I can't believe the holidays are fast approaching. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, and before you know it we are celebrating Christmas. Lets not forget, heralding in a new year, too.
Holidays can be very trying times for those of us who have lost a loved one. Today Rachel was very much on all our minds as we began to make plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. I had shared with some friends just yesterday how Rachel always managed to bring some friends along. She would call and tell us that a friend was new in the area and had no family, could they join us. She already knew the answer before she called, I guess she just like to hear the words, 'Sure, we always have room for one more.'
Very seldom, however, was it only one friend, there were times when she showed up with three or four friends. She knew that we always had plenty to share, and that her friends would even go home with care packages. We still have a few people over for Thanksgiving, but we definitely sense what is missing. Sometimes I long to get the phone call asking if she could bring a friend.
I love to cook and bake, and I would always make tons of food. I have been known to make up 19 pies for Thanksgiving alone to be eaten and shared. I am baking again, but it has taken a while, and it isn't quite the same. I still enjoy the cooking and baking, but somehow something has been lost.
Rachel died in September and I was dreading the holidays. I started seeing a counselor in mid October and I had expressed my fears. It was recommended that we change things up for the holidays. After some consideration, we decided to rent a place, and take off for the Thanksgiving holiday. We packed everything we needed, the food and fixings and headed away from our home. It was still a very difficult holiday, but being surrounded by my family, my brothers and their families was good. When no one was watching I would cry, but for the most part I kept myself strong. I had somehow survived that very first Thanksgiving.
It is advice I would definitely pass on, it was difficult, but we were not home. We were not in a place that memories had been created, we were some place new. A place that held no reminders of what was missing. If you have just experienced the loss of a loved one, consider doing something different. If you prepare the meals and have everyone at your home, let someone else do the preparation. If possible, rent a place, and take off. It really made it much easier to get through that very first holiday.
We took off two more years after that, and just last year began having Thanksgiving in our home again. Allowing ourselves to find other ways of coping, really helped us. I know this is not always a possibility, but do look for ways to make it memorable. Create new memories that honor your loved one.
It is okay to remember them, to maybe set an extra place setting (I did), or bake their favorite dessert. When I finally started baking again, I would make and give away Rachel's favorite pies to friends in her memory. It was my way, if you will, of keeping the tradition of sending her friends home with leftovers and such. It doesn't mean it is easier, I still shed tears when I am making up batches of desserts, but I know she would be proud of me.
Today I caught up on some episodes of my favorite TV shows, NCIS being one of them. I young woman had been killed, and her mother had been contacted. While she was being interviewed she asked the agent if he had children, to which he answered he had a child. Then she looked at him and asked 'Please tell me it gets easier, that the pain lessens.' He never replied, he couldn't reply, it was still painful.
Of course I am speaking from the vantage point of a mother, a parent, who isn't supposed to bury her child. Who should be buying wedding dresses, not coffins. Who should be hosting a celebration dinner of some sort, rather than a repast after a funeral. So many things thrown totally askew. But yet I know I am not alone, I know so many of us have suffered loss. So many of us wanted so much more for our children, so much more than their brief stay, and just to understand the whys.
Earlier today I was speaking with someone who spoke of Rachel's funeral. She shared how her brother had attended the funeral, and how he could not believe the strength I had demonstrated at the time. She said that he had come home and told her that he hoped he would never have to deal with that kind of loss. She told me today, he has lost two children. My heart hurt for him and his wife. It is a pain I know all too well.
I know the holidays will be tough, you will shed tears, you will feel alone and isolated, but in time it begins to ease. This holds true for anyone who has suffered a loss, be it a child, spouse, parent, family member or dear friend. The holidays will pull at your heart strings, certain smells, sounds, and even people will evoke memories. But I can honestly say that in the last four years I have been able to cope, to get through them. Each year a little better than the one before.
Whatever it is that you may be going through, please know that you are not alone. Someone somewhere has traveled this road before you. You can find people who care, who understand, who know what you are going through. They are willing to help you carry the load you bear.
Reach out to others, especially now as the holidays approach. I know that having someone I could openly share my feelings, emotions and thoughts with, truly made a difference in my life. I have said it before and I will say it again, you do not have to go this alone. Please let others help you.
Love bears all things, love finds a way when all else seems lost. Open up your heart, allow yourself to feel the love that your loved one has for you. The love that does not die.
Blessings! and until we meet again.