There isn’t many people that can’t bow their heads this time of year in remembrance of someone missing around their dinner table. Whether it be a parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling or child – a large number of people know that deep loss and the holidays can be a reminder of that pain. And for those that don’t, I hope you can bow your head and give a deep, genuine and grateful ‘thank you’ for not knowing. And also, send a little extra love to anyone who you know may be hurting, especially in the earlier stages of coping with a loss.
The first few years, to say anything was bright, cheery or anywhere close to Merry was quite an exaggeration! When I was told ‘Merry Christmas’ the only thing I wanted to tell anyone was ‘Fu** off!’ If I didn’t have my daughter, there wouldn’t have been a tree or decorating and it would’ve been far more grim then it already seemed! As with all ‘firsts’ it was just another reminder of what was missing. Another reason to not want to leave the house, see or talk to anyone and surely no reason to celebrate! Despite what ‘stage’ you’re in, the ‘fog’ of shock and denial, engulfed in guilt or anger – it boils down to one thing – pain. An emptiness that feels physical in the body, a heaviness and sense of being literally lost. I was trying so hard to fake a smile and make the best out of it, especially for my daughter – but to be honest, I wasn’t that great at it, and to be more honest – I really didn’t care!
I felt like as the years went on I went through these phases of ‘screw it, we’ll buy whatever we want and spoil her – spend the money – who cares – ya can’t take it with ya!’ Then it became more about remembering to see the larger picture – being grateful for those that we still have sitting at the table with us. Those that we’re able to reflect with on the memories, those that have been our rock through the valleys and celebrated with us on the hilltops.
I remember when I got married everyone always said ‘make sure you try and take time throughout the day to just stop and take it all in – it goes so fast, you need to remind yourself to take those moments and breathe and just look around!” This is a great time of year to do that as well – but a very trying and hard time to implement it! In the chaos of go, go, GOOO – of the ripping open of one present just to get to the next one, of inhaling the delicious food, the stress of travel and which family gets X amount of time. Try and just take a step back with a breath and really take it all in. This is your life – and although there may be some missing at the table – there are important ones still surrounding you. The ones that have helped you grieve and make it through this far, that added more comfort then stress, that were your punching bag (figuratively;) when you needed, your shoulder to cry on (literally;) – appreciate those.
And more importantly, don’t just do it during the holidays. In the grand scheme of things – we shouldn’t need all these ‘dates on the calendar’ to remind us of these things. It shouldn’t have to be another holiday or another birthday to acknowledge those that have helped us get here. In the bigger picture – the grander scheme – all the rest is just minor, background details. It’s what we choose to bow our heads to be thankful for – it’s what we teach our children about what is most important about this time of year – it’s about being present, not getting presents! And this is something that I’m still struggling implying in all areas of my life, because default mode is soooo much easier! ha But – as you approach another holiday – I hope you’re able to stop and appreciate, even if only for a minute. I hope your list of ‘gratefuls’ is longer then your list of reasons to be sad, mad, disappointed – or anything in between! And for all of those that can’t see the gratefuls, that are still engulfed in the other stages – I so get it – all of it! And although it may not seem like it, some day – the pain won’t weigh as heavy, someday – you’ll be able to laugh through the tears – someday – your list of gratefuls will be more plentiful then any of the ‘stages’. Until then – may peace and healing envelope you from the inside out.