Growing up, I remember Christmas Eve, and the excited anticipation of presents on Christmas day. Our church always had Christmas Eve services, and when I was old enough, I joined my mother on our violins, accompanying the choir singing a holiday spirited piece, like Handel’s Messiah, or Vivaldi’s Gloria. I love Christmas music.
We played two Christmas Eve services, running home in-between to scarf down dinner. One year when Mom was too tired to cook dinner, we picked up pizza. It went over so well, it became a Christmas Eve tradition: pizza dinner – picking it up after the first service, giving us time to eat and catch a break before the 11 pm service.
Moving out on my own took me away for Christmas for the first time in my early 20’s. Over the years, whether I was away working, or able to come home for Christmas, I always enjoyed the anticipation of the big day.
Having my own child brought my own childhood excitement right back.
That all changed four years ago when Christmas Eve became the day that my mother took her life. As painful as that was, it was also a bit of a gift to me. You see, our relationship was complicated. The call that brought news of Mom’s death brought on a rush of emotions, from shock to pain to relief. I could breath again.
Our society has certain definitions and expectations of what a mother is. My mother was and was not a “mother”. A mother is supposed to be nurturing, loving, compassionate (at least at times), and a safe place to fall. Mom was not safe. She fed us, took care of us, taught me the domestic arts, and I know that she loved me. But at times, I was her target.
Because she was bipolar, there were times that she was so depressed that she couldn’t be a mother to three young children. And when she was manic, those were the times when I had to duck and cover. Not my brothers. Just me.
The last few years of Mom’s life were particularly difficult, especially after she had a bad fall and almost died. She was never the same after that fall. Because Dad was in the hospital for a broken bone at the time, I dropped my life and flew across country to be there with them for a month. When they were finally both home, I arranged and managed their in-home care. Less than five months later, Dad died. He’d lived with cancer for over 25 years, and as much as he fought leaving, I let him know that we would always take care of Mom. With that burden off his shoulders, he died.
After Dad’s death, Mom’s mental health was out of control. First she spiraled into mania so fast and so far that within weeks of Dad’s passing, she became delusional. Calls went round and round, from the caregiver to me to the doctor, psychopharmacologist, and therapist. As Mom shot up like a rocket, I tried to get her help. But due to the way the system is structured, I couldn’t help her until she became a danger to herself. She finally reached that point, and after four weeks in the local mental hospital, they sent her home, with the caveat that she have care around the clock. She was still very high, and still a bit delusional, and they sent her home.
From that time on, for the rest of her life she was never without care for at least 12 hours a day. As she came down from the mania, visited “normal” for less than a week, and started to dive into depression, it became clear that her illness was not going to let Mom even begin to be able to process Dad’s death.
She spent the last six months of her life in the deepest depression I ever saw, necessitating another hospital stay during the autumn before she died. Mere weeks after being released from the hospital, her in-home care had gone from around the clock (again) to 12 hours a day.
Once the caregiver had gone home, and Mom was ready for bed, she took pills. A lot of them. Several psych meds. The next morning, Christmas Eve 2012, after letting Mom “sleep in” the caregiver found her dead in bed.
The gift in her passing was that I could finally dig in to working on myself, without incurring further assault or having to deal with everything her mental instability brought to my life. Actually, in the beginning, I didn’t even know how deep the damage went, because of blocking out most of my childhood memories.
With some inheritance money, I decided to return to a modality of healing that had brought some surprising metaphysical experiences into my life: hypnotherapy. Having been introduced to a woman through a local healing center, I decided to give this new-to-me hypnotherapist a try. With her background in counseling, spirituality, and hypnosis training, she was a great fit for me. And we delved into my lifelong issue with weight.
What I didn’t expect, was to discover that just about everything I worked on, had its roots in my very early childhood. And it all revolved around my relationship with my mother. Food cravings, body image, self-esteem, self-empowerment, and so much more. It was a bit shocking to discover just how intensely I had been affected.
Let me just say, that when it comes to matters of survival, the brain can be genius. It creates wonderful beliefs to make it happy (even if they are lies), and buries things that are too painful to hold onto for long.
Over the past four years, I’ve healed so very much, reclaiming lost chunks of myself, letting go of decades of pain, and remembering myself as a divine being. I’ve had an ultra-master class in human behavior, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.
So, as much as Christmas Eve has been a reminder of the horrible day that my mother killed herself, year by year, I’m unwrapping more and more of the gifts of our relationship.
My wish for everyone, is for you to discover how to find gifts in the challenging experiences in your lives. And to unwrap your gifts, proudly wearing them for all to see. Because the biggest gift you’ll receive is you.
PEACE! (Enjoy this beautiful rendition of Joy To The World).