This past weekend we put up our Christmas tree. It was the usual, bicker about the placement of the lights, put this here, place that there and so on. When all was said and done, it looked good. The stockings were hung up, all the animated decorations recharged with fresh batteries, while Christmas carols played in the background.
The beauty of this year is that we have our grandson who is just a delight to watch. His eyes light up at all the lights, sights and sounds of the holiday. The best part for me is the perspective of seeing all this through his eyes, the newness of the entire experience. All of you who are grandparents, know exactly what I am speaking of, it is beautiful beyond words. This is all wonderful, but it also reminds me of what is missing.
I couldn’t help but think of my daughter as I watched my grandson and all his animated antics. My husband and I loved watching our children’s expressions and excitement during this time of year. I especially remember Rachel’s second Christmas, Rachel was just over a year old, she would walk into the living room, and just sit on one of the presents (luckily a sturdy and non-breakable gift), and stare, mesmerized by the lights and colors on the tree. She would do this for long periods of time, just totally amazed by everything. She wouldn’t touch anything. I love taking pictures and this was and still is one of my favorite holiday photos of Rachel.
As we decorated, all those beautiful memories kept popping into my head. Rachel was very much a part of that entire day, as ornaments bearing her name were hung on the tree and her stocking was hung in its familiar place; all these things serving as bittersweet reminders of what is missing. Yet, even with the missing and sadness, I am so grateful that I have these memories and reminders of my daughter.
Yes this is a very difficult time to be missing and mourning a loved one, because the holidays evoke such wonderful memories (hopefully) for all of us. It is a time when we set everything else aside to be with family and friends. It is a time when we reach beyond ourselves, and extend kindnesses to others. Even in all the hurriedness, will still feel the joy and happiness that is this time of year. Unless someone is missing from your life, then the holidays can become a drudgery, seeming to go on forever.
It has been difficult for me this year, somehow it seemed more so than last year, maybe because of my grandson, I am that much more aware; maybe because my son didn’t want to help decorate, for reasons only he knows and understands. Whatever the reason, it just seemed more tedious, more draining. But like I stated before, when it was all decorated, it felt good.
Yesterday, after the house had quieted down, I sat in our living room enjoying the Christmas tree and watching some TV. Occasionally, I would look at the tree and photos nearby and just let myself cry. It felt good, and it allowed me to just release all the emotion I had kept in check since the tree went up. Everyone else was in bed, and I knew I could cry as much or as little as I liked without feeling that I would be upsetting anyone.
Remember to be good to yourself that way. If you need to cry, let yourself do just that. Even shortly after Rachel’s death, I found that if I let myself cry, really cry, it helped ease the pain somewhat. Even now, those late night cries by myself are excellent therapy, and let’s not forget the shower. The shower is a great place to cry and let the water wash the tears away. We all too often don’t allow ourselves to cry for fear of upsetting others. But we all need to release our feeling and emotions from time to time. If you find it hard to let them flow, this time of year is great for all the feel good movies that inevitably have you shedding a tear or two. Besides what better way to disguise your crying! The Hallmark channel does it for me every time, and anyone watching it with you is probably crying too. So they won’t know why you are truly crying, they just think the movie had something to do with it.
However you express your emotions, don’t be afraid to allow yourself this luxury, if you will. Especially at this time of year when there are so many reminders of what is missing in your life. Touch that special ornament, light their favorite candle, or simply pull out the holiday photos and reminisce. Do whatever it takes to help you make it through the holidays. In time you will find creative ways to express your emotions and feelings. Whether it is baking an extra batch of cookies to be given away in memory of your loved one, or making a donation in their name, you will find how best to remember and honor your loved one.
But the most important thing to remember, is to take care of yourself, allowing yourself to cry, to rest or to just sit quietly with your thoughts when you feel like it. I know the holidays are not the same and will not be for quite some time, but you can and will make it through them. The years will slowly pass, and even though it may still be difficult, you will have all those wonderful memories, that you can unwrap every year. What a wonderful present to look forward to each and every year.
Blessings! and until we meet again.