Today is a damp, gray and chilly Autumn day. The trees are losing their colorful leaves, the sun is nowhere in sight and I can feel myself losing motivation. And to be honest, I’m also feeling an increasing absence of joy. Even though I don’t want to admit it, this change in weather and attitude means Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. I’m going to need a serious game plan. Part of me resents being cliché in my grief. I don’t want to be a mourner who finds the holidays difficult. I want to be different. I want to find joy in every day, especially the big days. But that’s not a very reasonable expectation, I suppose.
I think part of giving myself extra grace is admitting it’s ok to not be an emotional super woman. I’m not special in the way I’m handling grief. In fact, I think I’m pretty typical?
I haven’t done the holidays without my husband before, so this season of warm and fuzzy togetherness, is not going to be the same. Because it’s my first, I can’t tell you what worked for me. This is my first time trying to figure out how to get through the season of joy and thankfulness while we’re feeling a bit empty and sad. My birthday and our wedding anniversary also fall into this Thanksgiving to Christmas time frame. Could we throw one more sentimental occasion into the mix? Oh, yes we can! Have I mentioned B graduates from college in December? Lord, I’m going to need extra mercy and extra grace this year. I’m going to have to rely on advice from the grief experts and pray they actually spoke with real grieving people before they compiled their lists. Here’s a brief overview of what the grief scholars suggest and what I think about their ideas.
Start a new tradition.
Good idea. How about taking a long nap and wake me when it’s January? No, not really, I’m mostly kidding. Actually I think starting a new tradition is a great idea. Ideas I’m kicking around include:
- A Christmas Day movie. We’ve never gone to the movies on Christmas day before. Maybe that’s a good idea? It wouldn’t involve a lot of work or socializing, yet we’d be together, which is a definite win. The down side is being required to change out of pajamas, which would be another first.
- Christmas Lights tour in our Pjs. I don’t know why I’m obsessed about pajamas, but I am. I’m thinking about hopping in the minivan as soon as it’s dark to view Christmas lights. Not very original, but a new and adventurous tradition? Hot chocolate in travel mugs?
- Thanksgiving travel. This year we’ve made a plan to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and sister in another state. We are going to visit my husband’s family on the way. This is a new plan and I hope it fills up some of the empty places inside us.
- Go sledding and build a snowman. If there’s snow, and if it’s not thirty below zero. December in the Midwest, who knows?
Keep a familiar tradition.
Figuring out how to balance the new without erasing the old is going to be the tricky part. There are definitely some traditions we are going to keep.
- New Pajamas on Christmas Eve. Again with the pajamas! I am not giving up this awesome tradition. Everyone gets new pajamas on Christmas Eve, no matter what.
- Church. Baby Jesus, baby Jesus, baby Jesus. The Reason for the Season. Worship. Candlelight Service. Silent Night, Holy Night. We’re doing it. It will probably make me feel all the uncomfortably sad things, but we’re doing it. Church before new pajamas.
Help someone else.
Solid idea. Nothing better to take the focus off our hurt than to help someone else with theirs. Sponsoring a family? Bake a LOT of cookies together, try not to eat them all and deliver them to nursing homes or around the neighborhood? I don’t know what idea best fits us, but I like this idea a lot. Giving helps with grieving. Serving helps with sadness. I know this is true.
Focus on the kids.
I think this will definitely be the case. Will I overspend? Over spoil? Probably. Do I care this year? Not really. If it helps take the edge off the sorrow this first year, I’m ok with that. I don’t want it to be an ongoing trend, but this year, I may be a little ridiculous. Maybe.
Honoring our loved one.
I mean, I guess. We definitely try to do this all the time, but how do we incorporate this into Thanksgiving and Christmas without it being a big, heavy, depressing thing? The experts suggest things like lighting candles in their honor (not our thing), talking about him (we already do this), placing his picture amidst holiday decorations (Mmmmkay?). One idea I read was donating children’s books or toys in his honor. I love this one. I think I’ll check with a children’s hospital or Ronald McDonald House about this idea. It goes along with helping others but also honors our loved one.
Seek professional help.
Well, we’re still in counseling, so we’ll see what ideas the therapist has. I’ll let you know.
Permission to feel whatever we feel, whenever we feel it.
I know this is true. I know it’s solid advice, but I don’t like it. I like to have a plan and I like it to go smoothly. I like to be in control of things. Hahaha – I can feel grief mocking me on that one. The truth is, I really do need to allow myself to go with the flow this year. I need to give myself permission to go to plan B when plan A suddenly feels all wrong. If it were just MY moods and emotions to contend with that would be difficult enough, but I need to factor in how the waves of grief might hit each of my three kids. It’s my bet we will all be on different emotions at different times and it’s likely to be a disaster. That’s not negativity, that’s just reality. I’m thinking we go in with low expectations and pray it goes better than that.
Family meeting to collect more ideas.
Because each of my children grieves differently, I think this is an excellent idea. We should sit down and brainstorm different ideas that we can all agree on. A holiday bucket list. I like it.
I’ve been told the build-up to the “firsts” is actually worse than the actual days. I hope that’s true. I want that to be the case, because I really want to enjoy the holidays. I resent being sad because I yearn for joy. Unfortunately, healing sometimes requires you feel the ugly stuff because there’s no running around it – only pushing through it. I hate that. I want to resist it. I want to pretend there’s a detour, but I know there isn’t. Grief is a tough road. Is it January yet?