The Christmas holidays are still quite a while away but I’ve been thinking and worrying about it since September so it feels like it’s been around for quite a while now. What precisely I’m anxious about has changed each year since Mike died but it has brought emotions and stress each time.
The first Christmas without Mike I just didn’t want to do it. I just wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to see any family or see anyone’s Christmas “cheer.” I didn’t want to celebrate anything or do anything. I didn’t want to buy gifts or go in any male store section to remind me that I wasn’t buying for Mike this year. I would have been perfectly fine if the whole holiday didn’t exist. The year before Mike and I had a wonderful Christmas as our first Christmas as a married couple. We did the whole corny thing - cut down our own tree, buy “first Mr. & Mrs.” ornaments, buy eachother thoughtful stockings and have our own Christmas morning just the two of us. It was ridiculously wonderful and everything I wanted. I remember putting away all the Christmas decorations and thinking about how I couldn’t wait to do it again next year. What a stark contrast the following year was.
My motto that first Christmas without Mike was basically, “fuck the holidays” and if I have to do this, then I’m going to do this my way. I must add I had some kind of weird determination and spunk that year to do it my way and was also running on maybe adrenaline or some kind of grief-shock-energy. I went with my brother and sister-in-law to cut down a tree and sawed the tree down and carried it myself. I put up some decorations and added my own flair and anger to it too (I put up a “fuck the holidays” sign and other “ha-bumbug” type decorations. I didn’t go in any male section of a store and got my family to buy gifts on my behalf. I did throw a party at the beginning of December because Mike and I had previously decided we wanted to do it annually. I don’t regret that.
Most of Christmas Eve and Christmas day that year is a blur. I do know I intentionally turned down everyone who wanted me to sleep over Christmas Eve because I wanted to be by myself. I wanted to be alone and go outside. That was my plan and I’m really glad I stuck to that and figured out and stood up for what I needed. That was my favourite part of Christmas that year. After sleeping in, I set out on a hike with my dog, Tango. It was the most peaceful walk ever. With everyone busy with their Christmas day festivities we were the only ones on the trail in a fresh layer of snow. Not a single soul. Although, I’d like to think the signs (and Tango’s reaction) showed that maybe Mike’s soul was there...but I don’t want to get into that. I did the rest of the Christmas day with my family then Mike’s family. It was all fine but numb. I remember/saw the video that we did a toast with Mike’s family doing a cheers for him and saying “fuck the holidays.” I liked that too. The whole thing was exhausting and I was happy when it was done.
Then last year I was very annoyed and down that I had to do it again. I had already used all my Christmas energy on the year before and I didn’t have any left. I also didn’t have the grief shock or determination to carry me through. I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do for it exactly so I just kind of went with the flow with everything I had done last year. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good. If I described the first Christmas as a blur then I would describe the 2nd Christmas as simply (and eloquently haha) “blah.” I unfortunately didn’t have the energy to go for my hike I had loved the last year with Tango and spent the morning in bed instead. It was a dose of sad reality. The day went slowly and was still exhausting.
I must add though that last year people still tried to cheer me up. I hung the stockings on my fireplace as I had done the year before. I fill Tango’s stocking with dog treats but I don’t fill mine for myself. Well, I go to fill Tango’s stocking and notice the other one has stuff in it. Quite a bit of stuff! At first, no one admitted to filling it. Everyone just kept saying they didn’t know or it was Santa. I thought it was one person. It turns out that multiple people at different times put things in my stocking - my sister, my parents, my in-laws, my cousins. That was probably the highlight of my Christmas that year. Not the actual stuff but that I wasn’t forgotten when I felt sad and lonely.
Now I’m (finally) at this year. My third Christmas. It’s different. I feel more hopeful. I don’t feel as weighed down and immobile with grief. I feel excited to put my Christmas lights and tree up. David and I are going on a Polar Express holiday train ride. I have plans to get together to celebrate with my friends. I’m looking forward to my family’s Christmas baking day again. The season doesn’t feel so dreary to me this time.
For the actual day, I’m excited to celebrate with David by my side. I also want to continue to celebrate with my family and Mike’s family. And there lies the stress. How do I do it all? I want to celebrate with everyone and for everyone to feel important to me, because they are, but I’m one person and I can’t be everywhere at once. But I also don’t want to leave anyone out. So I want to try. Talking it out and communicating all this has helped ease my stress. When I kept it to myself it was overwhelming. So far the family I’ve shared it with have been understanding and supportive. David’s attitude is that it’s one day and we will do our best to do it all since it’s important and then we’ll relax afterwards (planned a little getaway for us and the dogs for after). We’ve worked out a plan: morning with his family, lunch with mine, dinner with Mike’s family. All in three different cities. And that doesn’t include Christmas Eve (or boxing day) plans. Maybe it’s crazy. Maybe I won’t do it again in one day. But maybe I will.
It could be worse. I could have no one and no where to go for Christmas. Instead, I have 3 families to be around and celebrate with. And I still have Mike and our memories in my heart. I’d say that’s not the worse Christmas. Maybe it won’t be “fuck the holidays” this year afterall.