The Fall: A haunting of Christmas loss

Late September to early October ushers in the holiday season in my household with the first chill of the year, changing leaves and pumpkins galore. By October of 1987 I was newly divorced and homeless with 2-year old twin daughters. While life was tough I welcomed the 1987 holiday season with excitement and joy. Little did I know this year would be my first Christmas without my mom and the last Christmas with my dad.

ashley photo album2_0122

Not only had I lost my mom but the circumstances of the time made the loss even more unbearable. I had told her two months prior of my divorce. She was understandably upset perhaps even angry or at least that was my perception. I begged her to let us come home but she wouldn’t allow it. We argued, how could she let her daughter and granddaughters live in the horrible conditions we were in. The two weeks before her death I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me, causing me to remember and miss my home, my family. I couldn’t stand the internal pressure anymore so I arranged for a babysitter and planned to walk the mile to the closest phone the next Sunday. The day before, my “former” mother-in-law came to where I was staying and said “I’m so sorry”. She was crying and could barely get the words out. All I could think was “my ex-husband had died and I’d have to feel sorry about it”. She continued, “Your mother died…” and that’s all I remember of her words as I collapsed inside and out.old family_0114

I would never hear my mom’s voice again and the last conversation we had was a horrible argument. And to add coal the fire at her funeral my aunts confronted me rather harshly for not having called her sooner. This led to 15 years of self imposed guilt and the striving to be the perfect mother with perfect holidays.

christmas 2013 076In less than two years I lost my home, my marriage, my mom, my dad, a baby and my entire way of thinking. I was an orphan. I learned to fake the Christmas spirit. I found my longings changed, now I celebrated differently, new traditions. My girls kept me going. Everything I did, every decoration I made, every sweet treat I baked were all unconsciously in memory of my mother. My home was transformed in sight, sound and scent. All decorations, serving ware, plates, cups glasses, pillow, curtains, even shower curtains were stored away and replaced with deep reds, greens and silvers, poinsettias and candy canes. Every room had a Christmas tree. I began to bake cookies, pies, brownies, sweet breads and candy.

While my heart had lost the spirit I believed that somehow, if I put myself into the season fully it would bring some part of my mom back and restore my family. I became obsessed with Christmas movies, especially Hallmark. Those wonderful stories of Christmas miracles and relationships restored. I dreamed of the father I hadn’t seen since childhood coming to my door with my brothers and sisters, a new family, restoration of a childhood loss so deep it would shape my very way of thinking, of how I perceived the world and myself.

A few years later my strained false Christmas spirit became challenged as well as my faith. I learned that Christmas, the birth of Christ, didn’t take place on December 25th, not even in December. Even more, that no one really knows the exact date. Like finding out Santa was a myth the myth of Christmas hit me hard and disillusionment set in. I felt I’d been lied to all my life.

christmas 2013 044One Last blow to my crushed Christmas spirit occurred with the death of my grandmother who passed in 1997. This is a story of loss and heartbreak I won’t get into here (see Paradise Lost). She helped raise me and I was closer to her than anyone else. That summer I sold most of my Christmas decorations. I was truly alone; she was the last of my family. All that was left was my girls. If it weren’t for my girls I would have never celebrated Christmas again. Eventually I did stop decorating after my girls moved to Florida, what was the point.

What I learned during my “Jubilee Journey” is that the spirit of Christmas isn’t about a specific day, or season, or who remains on this earth to walk with us on our journey, it’s about the love of God, giving us his son so our heavenly family can be restored, so we can be reconciled with God, and so we could walk free in Jesus. While I believed I completely lost the spirit there was something deep in my heart calling me. The years after the loss there was a Folgers coffee commercial that featured the song “I’ll be home for Christmas”. There was defiantly something in my heart; I would sob uncontrollably for I knew I would never again be home for Christmas.cmas 2013 050

Then it happened, I had my first Christmas alone. I became very angry and depressed that I wouldn’t be with my girls. There must have been something still in my heart, some bit of hope, the Christmas haunting remained. I may not have wanted a tree but I wanted my girls. I was desperate to be with them. Presents, trees and decorations didn’t matter if I didn’t have them. This was the catalyst that would lead to the “Jubilee Journey.”
Part 1 — A Haunting of Christmas past
Part 3 — Christmas Restored

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17 responses to “The Fall: A haunting of Christmas loss

  1. Pingback: A Haunting of Christmas Past | Jubilee Journey

  2. Oh, what a story… thanks for sharing it with us tonight. I’ll be looking for your next installment.

  3. What a sad heartbreaking story, it does make ones heart ache.

    ted

  4. Ana, I am sending you my warmest prayers. Your story is suffering…mysterious, painful, purposeful. Thank you for sharing and may many blessings be sent forth through your generosity.

  5. AirportsMadeSimple

    Hi, Ana – I just read this. My heart is breaking for you. But I must say, I see a lot of internal strength and resilience in you – in between the words you have written. Ah, “The Holidays.” Everyone’s life experiences are so different, but we all want the same things: to be validated, loved, and to feel connected. I wish you those things, my internet friend. Also, I’ve had a few pretty harsh circumstances of my own, pretty bad stuff. And all I can say is that you walk through it. In the end, our true family (and the families we create), don’t always need to be related to us. 🙂 Have a good holiday, whatever that means to you today. D

    • Thank you for your beautiful comment. If you notice, this is the second of five posts in this series. My losses occurred many years ago and did take a long time to work through. The next three post will focus on the jubilee journey theme “freedom, reconciliation & restoration” and how God brought me through.
      I had originally planned a different theme for December but there have been so many deaths this season here in central Florida. My heart breaks for these families. I looked back to my many losses and was compelled to reach out to those who are experiencing loss, whatever the loss, this season. I hope that by the end of the story those who read it will find peace, be encouraged and experience a little joy.
      Thank you so much for your encouragement and support, again, have a wonderful Christmas, Ana

  6. It’s true the holidays are about family and friends but not all family and friends are
    like the ones presented to us in these commercials or films. Each one of us
    is unique and so is our experience. I, too, have had similar heartache and
    I, too, have leaned to go on. We must as this pleases our savior more.
    Thank you for sharing your emotional journey with this story.
    Blessings at Christmas and all Year through!!!!
    Isadora

    • Oh, I know they aren’t I’ve had many friends refer to any holiday as a “Jerry springer ____”, funny to hear them talk about it but sad that they miss out on a deeper love.
      Unfortunately it took me a long time to move on because of the false guilt over my mom’s death, that I never spoke to her again. But Jesus heals all wounds once we let him and he has healed the wounds of loss. I sit here even now with tears in my eyes but it’s only because I miss her not because of some missed placed guilt. And I truly look forward to all holidays with joy.
      This is only part two, the next three will be more upbeat, demonstrating the heart of God toward his children.
      I appreciate you comment, that you’ve experienced loss. This year there seems to be an abundance of loss right here in my city. My own losses helps me to be more empathetic to those experiencing loss. This is why I wanted to write this series. I hope when this series is over someone will feel encouraged and hopeful.
      Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate your words and support, Ana

  7. Pingback: Christmas Restored: Jubilee Journey and Christmas movies | Jubilee Journey

  8. Pingback: Christmas Reconciliation: A Hallmark Christmas revisited | Jubilee Journey

  9. Pingback: Christmas freedom: Jesus in blessings and loss | Jubilee Journey

  10. I am so sorry for all that happened. My Mom died under similar circumstances. Very hard to get over along with all the rest of your losses. I am very glad you wrote this post and look forward to reading more.

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