The holidays aren’t fun for everyone. For many, Christmas season brings heightened instances of depression, stress, or anxiety. It can also be a particularly difficult time for those who are grieving. Here are some (Ottawa-based) events, resources, and articles to help support people struggling with mental health or grief this holiday season. Please let me know if you have anything to add to this list, and share it around–no one should feel alone.
December 18: The Royal mental health care & research centre is offering a “Coping Through the Holidays” support group for families touched by mental health during the holidays. 6:00 to 7:30 pm at The Royal, 1145 Carling Avenue, Room 1420.
December 20: “Coming in Out of the Blue” service at MacKay United, a quiet Christmas service for those who find the holidays difficult.
– Free meditation groups are offered all over the city (and country, and world)
– Churches are usually full at this time of year, and worth visiting for a bit of peace and community – Similarly, the Chaplain’s Office at the Ottawa Mission is popular for those going through especially hard times
– If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the Mental health crisis line at 613-722-6914 (toll free from anywhere: 1-866-996-0991)
Articles: Surviving the Holidays – Full website designed for those grieving during the holidays, via GriefShare
I have lived through months where I needed to cry almost every day and night, and I have lived through months of only really needing to cry at movies (or songs…or commercials…). I cry when I’m overwhelmed, when I don’t understand, when things are just too much. My tears wash things away. I have been blessed with the ability make it rain a little bit every time I need it. And sometimes, I really need it.
I cry. And the things that make me cry, so often, are the things that make me pray.
I’m not trying to isolate all my readers who don’t pray. I know a lot of you don’t. But to me, prayer and tears go hand in hand. The things that make my eyes leak are usually the same things that bring me to my knees.
Jesus wept, too. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, it makes perfect situational sense, and it’s super powerful. Of course Jesus wept.
The Jesus I met at Christmas when I was a kid, however, apparently did not weep. You know, Baby Jesus. The one who had just been born. He didn’t cry. He was a special baby. He was a perfect baby. God’s son can’t cry.
I’m calling bullshit. Right now.
(…sorry, that scene still makes me giggle like a middle schooler. I digress.)
We try to paint Jesus’ birth as divine, thus peaceful, thus quiet. By that logic, He didn’t cry. But why? Birth is messy and loud and painful. Babies cry. Ironically, that crying baby is how we know that all is well. That is how we know that they’re alive.
Crying is a part of the gift of life–and it stays that way. Every now and then, I cry out to the world, to my mother, to God. I cry because I’m scared, happy, empathetic, in pain. I cry because I’m feeling so much I’m leaking. Through crying my feelings are legitimized, communicated, and dealt with. Through crying, I know that I’m alive.
So, why not let baby Jesus cry? Would that make his birth TOO real, TOO human, TOO chaotic? Calling bullshit once again. Come on. First of all, when have blessings or plans or love ever been anything less than chaotic? Love is chaotic. Life is chaotic. Jesus definitely shook things up. And birth?
God doesn’t make things easy. He makes them profound. And, as far as I can tell, nothing embodies that combination of chaos and love we call Life quite like the messy, painful, beautiful process of childbirth. That cry from the baby means he or she is alive. It means he or she is feeling. Why would we want to take that away from Jesus, of all people?
Maybe it’s because, for some reason, we have categorized crying as a weakness instead of a gift; Something we do because we just can’t handle life, rather than something we do to HELP us handle it. Tears equal temper tantrums. This is sometimes true (see also: my reaction to yet another computer glitch last week. erlack.), but not always. Sometimes, we genuinely need to react. We need to turn to faith, friends, family, ourselves–and sometimes, we need to cry. Certainly, we need to cry when our lungs capture that painful first gasp of air.
Isn’t that amazing? From our first breath, we can communicate through our cries. Tears are part of a complex universal language. It’s what we use to greet the world. It’s what many of us use to feel and to question it. And it is a huge part of the messy, messy reality of childbirth.
So, no, I don’t understand why we try to paint Jesus’ birth as less profound than a regular birth. I say “less than” because I think that to remove any element from the true birth process would just take away from it. It’s pretty friggin’ amazing the way it is. It really makes no sense to remove the noise and the tears, to remove that first moment that the baby cries out “I’M HERE. I FEEL THIS. I’M ALIVE.”
What would Baby Jesus do? He would cry. Just like adult Jesus cried. And don’t for a minute tell me that would make His birth any less divine–after all, what could be more divine than the first sound of a new life?