Yesterday, Mel asked how we were going to get through the holidays, and first my answer was too depressing to put in the comments, then it was too long...
I love Christmas. I always have. When I was little, I used to be so excited on Christmas morning that I would be awake well before 5, and would have a pile of picture books by my bed to keep me entertained until my brothers woke up and we could go and see if Father Christmas had filled our stockings.
As I got older, one of the things I grew to love as much as any other part of Christmas was Midnight Mass. For several years, I played my violin at Midnight Mass in my own parish and would then leave home at 6:00 am on Christmas morning to get to my parents' house 200-odd miles away just as the rest of the family were waking up. It was the best day of the year for driving, because there was no other traffic on the road, and I would coast up the motorway singing along to Christmas songs on the radio at the top of my voice.
Since we got our result on Friday, the main feature of being in church for me seems to be that it makes me cry. During my niece's end-of-term Mass on Friday morning, I blubbed. During Mass on Sunday, I blubbed. And to be honest, I don't hold out much hope for Midnight Mass on Thursday night.
On Sunday, I glanced at the parish newsletter before Mass began. It informed me that the fourth Sunday of Advent is a day when we are particularly asked to pray for expectant mothers. My voice wobbled a bit during the opening hymn.
Then we had the bidding prayers, during which we prayed out loud for expectant mothers. And my response was silent, because I couldn't get any words out.
Then we sang 'The angel Gabriel', and every time we sang the refrain of 'Most highly favoured lady', all I could think was, "Not me, then". And I couldn't sing the bit about the blessed babe being born - by that time, I'd given up trying to stop the tears from falling.
This year, we're due to spend my first Christmas with DH's family. It'll be different, and my way of coping with the whole situation will be to pretend in my head that it's not Christmas at all, but some previously unknown celebration which is unique to his family. I have to deChristmasify the day, because I can't cope with the way I'm feeling on a day that's meant to be special and happy and all about families and the joy of a baby being born.
Except I can't do that when we're in church. There aren't very many Christmas carols that don't talk about joyful news, a special mother and the birth of a new baby. So I'll sing when I can, grit my teeth when I can't, paste a smile on my face and hope against hope that I can hold myself together enough not to ruin anyone else's Christmas.