play. Even though he didn’t know how, he agreed to his assignment and in the rocky process, learned the true meaning of Christmas.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could turn the corner and find Lucy with her little booth and receive appointment-free, insurance-free, HIPPA-free psychiatric advice for only 5 cents? Sometimes we are so down in the dumps we don’t want to jump through all those routine hoops! It seems easier to just crawl in a hole.
If this sounds like you, keep heart. At the end of this article, I will provide free resources that don’t cost a nickel.
There are different reasons people feel down during the holidays — lack of connection, family problems, money problems, reminders of lost family members, too much stress combined with too little time and too little sleep, lack of sunlight, and the list goes on … the reason doesn’t matter — this experience is real.
Thirty-two years ago, I lost my mother in a tragic accident just three weeks before Christmas. Since that sounds like a long time ago, you would think I would be over it. Yet when it feels like yesterday, it’s not so easy. Even though I can go through the motions of decorating, attending Christmas events and putting on a happy face, not once have I been able to stop the undercurrent of that life-changing event from swirling through my heart every Christmas season.
Tim Lawrence, in his blog The Adversity Within says,
“Let yourself live. Take your brokenness and allow it to be on full display. Sit with it, in the haunting majesty of space-time, and allow it to become part of your imprint upon the world. Life is a series of movements that cannot be reclaimed. So it is imperative that you claim them as they cross your horizon.
“If you’ve lost a loved one, you do not have to try and make it OK. It’s not OK. And you can honor their death by acknowledging that it’s not OK, but acting anyway, in whatever form that takes. If you’re dealing with heartbreak, mourn the loss with the fullness of everything you are.”
I appreciate those words because I have never believed anyone who told me “time will heal” or “you’ll get over this.” Once I realized I would never fully get over losing my dear mother, I set myself free to grieve in my own way.
After the initial grief counseling, I let pen and paper be my source of comfort through journaling. Sometimes I write letters to her. Other times I write memoirs. I even took a class on writing memoirs in the hopes my descendants might actually enjoy reading them. Here is an entry from last year:
“I still remember my mother’s voice, less than 24 hours before she died. She had called me to check on the troubles I was having with my cherry red Chevy Luv pickup. Mechanically inclined, she was convinced all symptoms pointed to the carburetor. She gave me strict instructions on what to say when I took my truck in for service. ‘Be sure to stand over the mechanic while he’s fixing it … make sure he doesn’t create new problems … those guys don’t think we women know anything about cars!’ I was quick to say, ‘But Mom, it’s true, I don’t!’ She laughed and said, ‘Well, at least stand over them. You know I don’t want anyone taking advantage of you.’ Yes, I knew that. I was on my own, but she was always in my corner. We ended the call with me promising to report back to her the next day. Our call ended with the usual, ‘I love you … goodbye.’
“I didn’t get to report to her on how I kept an eye on the mechanics. We held a funeral instead.
“Thirty-one years later, her voice is still fresh in my mind. Last night while making pumpkin pies, I was pinching the dough bringing the pie crusts together on the frame of the pie pan. I could hear her whispering in my ear. Suddenly I was 12, giggling in the kitchen, with my mother cheering me on, ‘Yep, yep, you got it … just give a little pinch-anna- twist to make it look so nice … ooh, yes, you got it!!’ She was so kind and encouraging, and despite having eight daughters and 17 grandchildren, she had a way of making me feel like I was the only child in her life. Years later, talking to my sisters, they would say the same thing, and we would always agree we had the best mom ever.”
I don’t know what this year will bring. I hear her voice through so many memories — sometimes I laugh, sometimes I smile, and other times I still shake my head in disbelief of that tragedy and the hole it created in my life. Despite that, the holidays are here, and I will get through. I always do.
It helps to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
If you struggle through the holidays, please know you are not alone. Visit Mental Health America for information and resources (including screening tools.) They can help you find counselors in your area or refer you to hotlines if you need to talk to someone. Keep breathing and hang on … as my mother often said, “this too shall pass.”