I just returned home for an early Christmas celebration with my extended family. This is somewhat of a novelty, and we now live close enough to be a part of these type of celebrations on a regular basis. I had a good time, and love my family, but I did need to get in the right type of space to handle it.
Earlier in the week I wrote about this on my personal blog. It is always difficult being around my family because each of my brothers have been blessed with very long marriages. While I enjoy all of their company, I can't help but be reminded by them of what I no longer have. I usually try to keep my visits brief, as too much time together seems to drain me emotionally.
Driving over there the kids and I were listening to Christmas music on the radio. We were having a good time, then suddenly Michael's favorite Christmas song came on. Immediately my daughter looked to me, and we fell silent. By the end of the song we were both in tears, and she had her arm around me while I tried to keep focused on my driving.
Throughout the day there was a lot of laughter, and a lot of sharing stories. Comments were made by everyone about how happy they were, or how blessed they have been this year. Each time I would hear this I felt myself pulling away. Eventually I would find myself sitting off to the side, needing to take some space. While I had anticipated this, and prepared for this, I didn't think to prepare the kids for this. On the way back home to San Diego, my daughter began talking about how hard it was to hear these conversations, with me sitting there, not feeling quite as blessed. She felt angry that my family was being insensitive, and felt like she should have said something.
Soon into this conversation my daughter was in tears, really feeling her grief. She spoke of how much she misses Michael, and how others don't seem to get this. She talked about her anger that we had him in our lives for only such a short time, and how others around us seem to bask in their good fortune, while we sit there feeling hurt. Soon the boys jumped into the conversation, and it went in many directions. They spoke of their birth mother, and how she had died before they could ever meet her. There was so much emotion in the car, which led to quite a deep conversation about how they judge the quality of our life as a family.
In the end we agreed that we needed to appreciate the blessing we have, and at the same time feel fine about our anger. We need to be proud of our accomplishments, even if they don't compare to those around us. Our life as a family, and the lives that my children have lived, has been a difficult one, yet we survive. I reminded them of how proud I am of them, and given the hardships that they have had to face, they, we, are doing just fine.
May each of you feel comforted during this holiday season.