Christmas came just a little over three months after my husband died. Our children were two and four years old. I put up our tree on November 1st. I usually wait until after Thanksgiving but I thought we could use some extra warmth and magic in our house after the past three months of horror, sadness, and confusion. A tree with sparkly lights and wonderful ornaments was something familiar, something that brought joy and happiness and we needed that more than anything.
It wasn't easy getting through that first Christmas without my husband. I had spent 12 Christmas's with him. 12 years of jolly times with him. Our first Christmas together we had been dating only 4 months and he bought me little diamond earrings. I don't wear them anymore. It hurts too much. Yes, some things still hurt my wound.
The first Christmas season without him was hard, it was really hard. I decided to jump into the magic of the season for our children to help cushion their grief of not having their Dad anymore. We drank hot chocolate twice a day. We put tinsel everywhere. We baked cookies more than once and I remember them sitting on the kitchen table in their undies surrounded by different frostings and pounds of sprinkles. Their giggles comforted my own sadness. We hung up hundreds of twinkly lights inside and outside of our home. We shielded our grief with magic.
Christmas came and I somehow managed to get the presents bought and wrapped under the tree. I sat up all night on Christmas Eve after we got home from my parent's house. I sat up wrapping my children's gifts and I think some of my tears fell inside of their packages. Usually, my husband and I would do this together. We would sit around the tree drinking wine, wrapping gifts, and talking. At that moment I felt so alone in the world. That night the magic of the twinkly lights and the feeling of the season of jolly did not shield my grief......it brought out my lonliness, my sadness, my depression, and my ache for what should be.
The season of jolly.
Sometimes you aren't feeling so jolly.
Sometimes you don't want to put up the tree. It makes you too sad. You don't have the energy.
I understand. You don't have to do every holiday exactly the same. If you just lost someone you love this year and you are feeling the holiday blues........you can change the holiday if you need to. It's ok. There will be more holidays. Don't trap yourself into feeling like you have to put on a jolly smile, package up your grief, and pretend you're happy for the holidays. Be honest. If you have to skip out on holiday parties.....people who love you will understand. Next year you might actually want to go to those parties and your mind might be less scrambled by grief so that you can actually muster up a conversation and maybe even a laugh or two. Give yourself the persmission to do whatever you need to do to get through the holiday season. Skip the tree if you want to or just go buy a small one. Don't turn on the Christmas music if it makes you cry. Stay home crying by your tree snuggled up in your husbands old flannel shirt wearing the earrings he gave you that first Christmas and hug his picture if you need to. Getting through the holidays the first year of grief is hard. And it's totally unique to each person who is grieving so I won't give you a list of tips to get you through. My first year of grief my mind was so fried that I could hardly read let alone remember a long list of tips to get me through the day.
You have to take it day by day, emotion by emotion, minute by minute. One day you might feel like drinking egg nog and dancing with your children in your kitchen to holiday tunes and you might feel joy and you might smile and feel good. And the next day you might be in a heap of tears when you're decorating the tree and you come across your wedding ornament. All you can do is take care of yourself. Love yourself through it. Give yourself permission to rest and to hide away from the world if you need to. Sprinkle extra holiday magic over your greiving children if you have the energy. Give them glitter and glue and ask them to make decoraitons for in the house. Yes, it will be a mess and you'll find that glitter in the cracks in the wood floor years later but it will bring so much joy to their sad little hearts. And when you see that glitter in those cracks years later you won't even try to clean it out. You'll leave it because it reminds you that you got through that first holiday and there were days of wailing and there were also days of joy.
The season of jolly is upon us. Let it's magic comfort your heart.
Drink two cups of hot cocoa if you feel like it.
Don't talk at Christmas dinner if you can't think of what to say because all your mind is thinking is................There's an empty chair and an empty place in my heart and I just want to go home and go to bed and sleep.
Remember all the holidays you had with your loved one before they died. At first, the memories hurt. They remind us of what we had and what we will never have again. And eventually, the memories bring so much love, so much happiness, so much comfort. For once-upon-a-time I had a husband to sit under the tree with and our children had a Dad to lift them up to place the star on our tree. And we are so grateful for those memories. And we miss him so much.....always.
Grieving during the season of jolly is difficult.
Be kind to yourself.
Reach out if you can and spread some holiday cheer to others because that can really warm up your broken heart.
Cry under the tree is you need to.
You're going to get through this.
The only cure for grief is to grieve.
I'm thinking of all of you this holiday season.