If we could all be a little more understanding somehow.
More love is what we really need now.
I do often find myself wishing to make it through,
and then be able to start anew!
Hoping for a brighter day,
Yet fearing what else will come my way.
Haven’t we endured enough?
Haven’t we seen a lot of stuff?
Can’t things go smoothly for a while?
So I can take a deep breath and find my smile.
The future is an uncertain place,
When I can no longer be wrapped in your embrace.
The holidays can be a joyful time of family togetherness, good food and tradition. But how can you carry on with your tradition when a key component is absent? They can also be a painful dark time.
People talk a lot about their blessings and what they have, but what feels much stronger is the sense of what is missing. The empty seat that can’t be filled is very “noticeable” for those who have experienced a loss. I was reading a blog over Thanksgiving that described this time of year as the Bermuda Triangle – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Others who commented described it as an octagon with some birthdays and anniversaries sprinkled in.
What shape does your grief take? I lean towards a circle … I have lost so many people in a tight spiral of time. Each with their own memories and favorite things that are tied all around this time of year.
Time is a funny thing. It feels short and long all at once. As more time passes there is more apart than together. More distance since the last time. More revolutions of space and time. Sometimes you are spiraling towards the center, where it is more intense, and other times you are taking the long way around the outside.
When surrounded by lots of people at large gatherings you will likely face those who just don’t understand. They will think that if a certain amount of time has gone by that your feelings are invalid in some way. You should get over it. Many people experience panic attacks years later.
The triggers can come in many forms. All it takes is a song or smell or some kind of small reminder to bring back a flood of emotions. I think the toughest part for me is dealing with people who I think should “get it,” yet they are totally clueless.
The year’s end brings photo montages and year in reviews. It can be refreshing to look back and then be able to start over fresh, but it can also be very sobering and painful to relive it all yet again.
I find it especially difficult to watch other people celebrate as if nothing has happened. My world was repeatedly rocked at holiday time. On December 15, 2010, two police officers showed up at my parents’ home to inform them that my Uncle Steve had been found dead in his apartment. He had a heart attack in his sleep.
That pretty much shattered the idyllic world I thought we lived in. I came home from his funeral and was thrown into holiday celebrations with my husband’s family. People asked one quick question and then changed the subject. To watch the world keep spinning was hard!
Then, in January, my dad needed emergency open heart surgery. It was a super snowy winter. I was pregnant and highly emotional. I wept like I had never wept before. I couldn’t imagine losing him. Little did I know that just under a year later I would lose him. We got the gift of a little more time, but time is something there is never enough of.
But rewind back to Christmastime 2011, we had a harrowing year where my dad’s surgery was in January, then, in February, my dad came home from the hospital and two weeks later my grandfather went into the hospital. They told us he needed surgery and wouldn’t allow him to even go home to get his affairs in order. He had surgery in March and died in April.
In June, I became a Mommy! I was thrown into a fast-paced world with little sleep and even less time to stop and think. When the holidays rolled around again, my family was still reeling from the rapid fire of the year we barely lived through.
My mom and I kept walking around feeling like we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. What does that phrase even mean? I don’t know, but I know we were scared. The holidays came and went and the new year rang in and I desperately wanted to breathe in a sigh of relief and exhale, but for some reason I still had this sense of impending doom.
Then I got that phone call that no one wants to get about my dad’s passing. That was the hardest by far! The rest of the year took all we could muster. It was loaded with “firsts” that no one wants to have to experience. Somehow we managed.
But then my Grandmother’s failing health got even worse. She was diabetic and blind and developed a terrible infection and needed a foot amputation. Her surgery date: Christmas Eve! The same night that she should have been celebrating her 65th wedding anniversary, except she lost her husband the year before.
After her surgery, she was sent home and placed in hospice care. We spent a whole month waiting on the end. It took its toll on my family for sure. She died on January 25, 2013.
I was swept right back into the depths of depression. I have finally pulled myself out of it, just in time for the holidays. Part of me really just wants to hide under a rock and not answer the phone or watch the news or look at the halcyon days encased in snow globes! I have had enough!
My family is Jewish, so I have always been a bit of a Scrooge! (Ba Humbug!) We aren’t too big on traditions and are still adjusting to the new “normal.”
My husband is Catholic so we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. What I have found what I am doing is that each year I am getting an ornament for our tree that symbolizes my dad. Last year was a tiny blue jay bird from Hallmark. This year is a Fortune Keeper (See my article on Lunch for the meaning there!)
I also have had a piece of custom jewelry made (one for me and one for my mom). Last year was a pendant that said “LOVE, ME” in my Dad’s handwriting. This year was an Origami Owl Living Locket, with each charm symbolizing my dad in some way. My mom had a necklace made for herself and one for me it is a spiral of silver with a quote printed on it. Hers has her wedding song and mine has my favorite quote.
My advice to anyone out there who is hurting at this time of year would be to take care of YOU! That would be what your loved one would want for you. Get enough rest and eat well. Do something that brings you joy. Buy yourself something special.
If they were here to do it for you, they would, but they can’t. Buy yourself flowers! Life is too short not to enjoy the ride. My wounds are still pretty fresh. This is only my second voyage around the Holiday Hoopla. I hope that it gets a little easier.
I just think the wishing and longing for what can never be is a strong force that is difficult to conquer. No necklace or ornament will bring any of my lost relatives back for a hug.
Diana Waxman Freccia hails from Long Island, N.Y., but now lives in Wilmington, DE where she chases a toddler by day and tutors for the SAT by night. She is an aspiring writer and photographer.