Almost three and a half years ago I was thrown into the world of the grieving parent. At the time, I was in a highly alert state, taking words that were said to me and dissecting them one by one. Sometimes people said things that I found confusing, and maybe even hurtful. I started reading…
I belong to a club. It is exclusive. Most of the members have never met, and not one of them have signed up voluntarily.
Each of them carries a weight that only the other members can see, and there is an undercurrent of understanding, even without words. Most days we survive but each day we strive to thrive in grief and in life. Some of us wear special jewelry, have a tattoo, or find signs. Others practice rituals, snuggle a treasured blanket, or hold a stuffed animal, all of which symbolize the reason for entry into this club. Each of us has a lifetime membership and every one of us want out. It is the worst club you can ever imagine yet the members have the biggest hearts you have ever seen. The empathy, the copathy, are unmatched. In this club, you feel a belonging even when you want anything but to belong. You never believe it could happen to you even after it happens to you.
You are never prepared when grief strikes. There is no warning to take shelter immediately. There is no storm-proofing your heart.
One minute you are seeing sunshine, the next complete darkness. Some days are horrible, others are full of love and light, but every day, every night is a little grief-ish, full of longing. This will be the 6th Christmas without my son Cullin Darden Limer and some days it is still so hard to find the glee within the glum, the holy within the hell. Life after loss can be so excruciating and it can be especially tough to remember the reason for season during the holidays when your bones ache with grief.
Silent night, Holy night. How I hate those silent nights.
When my heart aches because my son will not get to sit on Santa’s knee again, I find some solace within the belief that this is the sixth year my boy ‘sits on Jesus’ knee’ for Christmas. I imagine that Cullin is at the biggest Christmas celebration of all, in awe of the light and love that surrounds him. I picture him smiling, warmed by the love that radiates from this earthly realm to his. Even though we have our beliefs, our hope, and we can the light, the anger and rage are more apparent during certain times of the year more than others. Sometimes I need a break from grief, and sometimes I need to break something in response to the effects of grief.
Sometimes my upbeat, optimistic self wants to say ‘Eff the falalalalaa’s’ and rip down the boughs of holly.
The first Christmas without my son was heavy and hollow, much like my heart, yet we “celebrated” anyways, just two months after he passed. His siblings needed my presence more than presents, but I could not pull it together so I decided to fall apart. Box after box of Christmas decorations sat in the garage waiting to be unpacked, and the kids longed for their stockings to be hung. One night I surrendered, served the kids cookies and milk, turned on Frosty the Snowman, and trudged to the garage, as heavy footed as ever. The lights seemed dimmer, the tinsel, tangled. As I unpacked the stockings, something within me snapped causing an ornamental release of emotions.
Take a deep breath…you can’t help but let it go.
I just let it all go. All the anger. All the rage. All the hurt. All the feelings within me were released with a fury. I threw stuff. Ladders sailed from one corner to the next. I broke stuff. I beat up a trashcan with a hoe. And I smashed some Christmas bulbs. Many, many Christmas bulbs. I stomped on them like grief has stepped on my heart, relentlessly and viciously, without care. I smashed those ornaments like the death of a child smashes a lifetime of dreams. They shattered. When the dust settled I looked at those broken ornaments and thought, “They may be broken, but they still sparkle.”
Turn the bone-aching hours into soul-shaping minutes.
We do whatever it takes to make it through this real-life grief. Sometimes we get logical. Sometimes we get spiritual. Other times we get creative and somewhat destructive. Well, I do. This will be my sixth year to smash ornaments while unpacking the holiday decorations, and I want to invite you to join our tribe of grief-loathing, heal-seeking, ornament-smashers during the holiday season as we defy grief and get creative. From October to December our club is enamored with awareness, holidays and expected cheer. Celebrating can seem impossible and socializing can seem unbearable, but I encourage you to find heart in the hurt one choice, one action, one creative step at a time.
Make meaningful memories within the moments without.
When your hands feel heavy, find ways to keep your heart light. As you unpack your holiday decorations, and feel the rage of grief bubble within, I challenge you to smash some ornaments. Stomp on them like grief has stepped on your heart, relentlessly and viciously, without care. Grind the shards into glitter. Pick up the broken pieces. Funnel them into a clear, fillable ornament bulb, symbolically filling your new, fragile shell with the broken yet beautiful pieces of your old, shattered self. Use the hashtags #ornamentalrelease #ornamentsmashchallenge #ornamentsmash and share the photos of your creative grief experience with other club members. When you are hurting so badly that you could just break something, do, but then turn the destruction into creation. Pick up the shattered pieces of your being and create beauty within the beast of grief.