As the holidays are upon us, some get so excited. They can’t wait to decorate the house, to share gifts with those they love and spend time together. Some love the idea of complaining about having to hang out with their annoying family members or that awkward moment at some point that so many experience. The holidays are meant to be cheerful and happy surrounded by love but for many, that just isn’t the reality of our lives.
My holidays, like so many others, are full of grief. I wish I could head home and spend the day with my entire family. Have a house full of crazy people talking loud, making fun of each other and falling asleep together in the living room. I wish I could buy those gifts that I know my Dad and brothers would absolutely love & cook them their favorite dishes and pretend like I forgot how much Joshy hates baked beans and Allfaye loves cranberry salad. But that’s not my reality. Grief has taken hold of the holidays.
Although I’ll be having grief for the holidays, I also want to have love. I want to remember how I started playing Santa on Christmas at such a young age because my brother Adam let me take over that role. How my brother Josh kept Santa real until I was in fifth grade because he didn’t want me to lose the magical feeling but what they didn’t know was that they made Christmas magical, not the idea of a man in a red suit. Waking up with my brothers and them making me tiptoe into our parent’s room and ask if we could go see what Santa brought yet. These are just a few things I think of when I think of my brothers.
I also want to think about the last Christmas I had with my entire family. I flew home from Texas and Bubba (my Dad) was so excited. He had just been diagnosed with cancer at the end of August and was having a rough time. Just being able to sit around watching football, talking about life, the plans we had for them to come to Texas, and how much we missed each other was so precious. That love that filled that entire house, I can still feel in my bones. I don’t remember any physical gifts but having the whole family there, joking and driving each other crazy was the best Christmas I could have asked for. Looking over and seeing one of nieces on my Dad’s lap in the recliner, another one with me on the couch, Adam on the other side of us and Josh laying on the floor at my feet while my Mom was in the other recliner. What more would I have asked for? Nothing.
So if you’re like me and having grief for the holidays, think of those times. Remember driving each other crazy, remember the foods they loved, a special gift they just gushed over…do something to remember them. But you can also cry, scream, laugh, lay around all day, don’t celebrate at all. Whatever you have to do for yourself, do it. No one can tell you how to grieve, they can’t tell you how to feel and you won’t know how you feel until that time comes. What I can tell you is that the love you shared is still there. It doesn’t just disappear. And it deserves to be talked about and shown to others.
For the non-grieving ones, I would like to offer you a tip. Talk about those who won’t be here for the holidays. Speak their names, ask questions, learn their stories or ask to be told a new story about them. The worst part of losing my Dad and both of my brothers is that people have stopped talking about them while I never stop thinking about them. People are afraid that talking about them will make me sad but the truth is, it makes me sad to think that they could be forgotten by others. Their stories are so beautiful and some parts truly sad but they deserve to be told and heard.
So talk to those who are grieving about the ones they lost. Let them know that you want to remember them together. Make them apart of the holidays, too. Nothing is more heartbreaking than losing people you love and feeling like everyone else has forgotten them.
This is a powerful piece, Abby! You’re spot on that you have to do what you need to do while grieving. Sending lots of love to you!
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