The first holiday season of losing your loved one is devastating. You receive blow after blow just by the friendly “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” in the stores, gas stations, and grocery store. These strangers have no idea who you lost, or the depression and sadness that covers every ounce of your soul; yet, their well wishes for the holiday season are like a slap in the face, that stings so bad you can’t swallow the lump in your throat.
My friends and family were amazing my first holiday season without my husband, Joe. The events were planned, everyone, from my past and present, invited me to their family Thanksgiving’s and Christmases. Gifts were bought, activities were planned, surprises were made, all in an attempt to dull the blow that was inevitably going to happen.
And then the words, by every single person, chimed over and over and over again: “Just get through the firsts, they’re the hardest.”
Shaking my head up and down, I yearned to believe everyone was right. But then Christmas 2015 came. They were wrong. Every single person was wrong.
That first year–everyone is prepared to help you get through. They distract, embrace, and okay your grief. It is fresh, and it hurts like hell. It is your first year, you don’t know what to expect, and so “they” aka “society,” says the first year is okay to be sad, to grieve. They give you your right of passage to do as you please, just to get through the holidays. But why is the “first year” deemed okay to grieve, but the other years are not? Why is there less patience, understanding, comfort, those that go out of their way to console those of us who have lost the biggest piece of our hearts beyond their first holiday season of grief? Why is there an imaginary timeline that ends after the first anniversary of our loved one’s passing?
Christmas last year, just happened. I knew it was coming. I still stayed busy, put up my tree in an attempt to appear festive and keep holiday traditions alive for our son. But then Christmas Eve got here. We had already had our Christmas with my step-daughter, Joe’s parents, even my nephew. We got home from celebrating Christmas Eve with friends, and I laid that sweet precious, two-year-old boy down in my big, white, King size bed. I quickly retreated to sit on the couch and stare at the beauty and twinkling of our piece of the North Pole, in our living room.
And that’s when it hit me. The second I sat down, I panicked–it was here! I didn’t have plans for tomorrow; I didn’t know what to do; but Christmas was really tomorrow, and what should I do? What should we do? I wanted to do something to make the pain less, and the memories more. The steamy tears burnt my eyelids, then my cheeks. I gasped for air, and begged God that this was not happening again, I didn’t have to do Christmas alone.
But I did. And I couldn’t catch my breath, to make it all make sense. Not as many people asked for us to come celebrate; I turned down those that did- I felt like an outsider and a pity deprived outcast the year prior. The gifts were still there under our tree full of memories; but he wasn’t there beside me. I still didn’t have him. And it shocked me, when I didn’t expect it to–much like grief always does.
This year, I feel it creeping in on me. It’s very much here, but grief won’t come through the door until it is time to be a family on Christmas morning–giddy, excited, shared secret smiles across the room, winks at each other that we managed to bring joy to our baby’s face. The unexpected, surprise gift that we promised each other we wouldn’t buy won’t be under the tree either. It will just be me; and our baby.
If you are the one grieving, let it hurt. It will. Cry until you cannot cry anymore. Talk–about THEM! Even when it makes everyone else uncomfortable–keep talking. You need to, I need to. Although you are crying in the memory that you speak of, it helps your heart to keep them alive. Do whatever you got to do. Life is hard enough, it is not up to anyone else to deem how you should grieve, how bad it should hurt–or the timeline on how long it should last.
If you are a friend or family member watching someone in this grief, rather it be their first holiday season without their loved one, or their tenth, embrace what they need. They lost someone their soul was connected to, and their soul is still alive. Let them talk about their loved one; talk about their loved one with them. Love them, care for them; just be there.
Hold your breath if you have to. You’ve almost made it through this holiday season.