And just like that, we are staring down the “most wonderful time of the year”. When you have experienced the loss of a child, the regular days are not the same, much less the holidays. The big difference is in the pressure.
All of the sudden, it is expected that we see family and friends. We have to put on a smile, some nice clothes and be filled with holiday cheer. We are supposed to spread love and light and give of ourselves.
It’s the time of year we are in touch with people we don’t talk to or see on a regular basis. People that may not know or we have not seen “since”. We have to tell the story all over again, deal with the looks of sympathy and address their at times misguided attempts to console and empathize with us.
Related: Holiday Survival
Last year was my first holiday season following the loss of Madison and hard does not begin to describe it. She was due around Thanksgiving so my type A-self had already planned so many things. She would have pajamas to match Reeves, an ornament with her name and birthdate. I had a board on Pinterest dedicated just to ideas for our Christmas card.
And then just like that everything was different. My favorite season became a muddy swamp I had to trudge through praying for January to hurry up and get here.
Every Christmas carol made me weep. All the lights and decorations that I normally could not wait to see made me feel nothing. I could not believe that anyone would have a holiday party, much less invite us to come. What exactly was there to celebrate? I was full of resentment that my daughter was not here and I could not see past those feelings to anything else.
Because we had a three year old son to think of, we went through the motions. We got a tree, wrapped gifts, hid the elf (almost) every night for our son to find the next morning. I think if we had our way, my husband and I would have escaped to an island or huddled inside our home until the season passed us by.
Related: Redefining Christmas
We all approach this holiday at different phases and stages in this roller coaster of living after loss. This year will be different than the last for me and my family as this is our second without Madison. I don’t know what to expect because I have not yet been through it and that is okay. Whether it’s your first or your thirty-first, savor this season and your grief wherever that may lead you. Be open with your feelings. Practice self-care. Do what you are comfortable doing, nothing more and nothing less. Embrace the grief and the joy as it comes to you. Savor the season for whatever it may bring to you.