This picture of my grandsons is one of my favourites. There is no doubt what’s on their minds – they have had enough! Aside from the humour in it, it takes me back to how I felt in the early days after my husband’s funeral.
Gerry was buried on October 30th. Within hours of the stores selling out of costumes and candy, the shelves were decked out for the holidays. Tinsel, tree skirts, sparkly ornaments, candy canes, and anything else that was glittery and gold was now the prominent theme. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love Christmas! It’s a big time of year for me and from mid-November on I am decorating, shopping, baking, and planning every detail. However, in 1990, the last thing I wanted was to be anywhere that even remotely promoted a fat man and his twelve reindeer.
We moved to a new house three weeks before Christmas. I thought that would help to remove any visual reminders that he wasn’t coming home. I also thought it would help with the holidays as it was a year to transition some of the traditions he did to others (e.g. carving the turkey). Although it helped with not expecting to see him standing on the front steps when I came home, it didn’t help with the holidays. I definitely didn’t feel like I could do the usual hype that I had always done.
We did have Christmas that year. I cooked the traditional dinner and we surrounded ourselves with family and friends. What was interesting is that the ‘dread’ only preceded Christmas – on the actual day my children woke up with the same anticipation and excitement and I quickly got caught up in it. We missed him and the three of us huddled around the tree wasn’t the same as four. He always played Santa and handed out the gifts; that year I had to. It wasn’t the same. I went ahead with the festivities for my children and nieces and nephews. I didn’t do it for me. I, along with my mom and siblings and their spouses, made an effort to make it as pleasant and as comfortable of a day as possible. We talked about Gerry. We shared stories and we laughed and cried. But mostly, we remembered and treasured those memories. As the day went on we came to see that it was the anticipation of the holiday that was so difficult. On the actual day we just allowed ourselves to feel what we needed to feel and to be together without harbouring any grandiose expectations.
Although my sense of sorrow sat heavily on my shoulders that Christmas day, the feeling of Bah Hum Bug subsided as the joy and wonder for the children took hold. If this is your first Christmas without a loved one, it is going to be difficult. But you don’t have to forgo it, unless you are sure that you really want to. It’s okay to do it differently and maybe have it somewhere different than you normally do. The most important thing to remember is that your loved one would want you to be happy. You have the rest of your life to live and although you may feel there isn’t much to live for without them, I encourage you to surround yourself with others who understand what you are going through and will allow you to feel what you need to feel on Christmas Day.