With the turn of the calendar to the month of November, both Thanksgiving and Christmas loom larger and larger as we count down days to the end of the year. It’s not too early to stop and think about any bereaved friends or family you may have and how this holiday season may affect them and how you can help. Please take the time to read the above-linked article from a fellow bereaved parent.
The first Christmas after Jason died was so incredibly difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I fled a store while attempting to shop for Christmas gifts because I was on the verge of tears. Certain Christmas songs put me over the top. Attempting to put up the Christmas tree and Christmas decorations left me in tears on the family room floor. I tried to carry on “as normal,” except there was no longer any normal in our lives. Jason was gone and no holiday – and our lives as a whole – would never be the same. The traditions that had become so important over the years just brought the absence of Jason’s presence into sharp focus.
As I drove by gaily decorated homes, I felt like such an outsider to all the warmth and good will of the holiday season. I felt like a wet blanket to any situation and felt like there were some people we knew who unconsciously tried to avoid us so as not to dampen their own celebrations. I remember people looking right through us as if they didn’t see us. I quietly sat in the corner of a Christmas tea in an effort to make people as comfortable as possible. Grief makes lots of situations awkward, and I remember how much I felt like it fell on me to try to make people comfortable around me so more people wouldn’t avoid me. I remember going to a Christmas church pageant and looking up to see two people we knew looking at us and talking. One person quickly put down his hand since he was pointing us out to the other person. They quickly turned and walked the other direction.
That Christmas, tears streamed down my face as I got up early on Christmas morning to make my “famous” cinnamon rolls. Joe came down to help me and we stood in the kitchen, hugging each other as we sobbed. I went through the motions and tried to make the best of it, but my broken heart just wasn’t able to squeeze out much joy of the season that year.
I still struggle with holidays. I still have to stop and take a deep breath the first time store aisles fill with Christmas items. It’s as if I have to steel myself for the onslaught of “the most wonderful time of the year” sentiment, when it no longer feels that way to me.
If I could skip over most holidays entirely, I would. We have tired to come up with new traditions for Christmas while still maintaining some meaningful established traditions. I try to purchase gifts that have real meaning to the recipient, trying to focus less on “stuff” and more on what Christmas is really all about. Some holidays I feel like I still just endure. I do the best I can and try to find joy where I can. I don’t bake any more and we don’t put up a Christmas tree (partly because it’s difficult and partly because we haven’t actually had a home of our own in a long time). I still acutely feel Jason’s absence.
I hope you will take time to read this article (and others, if you have time), especially if you have a newly bereaved in your life. Melanie’s son died in a motorcycle accident several years ago and she is a most gifted writer and communicator on the subject of grief.
© 2020 Rebecca R. Carney