Holiday Triggers: Finding Gratitude in Both Good Times and Difficult Times


The holidays bring back so many wonderful memories from childhood such as decorating the Christmas tree as a family while sipping hot cocoa, piling into the Country Squire station wagon and driving around the neighborhoods to look at the holiday lights, and the unbelievable anticipation of what Santa might put under the tree come Christmas morning!
Even the sound of Mariah Carey’s holiday album playing or the scent of eggnog and gingerbread houses can take me all the way back to those sweet memories. A holiday-triggered reminder can also be bittersweet for some people especially if it brings up memories of a major life event such as the loss of a family member or job or a serious health crisis.

I’ve had two such Christmas’ in which the unexpected happened and the joy of the holiday season suddenly turned upside down and I found myself on the verge of a major crisis. My firstborn son who arrived in January of 1990 was all smiles and beautiful blue eyes. He enlightened our lives in ways we never knew were possible. Then just eleven months later during a routine visit to the pediatrician’s office he was diagnosed with congenital hydrocephalus. It was the third week in December when everyone else was busying themselves with shopping and holiday parties. A week later my newborn baby was being wheeled into the operating room for brain surgery on Christmas Eve! With the insertion of a shunt to drain the fluid off his brain, he survived and flourished, graduating from college and becoming a breaking news editor for a major newspaper.
Just five years later, my second son who had been quite colicky and sickly during his first years but nevertheless beloved suddenly became ill at preschool one December morning. I responded to the call and immediately went to the school to pick him up. Luckily, I was able to get him into the pediatrician office the same day but the appointment took a turn for the worse. After many tests and phone calls to specialists, the doctor delivered the news. My three-year-old son had Type-1 insulin-dependent diabetes and would need to be admitted to the hospital during Christmas week. He too survived and went on to graduate from college and become a gifted construction management project engineer.
Reminiscing reminds me that I’ve struggled through difficult times before and managed to thrive. Even though memories of sad times get triggered each year when I haul out the box of tree ornaments, I know that I also have good memories of Christmas so therefore I have the capacity to be happy again this holiday season. It’s with gratitude that I look forward to a fun-filled memorable visit with my healthy sons this Christmas!
From My Home to Yours,
Happy Holidays!