It is nearly December… sigh.
In all honesty, I dread the arrival of the holidays. We are Christmas people who over-decorate every inch of our home. We have amassed an attic full of trinkets and baubles that I just lugged downstairs. The end of the Georgia summer heat sets off a season of much-loved family tradition and I should be excited for its arrival. But, now… now there is a specter – a tangible presence is ushered in with the falling leaves and hovers in our home. It would be more apt to label it a tangible absence.
I would best describe it as a constant feeling that something bad is about to happen – like I’ve got a bill due that I cannot pay or a tense confrontation that is imminent. I can function, smile, and do what I’m supposed to do. But this feeling is perpetual and keeps me on edge.
The specter haunts anyone who has experienced recent loss and certainly every grieving parent I know shares my dread of the Christmas. This time of year is the ultimate paradox and I’ll share the main reasons why.
The holidays bring family together. We sit, talk, reminisce, and look forward. And while we laugh, my mind drifts back to chilly February days when this same group of loved ones sat vigil watching Kylie’s body deteriorate. Days later we gathered around a coffin. Those images resurface when our larger family is together. Same group of people, same scenes floating through my mind. I wish they would stop, but I can’t make them and don’t know if I ever will.
Holiday traditions are another struggle. Sometimes following them makes me happy and sometimes it leaves me gasping for breath because the hole is magnified times ten. I have no way of knowing which emotion will surface – grief’s most callous trick is its randomness. To compound the problem, modifying traditions feels like I am trying move on from a space I can’t and don’t want to leave. It becomes a game of Christmas Roulette – spin the chamber and fire, never knowing which tradition will shoot a bullet straight through the heart.
Do we hang the stocking? Yes
Will it cause me to sigh every time I pass? Yes
Do we hang Kylie’s ornaments? Yes
Can we ever make a Christmas card again? Not Likely
When we watch Elf will I always hear her Buddy impersonations? Yes
Oh, the memories that this time of year brings: tree shopping, elf tricks, screaming babies in Santa’s lap, early morning sprints to the stockings, red and green wrapping paper explosive mayhem. In the silence of the season, I love them and I crave them. But I also despise them because one of my children won’t be coming downstairs to pour through her stocking.
It’s a very cruel Holiday Paradox.
Rather than leave this post without any hope or positivity, I’ve been trying to figure out what advice to offer those who might have a friend or loved one living this paradox. This is hard because I do not believe time heals all wounds and since the circumstance that caused the grief cannot be altered, there is almost nothing anyone can do to help. I think the greatest gift I could receive is for friends to understand that they just can’t understand nor can they fix. Words likely won’t comfort but a listening ear is to be cherished.
In the end, I suppose my Christmas wish is for my friends to enjoy their holidays, love their families, and know I might need an extra ear or shoulder from time to time in December. If they can do that and tolerate my lunacy until January, I’ll get by. And when the game is roulette without a wheel, getting by is the best and only option.