It can be hard around the holidays if you are hurting. So much of the season is focused on celebrating happiness that, if part of your heart is sad, the unrelenting jolly-ness can be exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I have many things to be happy about, but keeping the sadness at bay is not easy amidst the candy canes and Mariah Carey songs.

Today I saw this cute thumbnail photo of Maddie under Heather’s post:

pretty hat, pretty face

I made the unwise decision to click on it and was taken to a post Heather wrote in the days after Maddie’s passing. Reading it immediately transported me back to that horrible time – to the crushing pain, the disorientation, the thoughts of ending it all. I quickly X’d out of the window, feeling sick, and wanted nothing more than to walk around the rest of the day wearing a scowl….

…but no, no, no. I mustn’t go there, I told myself. This is the holidays. People will be wearing Santa hats, ringing bells, and wishing me a “Merry Christmas.” Kids will be laughing. My moodiness will have to wait.

So wait it did, until Christmas cards came in the mail featuring the smiling faces of kids Maddie knew. I looked at these beautiful children as I imagined a four-year-old Maddie on her own Christmas card, and again I started to feel a weight pulling me down…

…but no, Annie was calling for me to watch “Frosty the Snowman” with her. I had no time for sadness, not when Annie needed me to cuddle with her and laugh along at the magical world on TV. There will be other holiday shows to watch this season too, like “Elf” and “Christmas Vacation,” the latter of which my family and I have watched every year since it came out…

…including our last Christmas with Maddie, when she snuggled up against me in her seasonal onesie and laughed along:

Maddie & Daddy on Christmas

Yup. It can be hard around the holidays if you are hurting. It really can.

You know the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with its melancholy melody that doesn’t seem to fit its cheery lyrics? Well, there’s a reason for this incongruence. The song’s original lyrics were every bit as sad as the melody:

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last,
Next year we may all be living in the past…

No good times like the olden days, happy golden days of yore,
Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more.

But at least we all will be together, if the Fates allow,
From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

Over time people knocked off the song’s edges and pushed away its sadness. The lines “It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past” became “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.”

People re-wrote this Christmas standard not because the original lyrics were bad, but because they want this season to be a celebration of joy, love, and happiness. And, when you see how excited and full of wonder kids get this time of year it is hard to disagree. So, like the song, I will knock the edges off and push away my sadness… even if, like the song, there is an undercurrent of melancholy hidden among the joy.