Really? I have to do this again?
Seriously? I have to go through another holiday season without Ron again?!? Been there, done that, don’t wanna.
That is how I feel about this holiday season.
The first one was just months after his death and I was in a deep, numb fog. I could not handle Christmas music, got a tiny tree that I didn’t want for my daughters. That tree was almost worse than no tree because it was tiny and not especially festive but it was all I could handle since decorating it and taking it down was going to be my task alone. I really didn’t want to decorate at all. For Thanksgiving I drank too much wine on purpose because I knew it would make me fall asleep and I wrapped myself up in a blanket near the fireplace and did exactly that. I really couldn’t socialize and there was a family (friends of my in-laws) at the gathering that I specifically didn’t want to spend time with so that was how I escaped. (I also kept a computer open in another room with the Widowed Village chat room going so that I could check in with my fellow wids.) That first Christmas we went to my brother-in-law’s house and it was the only right place to be. Christmas Eve after we finally finished wrapping and putting gifts under the tree I sat in the living room and cried harder than I had cried since Ron’s death. My sister in law found me and sat and hugged me while part of me drained away. Thinking about it makes me cry still. I will be forever grateful to her for that moment. The trip was emotionally exhausting, as it would have been anywhere, and it took me pretty much the entire month of January to recover. I was so deeply depleted. I also remember feeling a rush or a sense of achievement. I had made it through my first holiday season without Ron and the world did not explode.
Last year I still couldn’t bear Christmas music but I wanted to feel like I had some control over something ,over anything (!), and I decided that I wanted to host Thanksgiving. There was some drama involved as the guest list evolved. I had some unresolved anger towards my father in law and didn’t want him to join us. If I had held fast to that plan many other in-law family members would have gone to a different house and the idea of that hurt more and frightened me more than I or anyone could have realized. I felt like I could lose my in-laws and that I couldn’t withstand more loss. I also realized that they didn’t know how important they were to me and how important I felt it was for my daughters (and for me) for them to be with us. He joined us and it was fine and in the past year I have learned to let my anger go. The fight was never mine to fight. What happened is in the past and Ron wasn’t angry and the anger no longer served anyone, especially me. I am trying to remember Christmas. I know that the month of December was difficult and I didn’t want to socialize, couldn’t bear to be around people much. Christmas Eve was very nice, with my sister in law and niece and nephew. I remember that being relaxing. We got a bigger tree because when we went shopping and I showed the girls the pathetic tree I wanted, my youngest burst into tears. I put the presents under the tree by myself and it made me feel empty but the next morning went fine and the girls opened the presents. One thing that was upsetting was that Samantha learned that there was no Santa and it broke her heart and stole some of the magic of childhood from her. She realized that all of the fantasy characters—tooth fairy, Easter bunny, etc. were made up and she lost some of the joy she had for those moments. I don’t remember Christmas dinner. I think we went to my other brother in laws…. We went up to NJ and NYC and saw my family for the days between Christmas and the New Year. In January I crashed again. This time I felt like I had held it together for the holidays and now was stuck in a New Year without Ron.
Ah, New Year’s Eve. I haven’t wanted to stay up to midnight since Ron died. I think I might have stayed up until 12:05 once so that Sophie could experience midnight but honestly I am not sure. I don’t think I will want to stay up this year either. 2015 sounds very far away from a time when Ron was alive. New Year’s hurts and having no one to share the moment with makes me want to avoid it at all costs.
So that brings me to this year. It is different for me this year. I have this huge feeling of incredulity. Do I seriously have to do this again? Go through another holiday season without Ron? Really? WTF? I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with my mother and my side of the family so we went to NJ and I did a little cooking beforehand. I made a pecan pie—that would have been Ron’s contribution and brought a framed photo of him and our “Ron” candle to light on the table. Thanksgiving Day was calm and fairly easy but I cried off and on in the two weeks leading up to it and my anxiety levels were out of control. I was so sick to my stomach with grief and anger. The day after Thanksgiving I felt sad and needy and wanted someone to acknowledge my grief. My brother looked at me and asked, “are you going to make it?”. I shook my head and cried and he listened and that helped me calm down for the rest of the trip.
This Christmas: I still can’t stand Christmas music. Can’t stand the commercials on TV and really can’t stand the shopping malls. I will do most of my shopping on line or in local stores. I wanted to host a small Christmas dinner but my in-laws already made plans so I can join them or do it alone here. I think I will join them. I was upset when I realized that they already had made plans and then I was more upset because if Ron were here none of it would have mattered. I would have been happy to go along with the crowd. I wouldn’t have so much stake in the details. The girls actually like waking up with just the three of us on Christmas morning. My mother would like to join us this year and I am deciding when to ask her to come down. I might ask my other sister in law and her kids to come over on Christmas Eve again. There will be a big Kim gathering of all of my in laws that holiday week. I decided that I didn’t want to host the full crowd and while my house will be full of guests, it will be good to have the main events elsewhere. I just don’t have the energy to handle all of the cleaning, arranging, food prep, planning and then cleaning up the aftermath on my own. It just isn’t fun without Ron and it is too much work alone. This year, while I feel more up to socializing and less floored by the whole shebang--I may put a wreath on the door and even put out a holiday towel or two, I also feel some lethargy. Another holiday season without Ron. Why? What is the point? We aren't religious so that is not a factor. Even for the girls there is a lack of sparkle. They like getting gifts but the one thing they want most in the world, they can never have and nothing can make up for it. I hate to wish time away. I know the days/hours/moments are precious. I just wish the holidays would go away and I could have a normal month.
I would like to create new traditions. I would like to find a way to reclaim the holidays so that they are joyful—even with the pain of Ron’s absence woven within. I would like to find a way to have a stronger sense of myself and not feel fragile and at the mercy of other’s. I’d like to feel safe but that isn’t about the holidays, that is about life after Ron. Being safe is about feeling like I alone, am enough. It is about creating my own safety and finding my own strength. Maybe that is what I would like for Christmas and it sounds like a gift I am going to have to give to myself.