Our eighth Christmas as bereaved parents. This is what I have learned.
The week before Christmas is one of the hardest weeks of the year. My heart waits for that back door to open and have Justin walk in, home for Christmas. That will never happen again and I need to extend every kindness to my heart. I am learning to co-exist with longing and sorrow.
December 22, 23, 24, and 25 are days of tears and tremendous vulnerability. If you are going to stir a bereaved parent’s life, pick any other day of the year. If you screw with them on those days, then don’t be surprised by their reaction. By all that is holy, be kind to people and their suffering.
Questions like “are you ready for Christmas” are triggers, they create a cascade reaction in my body, my muscles tense, and I lose focus. This year I had to fence with multiple questions from strangers about what we were doing for the holidays and who would we see, I start to shut down with too many questions. I learned that I need to create a safe sanctuary for myself the week before Christmas.
I learned that in 2018 I will not schedule any major medical appointments the last two weeks of December. This year I did not have a choice and December was filled with medical appointments as I am experiencing a major event in my body that cannot be ignored. But in 2018 I will be mindful of the calendar and give myself those two weeks free of appointments.
I will remind myself in 2018 that there is respite on December 26th. The day after Christmas brings relief.
We had a tree this year, first one in 6 years. The first two years we were bullied into having trees by well meaning people. I could not wait to drag them out of the house as soon as possible. I love our tree this year. I told Doug I wanted an obnoxiously huge real tree. We have no furniture in the living room, so we got an obnoxiously huge real tree. Doug brought down the Christmas boxes and I went through them. I even hung some ornaments on the tree. Our grief, our way. Our time frame.
This year brought us a Christmas Eve visit with our surviving son that was a perfect treasure. We stood in his house, admiring the grain of the oak cabinets that he has stripped free of ugly dingy paint. We gazed at the colors of paint he is using to bring the walls of their house to life. There was no tree, no holiday carols, no trinkets or trappings, but there was a holiness and sanctity that could never be orchestrated or purchased. There was peace and laughter, and the sheer energy that comes from being with someone who is creating something new.
I do not try to grasp at the days, but let them run like water over my skin, allowing the days to unfold, to appreciate the day for itself and not how it is in relationship to the Christmas countdown. If it is four days before Christmas, or two days before Christmas, then I am not in the moment. I want to be present to the moment, for the moment’s sake, for the sake of peace, and calm.
Flipping my calendar to December 2018, I make little notes in the margin, reminders to make room for my grief in special ways. Grief not as an enemy, but as a companion, a companion to be cared for with mercy and tenderness.
Christmas is best with no expectations. I think the greatest gift we can give each other is releasing the burden of expectations at holidays.
May 2018 bring you moments of great mercy and tender moments for wherever it hurts.