Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happy Holy Days

The holidays have always been a mixed bag for our family. As with most people, the stresses of Christmas shopping, combined with the extra expense, the social and family obligations of visiting and extra cooking all combine to increase the background noise that can make everyday stressors seem more ... stressful. 

But those are normal. Every family feels those to one degree or another, depending on how much fun it is to do the social thing, and on how accomplished a baker one is. 

Last Christmas, we went through a lot of the motions as a family because - well, because the youngest member of our family was spending her first Christmas in Heaven. But at the same time, we didn't want our own personal tragedy rob us of experiences that we'd later regret not having. So - with minor adjustments - we still cooked, still baked, still put up a tree, still had presents and carols, and still attended the Christmas Eve service. We still had friends over for a Christmas meal. It was hard, and we had to make some adjustments because our grief was so very fresh - her accident was only about two months before Christmas - but we did it and we survived. 

The name of the game was survival. And because of the love of friends - and each other - we did survive. 

It's been a whole year of firsts. Wednesdays - the day of the week it was when the police came to our house - hurt for months. Easter: no egg hunt for the first time since she was two. Her first birthday after the accident - July 16. Wow, that was hard: she would have been 22. Thanksgiving was so overwhelming, just a couple of weeks before the first-year anniversary of her death. All I could hear in my head was what she'd said to me the previous Thanksgiving: "Don't give up on your Thanksgiving spirit, Mom. Look at me. I'm homeless, I'm living in my car, and I'm thankful for you, for Dad, for God, for my friends." 

But we survived. We even celebrated BOTH Thanksgivings - the first with a dear friend sharing our 'unexpected' turkey meal, and the second with just the three of us and a ham dinner with sweet and sour mustard sauce.

And now it's Christmas-time once more. And we wonder if we'll ever have "happy holidays" again. We have discussions about what traditions will make the cut this year - and which ones are just too stressful to keep doing. Some things we are keeping. Others we are letting go. 

The grief is always under the surface - potentially just as searingly painful as the first day. Most days it's completely submerged; other days - or should I say at other moments, usually when we least expect it - it leaps out at us from behind a door or in the face of someone walking down the street who looks like her or dresses like she did. Today there was a moment when I was listening to a children's choir perform and they started to sing, "Somewhere in my Memory" (we hear it every year when they air "Home Alone") and the lyrics that talk about happy faces, happy people and family being all together ... reminded me that we weren't all together, and I had to get out of there, tears streaming from my eyes. 

The thing that has made this holiday season a bit more bearable is concentrating on the "holi" part of "holiday". Concentrating on the real spirit behind the Christmas season (the Holy Days, Christmas being Christ-mass or celebration of Christ) has helped to ground us and make the decisions about what to do and not to do a little easier. It'll never be the same, that's sure, but it can still be good. 

And yes, there can still be happiness and joy in the season. It's tinged with sadness because the circle is broken, but that is a given. It's okay to be sad; it's okay to acknowledge how much we love her and miss her. But it's also okay to laugh, to enjoy life, to enjoy each other, and to share what we have. 

And that's how we have decided to spend the next couple of weeks or so.

No comments:

Post a Comment