O Holy…Yah All That

Somewhere around the time you have your first go round with grief Christmas loses it’s first piece of the magic. By the second, third, or anywhere there after Christmas becomes a field of land mines to be navigated carefully in order to get from December 1st to December 31st in one piece. To come out of it anywhere close to sane without having a) lost a ton of weight b) quit your job or your family or c) stepped off the nearest cliff. You have days where you feel good. You do all the things – shop for the presents, plan the traditions, listen to the music. And then you have the others days….

Those days are the ones you have to watch out for. The days where you hope your tribe is near and their intervention is swift. Where the tears (or the rage) come so quickly it takes your breath away.

I remember, clearly, the first Christmas that was different. It was Christmas of 2014. My grandpa had passed in May and sometime in that summer I had shut off feeling. Stuffed everything in a box because something about his death reminded me, daily, that I was going to lose Fred and Mom (my grandma). Looking back I know now that was when I should have started my counseling journey, but you know, I was busy raising kids and taking care of everyone else first. Before that Christmas I was THE Christmas person. Traditions for the kids, Christmas music before Thanksgiving, more presents than would fit under the tree, kids having to have a stocking box because I got too much for their stocking, all the things. I pray my kids didn’t notice how much had changed for me that year but I’m learning now just how astute my children were so I know they did.

Fast forward to Christmas 2017. The year we lost Fred. We flat didn’t do it that year. I took the kids, and one of my might as well have been my kids, and boarded a ship. Started a new tradition of running away. Though the ships always celebrated Christmas something about not being at home where all the memories were made it easier to endure. COVID forced us home for one Christmas and I am positive I cried through the whole thing.

Despite having endured the loss of Mom this year – I am staying put for Christmas. I refuse to have my baby girl go through this holiday alone. But beyond that – I’m going to prove to myself how much work I have done. That I can do this. I know I am stronger now than I have ever been though there have been many days in the first 13 of this month I have questioned that – I’ll be honest. (I also am hightailing it out of town right after Christmas but that’s my reward.)

In the meantime, I’m going through the usual cycle of drowning in memories, experiencing daily roller coasters of emotions, and learning to be patient with myself in riding it out. But what I am NOT doing is stuffing it in a box. Ignoring my pain. It is exhausting the expectations to be “jolly” when you’d rather crawl under the covers and cry.

Grief is a monster that once it has you – it never lets you go. It may ease it’s grip sometimes, you may be able to put a leash on it and contain it for a while, but it’s like a second skin you have to learn to live with. If you were lucky enough to love and be loved? That grief is an indicator of the hole their absence left in your life. I have lost three wonderful people so far in my life – each loved me beyond measure – so I’ll carry their love and learn how to ride out the tough times and cherish the memories no matter how long it takes me to learn how.

If you are grieving this holiday season, be patient with yourself. If you know someone who is grieving, love them through it. Just being there is more help than you know. The holidays aren’t the stuff they portray in magazines and on TV. For some, they are a hellish 31 days to endure. Be kind. Be sensitive. Be thankful if you still feel their magic. Most of all…blessings.

Amy

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