by Deanna Kell

The holidays can be stressful. We can get caught up in the hustle and bustle, the spending, the unmet expectations. We mean well. It is one way we express our love. I believe we are wired to give. We give and give and give until we are empty, and the hectic pace at which we live our lives blurs the joy of the season.

This week a year ago, my mother passed away unexpectedly. She was estranged from her children because of the harshness that accompanied her lifetime of addiction and abuse. I had not spoken to her for two years prior to her death.

 She was on life support for a brief period, which allowed family members to say goodbye.  When the life support was removed, it was over very quickly. I did not attend her funeral. I felt like I had said my goodbyes two years earlier. It was a personal decision I made for my well-being as well as a way to express my respect for those who would be present at the service.  

For the next three weeks, I experienced some truly unexpected aspects of grief that I never imagined I would. It was Christmastime, I had a child at home and an older child with children of his own. I felt I must be present for them despite my deep sense of sorrow. I forced myself to decorate and shop. I quickly discovered that going through the motions of celebration did nothing to make Christmas special for my family.

I was angry and hurt. I felt like a failure as a mother and a daughter.

I remember going through a fast food drive-through on January 2nd. The holidays were behind me but I was stuck. I was overwhelmed with emotions, yet I also felt nothing. i said to God that morning, “I’m tired of fooling around with you. I need answers, I need direction, and I finally need to know what I did so wrong as a child that you would put me in an abusive situation with two alcoholic parents. I am going to give you one year, God. One year to get your act together and show me something. If you don’t, then I’m done with you.”

And I am certain that at that moment, God wrung his hands at my pronouncement and said, “Oh no! Whatever shall I do?” I then paid for my breakfast at the drive-through window, and put both God and my mother out of mind. 

As the year progressed, I would look around for that dramatic “thing” that would reveal the answer to my questions and bring me some peace. Nothing seemed to be happening. The days quietly ticked by without a big reveal. Even so, I found myself expecting less, and being O.K. with that. An easiness had crept into my life when I wasn’t looking for it. I was less angry and found myself beginning to feel more gratitude. But I still was not speaking to God, and the year was almost up. .

A few weeks ago, I began to think about Christmas, decorations, and gifts. I realized I didn’t feel stressed like I did last year. I actually felt peace. I realized I’d received unexpected comfort. I remembered childhood holidays and the memories didn’t make me angry, bitter, or betrayed, as they once had. I felt…O.K. And O.K. actually felt pretty good.  

I had expected this year to end with a bang of some sort, some grand gesture on the part of God where he would finally show me why things had been so painful for so long. Instead, experienced peace, gratitude, and, perhaps most unexpectedly, a measure of forgiveness for my mother. 

I realized I’d been expecting God to let me down. I was not expecting the simplicity of finding myself more whole than I was last year, and receiving healing from what I’d experienced.  

Albert Einstein said, “When the solution is simple, God is answering.”

I had spent my whole life trying stomping my feet for answers. This last year, God showed me in the grief he was asking me to begin to let go and receive his grace. 

Deanna Kell is a single mom to two boys, one 25 and one 14. She has two beautiful grandchildren as well. She says, “I have struggled and fought for my faith my entire life, but God has never left me and I would be lost without Him.” She loves to read, write, hike and fish!  She’s a Southern girl through and through.