Not Always The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year: Christmas and Grief
“Grief is a room without doors – but somehow, with its tinsel and cliches, Christmas finds a way in.” ~ Simon Van Booy
A Difficult Time of Year
There is no denying this can be a difficult time of year for many people. From the lost of loved ones, to the estrangement of family members, to the stressful pressures of having everything finished in time, to those struggling with addiction, such as eating disorders and alcoholism, this time of year can not only be hard, but also a trigger for many people. Coming from this overzealous Christmas lover, it is OKAY not to love Christmas and the holiday season and no one should feel pressured or be made to feel guilty because you don’t.
Not liking this time of year, doesn’t mean you are a Grinch. It makes you human. We all have our individual likes and dislikes and we all prefer different holidays. We don’t ALL have to love the same one. It is okay not too, even if it seems like the whole world is conspiring to celebrate. And sometimes we may love a holiday, but just not feel like celebrating because of whatever is going on in our life. We are all different and we all handle grief and difficult times differently, especially during the holidays.
I Wanted Christmas to Disappear
If you haven’t guessed by now, spoiler alert, I LOVE Christmas. That doesn’t mean every single year has been merry and bright, and I always feel like celebrating. In fact there have been some years where I wish Christmas could be cancelled. Yes for real.
After my sister was killed, I went through a period where I wondered if I would ever be happy again. With her death just two short months before Christmas (and being type A) I had already bought her Christmas presents. She and I had always been partners in crime when it came to celebrating the holidays. She was as Christmas obsessed as I am, if not more so and I could not imagine celebrating without her.
I also knew she would strike me dead, and not just haunt me, but probably make my years in the after life unpleasant if I didn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps, and stop ruining my mascara. That first year was the hardest. As much as I wanted to hide away, I knew I had to get through it anyway I could, or I would just be postponing the agony another year, instead of taking baby steps to find ways to cope.
I made a couple new memories and traditions. While I definitely ran away, ironically to the most Christmas-y city in the US, New York, I bought ornaments like she use too. My cousin and I discovered Dyker Heights which in our shared grief (and also near frost bitten state) we also found joy in the absolute crazy and zany decorations. And it was my cousin I called sobbing Christmas morning, not sure how I would get through the day who had and has been an amazing rock. We have FaceTimed every Christmas since.
Small Glimmers of Light
I could have hidden away, but I also knew, under the layers of pain, a raging eating disorder, and depression, that if I didn’t begin to face it, Christmas would become a hallow shell of bitterness. I also didn’t want my sister haunting me. That first year I did experience moments of joy, like when I was at Dyker Heights. No matter how fleeting, they were there. They didn’t euphorically heal me. It took work. A lot of work for the hole in my heart to scar over, but each step was a tiny celebration.
In being selfless, but also self-serving I focused on the giving aspects of Christmas, volunteering, buying presents, reaching out with Christmas cards. Focusing and appreciating the connections that meant more to me then ever before. Slowly more Christmas-y things began to seep in from watching Christmas movies, to the music (when they didn’t just start playing on the radio) it was a process that took time and a lot of internal work. It didn’t just happen in days or months, but years.
Be Patient With Yourself and Others
Healing isn’t an easy road. It takes work. It takes patience, with yourself and those around you. Most of all it takes kindness for yourself and others. Happiness doesn’t just occur, no matter what time of year it is and no matter how blessed you are in life. It is work, but the most important of work.
This year Christmas is going to have a whole new meaning for my family, and with it a different sort of grief . I am still working on coming to terms and finding forgiveness for my ex sister-in-law and her betrayals and deplorable actions as a mother and a wife. It isn’t easy seeing my brother and his kids attempting to navigate a different kind of pain, as well as traditions that have been up ended because of pure selfishness. My family and I have been doing our very best so that my nephews and niece will get their very best Christmas and that the spirit and magic of the season is not ruined for them amongst the upheaval.
Darkest Before the Dawn
This year might be difficult, but it doesn’t mean we won’t get through it, and it doesn’t mean that we have to dread next year, because the year before was so miserable. I know so many people abhor this time of year, and it is okay too. That is our choice. So many times we think it isn’t a choice, because we feel powerless. But it is and we do.
A saying I have heard a lot recently is, “It is always darkest before the dawn.” It is incredibly true, especially on this Winter Solstice. We all deal with hard times, we can stay in the darkness which is our choice, or as is also our choice, we can push through. Because you have to go through the darkness to get through the dawn and you will get there. You have the power to choose regardless of how dark it may seem. It is work, but the best most important kind, not just during the holidays, but year round.
Do you find the holidays difficult? How do you manage during them?
Other Blogmas Posts:
The Nautical Gift Guide
What DO I Wear?!?! The Holiday Graphic Tee
Trimming The Tree
Favorite Christmas Movies
Wanderlusting: Santa’s Village
What DO I Wear?!?! Christmas Glam
Christmas in Charleston
Kate’s Christmas Playlist
What DO I Wear?!?! Ugly Christmas Sweater
Advent Calendar: Day 1-13
Most Wonderful Time In New York
Favorite Hallmark Movies
What DO I Wear: Graphic Tees and Leather
Getting Crafty For Christmas
2019 Skating Ornament
Christmas Cards and Pictures
What Do I Wear: Buffalo Plaid PJ’s
Friday Favorites Christmas Edition