As the sun went down over the craggy desert mountains, I walked my little Chihuahua through my neighborhood enjoying the gorgeous sunset that is so unique to the southwestern United States. Broad strokes of color filled the sky as the lights inside the houses came on. I let out a long sigh. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my parents or grandparents lived in one of these houses? I could walk up to their front door, the smell of dinner wafting from inside, and be welcomed home. I imagined what it would feel like to belong to people who knew me and loved me. The lights from the Christmas tree would twinkle as soft carols played and I could go inside with a deep sense of belonging and rest.

I used to play the same imaginary game when I was in college many years ago. Escaping from the noise of the dorm, I would take a long walk through the neighborhood adjoining campus and imagine what it would be like to have family welcome me home. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. I was seeking comfort. The same kind of comfort Christmas seems to promise. Again and again, the sentiment is expressed in nearly every Christmas Carol. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen comes right out and says it; “O, tiding of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.”

Comfort is elusive to trauma survivors. It is the very opposite of what was offered to us. No wonder the holidays can be so difficult. We know deep down in our hearts something is missing and there is no comfort to be found…anywhere. In some sense, comfort is what we have been searching for our whole lives.  

I would personally like to invite you in and ask you to take a seat in a comfortable chair. Here are some delicious Christmas cookies and a cup of hot chocolate with real whip cream on top. Would you like some cheese straws? I love cheese straws. Here’s a whole bag of them. What’s your favorite music? I’ll put it on. You are welcome here. I have some tidings of comfort I would like to share with you. Would you like to hear them? You would? Great. Sit back and relax. Read these slowly, one by one as you absorb them into your heart.

You are wonderful just as you are

You are accepted for who you are

You are loved because you exist

Though your heart may ache at this time of year, the comfort of Christmas is for you. You are not excluded. You belong. Even if your family failed you, your happiness does not depend on them. It doesn’t matter whether they change or not, you can offer comfort to yourself.

Choose kindness over self-hate, truth instead of lies, and peace instead of turmoil. Bring tidings of comfort to the deep places of your heart so that the holidays become an opportunity to give to others as well as yourself. “O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O, tidings of comfort and joy. Defy trauma, embrace joy at Christmas and the whole year round.

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