The Dark Side of Christmas

I work for an organization that takes care of children in the “system”, foster care, juvenile probation…that system. These kids have had a difficult upbringing.

That’s putting it lightly.

What they have suffered, I choose not to imagine. Although sometimes in my job I have to describe it, I choose not to think about it and just see them as kids. Tough kids, but kids all the same.

Christmas is a rough time for them. Staff is on high alert to look for signs of extreme depression, signs of suicide or runaways. Kids miss their families at Christmas. Many of the same families that abused them, neglected them, left them feeling unloved and unvalued.

And yet they miss them. They long for them. Even though Christmas is reportedly a very dangerous time for children who live with abusers, abuse goes way up at the holidays. Stressed parents, lots of alcohol, families packed into houses together, children home from school. It’s a dangerous time for abused children.

Christmas is filled with memories, many of them painful.  But they still long for them. In spite of it all.

The world, the loving, caring, giving world wants to help.

At Christmas they want to have parties and give presents.

There are so many parties for the kids.

And it’s good and the kids love it. And the givers feel like they are doing something, some tiny thing, to heal the brokenness.

But the kids know it’s only for the month of December and the parties will stop.

The presents will stop.

And they will go back to being alone, abandoned, neglected, unwanted.

It’s sad.

Christmas doesn’t make it less or more sad.

It’s just a holiday. A date on a calendar.

But something about it feels exposing. Like we are simply trying to cure a disease by putting a band-aid on it. And it doesn’t help. The band-aid wears off. The disease remains.

Circle back now to me, Lady blogger sitting alone in her house at midnight, watching the clock, knowing the alarm is going to ring in just over 5 hours for the start of a busy workweek.

What am i doing awake?

I am sitting here, dreading Christmas. ‘

I am dreading Christmas.

Post divorce Christmas.

Three beautiful kids, who just want the old family back, the one they used to know, the one who had Christmas all together in one house. But now there are two houses, two trees, two stockings, two parents desperately wanting to make kids happy without the ability to give them what they really want.

The old life.

They are angry. They have a right to feel that way, to a certain extent, to be angry about their circumstances.

Although when I think about the kids who live within “the system” who would give anything for one stable household to live in, I get frustrated with my kids and their spoiled, ungrateful behavior.

But the pain my kids feel isn’t any less real to them. It’s valid and it matters.

I owe it to them to respect it and allow them to feel what they need to feel.

So I will.

Let them feel it.

It’s our disease, their anger and my guilt.

I will step back and try to have as lovely a Christmas as I can. I will remain cheerful and loving, with occasional glimpses of frustration…I am, after all, a regular human being.

We decorated the tree. I put up lights on the house.

I have put lots of energy into picking out a selection of fun and exciting presents for under the tree. I spent a little more than I should have but nothing obscene.

We will bake cookies on Christmas Eve, which I will likely burn cause I suck at baking.

The gingerbread man will look slightly deformed. That’s how I roll. And we will laugh about it.

But they will miss their dad and they will be slightly bitchy because of it.

I know that every year it will get better. This is the 3rd Christmas but the first year with a completely separate Christmas. It’s time.

My head knows that this is reality. And it’s real and it’s ours and it’s really not so bad. It’s good actually.

Pretty fucking great.

My head knows.

Completely.

But my heart, it’s kind of dreading Christmas.

And I wonder, how many people feel this way?

For how many other people out there is Christmas a time of fighting off the darkness?

I bet it’s a lot.

I don’t have the answers.

Only questions.

How’s that for Christmas cheer?

Pass the eggnog…

(also, does anyone really like eggnog? I think it’s weird, a really weird drink)

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