How Do You Get Through Christmas When You’re Grieving?
Christmas is a paradoxical time, isn’t it? It’s a happy time. Strike that. It’s supposed to be a happy time. Strike that too. For some, it was once a happy time and now it’s not. Not anymore.
In the Post Office today I commented to the clerk that the store looked “Christmassy”. Without looking up from her work she nodded.
“Do you like Christmas?” I asked. She shook her head no.
“I don’t like Christmas either,” I said, “I bet you couldn’t have guessed that.”
She said, “Yes. But I think you used to like it.”
This will be our fourth Christmas without Alex. She remembered.
As I drove home I felt a little less alone. She had given me my first Christmas gift.
As cliché as it sounds, holidays are rough when you’re grieving. I don’t know how I’ll be this Christmas. Right now I think I’ll be okay but I’ve been wrong before. So wrong. I’ve headed into a holiday with resolve and faint optimism only to have the grief descend upon me like a ton of bricks, finding myself wanting to curl up in a ball and hide away with my grief.
When we look around at the people in the malls, in the grocery store, in the Post Office, we don’t know who is holding back tears as the constantly-streaming Christmas carols resurrect ghosts of Christmas past, not “seeing” what’s around them at all but only an overlay of memories of other Christmases. We don’t know who is crumbling inside as they stand in church, missing someone so badly it’s an act of will to be standing at all. Christmas is not always a happy time, not for everyone.
Knowing that someone is remembering someone who has died, what can we do for them? We can give them the gift of our remembering, letting them know we remember too. We can raise a glass and make a toast to the one who is absent. Small gestures like this, acknowledging the grief they feel, can make a world of difference.
I hope you are having a happy holiday but if you’re not, I hope you know; you’re not alone.
“I am filled with fear,” she said, “I used to have hope but it seems I’ve traded it for fear. I’ve felt such fear since…”
“Trade back,” he said gently, “Take back your hope.”
“What if I lose it again?” She thought; what if the unthinkable happens again?
“Then take it back again,” he said, his brown eyes kind.
“But how many times must I do this?” She searched those steady brown eyes.
“Every time,” he said, “every time.”
Photo Credit: John