Ah, the holidays. Lights twinkling, friends and family gathering, candles glowing, and frost nipping at your nose. And then GRIEF tripping you on your own toes. Yeah, it is hard to slog through it. If only there was a fast forward button to breeze my way through this season. All that disgusting joy outside but such sadness on the inside which is why it can be the most miserable time of year.
This time of year is so hard for anyone with a recent loss, especially the loss of a spouse. This year marks the third anniversary of my husband's death on December 12th and I am trying hard to overcome the pain. It does get a bit better with each passing year as I have learned to live with his absence from my life.
I am behind on decorating the house for the holidays. I have not even baked one cookie. I somehow sent out my Christmas cards. Last night through sheer will power I forced myself to put together the artificial Christmas tree, then tested out all the strings of lights before putting them on the tree, and I did so grumpily at first, much to the amusement of my 16 year old son. His laughing at me made me share with my teen that the second Christmas after losing his Dad was the hardest, as I remember feeling so angry while I put up the tree in 2012, around the one year anniversary. I wanted to chop up the lights when they got tangled and then wanted to scream when half of a brand new strand went out and never worked again. My son chuckled and said, "How could you be angry at lights and a Christmas tree?" I replied, "I was not angry at the tree or the lights. I was angry about your father's death, angry that he was gone and all the supposed joyfulness of the season only made me angrier when the new lights wouldn't work." Somehow I survived that year and subsequent years, and I am chugging along, three steps forward, two steps back, on this journey.
Last night as my son and I decorated the tree, my spirit and mood lightened as I unpacked ornaments that held memories, some of marriage and parenthood, others of my own childhood. I have a few ornaments given to me by my sisters that are special, and I received them when I was in my early teens, way before meeting my husband, way before love and marriage. Ironically they helped me remember a part of me, of who I was prior to coupledom.
Thinking back to my childhood I shared a funny story about my mom with my son. We always had real trees in my childhood and every year when taking the tree down, my mom would be grumpy and angry as she removed the ornaments and lights. She would remove the glass ornaments from the branches and throw them, yes, literally throw them carelessly to land in a big cardboard box with a smash. Sometimes she missed the box. I often stood there astonished at each sound of breaking glass, but she seemed deaf to it. Then, every year when we lugged the big box of stored ornaments out of the basement, my mom would open the box and question in an astonished tone out loud, "How did all of these ornaments get broken?" That still makes me laugh because she was the one who broke them while putting them away, but she would forget she did it, and each year she would buy more ornaments to use.... and to break.
Yes, the memories help make me laugh and smile, and it warms my heart thinking of my mom who I lost 12 years ago to Lou Gehrigs (ALS.) It makes me realize that I am full of love and gratitude even though I miss my husband, who cancer took from us three years ago. Love and gratitude is deep inside of me and is brightly glowing in defiance of the darkness of grief that threatens to extinguish it. I won't let it. I am a fighter. I am a survivor. I have so much love inside that I won't be destroyed, but rather transformed by this difficult journey.
Peace, healing and strength to all of you struggling against the darkness. Remember that you are not alone.