Vancouver, BC. December 11, 2017. – “Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. Fun for all that children call. Their favourite time of the year.” So goes the popular holiday song. But sometimes Christmas can be anything but fun.
It’s a season where we naturally call to mind relationships with family. We reflect on all the things we accomplished this past year…or didn’t. We look back and smile at our successes, or cringe with disdain at our failures. For many, Christmas is full of anxiety, dread and loneliness – but we seldom have a safe space or even the permission to admit it.
Naomi looks back on her life this year and it’s been a year full of highs and lows. After years of wrestling with her identity she finally married her loving partner Jenn on Easter Sunday. The two are now stepping into life as wives, and while their relationship is full of love and acceptance – a few of Naomi’s conservative Christian family hasn’t been so keen.
“My dad was really great about it – but while he still says he loves me he can’t really get on board. The same can be said for my brother and sister-in-law. I know they love me – they just can’t accept that ‘my person’ is a woman or that I have a wife.”
Naomi explains that it’s really challenging to have such accepting friends, a loving urban family and yet have a less-than-tolerant blood family: “we all live in different parts of the world which makes working through this even more difficult.”
And set against the backdrop of all of this family rejection this last year, Naomi’s mother’s quality of life was rapidly deteriorating with Parkinson’s and dementia and Naomi was unable to really connect with her Mum. She later died just a few short weeks ago in November.
“It’s been 12 years that we have seen my mom lose to this disease. Parkinson’s can be all consuming and in a way I felt like I lost my relationship to both my parents. We all processed it in different ways. Life became all about the disease for my parents. You know that the person is there in the physical form but they can’t communicate effectively. But when my mom was on her deathbed we did have some closure.
And now I feel after she has passed almost closer to her. I don’t know what the ‘other side’ is like but there is something about her being in that place which has shifted things for me. I wonder whether since she has been freed from her physical body if she can now see parts of my life that she couldn’t see or participate in before. This story is helping me process our relationship and my grief.”
Naomi can’t help but reflect on love and loss this year at Christmas. Part of her healing will be attending a special Christmas Service held at Canadian Memorial United Church called “Blue Christmas”.
Minister Beth Hayward of Canadian Memorial United Church has been putting on the special service for several years now and it’s gaining in popularity. She says, “We are finding people really need a safe space to be free to admit grief, sadness, stress, anxiety – all of the human emotions that Christmas can often remind us of. So in our Blue Christmas Service we aim to acknowledge and release our grief and sorrow and begin a new journey toward joy.”
Naomi says, “I will definitely be attending this year. Holding space for each other to just ‘be’ – to be in the tension of life, death, relational tensions and unresolved questions, where love is the blanket that wraps you up in the uncertainty – is so important in the journey of healing. Canadian Memorial facilitates this kind of space really well.”
Blue Christmas takes place December 20th from 7:30 – 8:30pm at Canadian Memorial United Church. There will be a time of music, quiet reflection, and stories. The service is free and open to all.
Event at a Glance
What: Blue Christmas Service
When: December 20th, 2017
Where: Canadian Memorial United Church, 15th and Burrard