Holiday Grief

It’s getting to be that time of year. Stores are switching out orange and black for red and green. Magazine and internet articles topically speak of family dysfunctions, how to be nice at the dinner table, what wine to choose with your turkey, and Heaven forbid may it go nicely with that new twist on the green bean casserole. Airfares go up and down and the travel guy, Peter Greenberg tells us when the best time to travel may be. In Texas, we could have a white Christmas or it could be eighty degrees on December 25. Choral groups from all across the country and in every Christian church begin to add rehearsal times for their annual concerts. There are signs on every street corner advertising Christmas lights put on our houses. The garden centers are sweeping out the dead begonia leaves of summer to make room for the Douglas firs and Cedar trees.

Many people around me look forward to the holidays. They decorate their homes with garland and holly for every room, including the bathrooms. They’re already shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond for new holiday dishes and festive bowls. They’ve redecorated their guest rooms and look forward to seeing their cousins they reunited with from last summer’s family reunion. They’ve made their trips to the holiday decorating stores and their houses smell of sage and cinnamon. Menus and activities are set in stone, and there’s no deviating from the program.

Then there are those who have stopped living and are petrified of the upcoming holiday season. Why? They’re lost in their world of grief. Grief from losing someone very close to them. Their world got a little smaller when they buried their parent, child, grandchild, partner, spouse, brother, sister or dear friend. Grief is something that is a constant, yet it’s different for everyone who has experienced it. I’ve had personal experience on the subject. When I lost a set of parents and grandparents within two and a half years, I was completely lost. Immobile. Dead inside. Terrified that I would be literally eaten up by a world that was described as cruel and indifferent. Allow to me segue for just a moment. I was extremely (some might say abnormally) close to my mom and dad and my maternal grandparents. I made no decisions about life until I cleared it with them. I was a classic codependent. When they left this earth for their heavenly home, life as I knew it ended. One of my biggest scares was who was I going to spend the holidays with? Of course I had my brother, but he had married and he was a part of another family and I was more than welcome to join in their celebration, but it didn’t feel the same.  Who was going to get me everything on my Christmas wish list?   Who was going to have the well appointed table with the “to die for” brunch? Where was I going to spend Christmas Eve night? How in the world was I going to function from “Black Friday” until New Year’s Day?    And those well meaning people who sent me “My First Christmas in Heaven”, thank you.  Not.

That first Christmas without  Mother was a dark one literally.  As my brother and I stood at her grave with our poinsettia, it was cold, cloudy and just beginning dusk.  I cried.  My brother was agitated.  We stood just long enough to know that neither one of us wanted to do that again.  My sister in law was there as well, and bless her heart, was patient and let us grieve.  We drove back to the house in silence, knowing that the next chapter of our lives was going to be different, but neither of us knew how it was going to be written.

I have to say that time has passed from that dark and cold Christmas Eve.  The sun does shine and the days do get brighter.  I promise.   Please allow yourself the time to grieve, especially if this is the first Christmas without someone special.   Don’t dwell on that that cannot be changed.  Don’t wish to turn back the clock.  It doesn’t happen.   Time does heal a deep wound, but there is a scar.  The scar fades and then it becomes a pleasant memory.

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