This is my third Christmas without Mike. The first year, Christmas came along 6 weeks after he died and in many ways this was a blessing because I was in so much shock that nothing really phased me. I have almost no recollection of that first Christmas. And, I think this is the way it is supposed to be. I know that I cooked a complete turkey dinner, but I don't remember who sat around my table. I can't recall a single conversation. Not one. I don't even know if I ate dinner.
When I think back to that first Christmas, I can not close my eyes and envision my sons openning their gifts. But, I know that they had gifts. I just have no idea what they were. And, I do not remember shopping for their gifts. Maybe I bought them online. I don't know. I just can't remember. (There is a theme here.)
I know that I got my tree up that first year. But, I have no idea if I was helped doing this or not. I think I actually put up two tress, but I can't be sure. Like so many things over the last 25 months, I wish I could talk to Mike about all this. But, when your person dies you lose part of your shared history. *Sigh.
Now, without Mike, I have to rely soley on my memories of the past. The person who shared some of the best moments of my life is dead; and without him, I am not able to confirm or deny events of our past. This is a huge loss, something I had yet to comprehend that first year without him.
Beyond dinner and having a tree or two decorated I really can't remember anything about that first Christmas at all. Looking back, part of my lack of memory is likely due to my white wine intake. That first holiday as a widow Riesling was regularly coursing through my viens. I was in survival mode. No one was telling me what to do, because none of them had done this before. My friends still had their husbands. They had no experience to draw on. They were clueless about widowhood and so was I. Without a manual for widowhood and with no one to mentor me, I put myself into a wine induced haze for all of December starting on my birthday which landed exactly two weeks after Mike died and one week after I stood at the cemetery and buried him. After witnessing that horribly dramatic, sad and awful moment at the cemetry when the coffin lowered and TAPS played none of my friends were about to tell me not to have the wine. So, it was definitely a White Christmas that first year...
White wine or not, I do not remember Christmas shopping that year. Maybe, I had the gifts finished before Mike died - who knows? I can ask him, but since he's died I can't hear him the way I used to. Two years into this widow thing, I am tired of our one sided conversations. I am tired of the silence. I just want to have him here with me. I want so very much to share my life with him. But, this can never be. Now, I have cognitively accepted that the life we shared is over. However, two years later, I am still working on "accepting" Mike's permanent absence in my heart. This remains a work in progress.
Last year marked my second Christmas as a widow. In truth it felt like my first because I really didn't feel anything that first year. Before the second Christmas, I started dreading Christmas in July which gave a whole new cruddy meaning to "Christmas in July". I remember I felt anxious about being without Mike over the holidlays. I knew that there would be a hollowness to the entire holiday season for me and the topper would be Christmas Day. I felt like my family holidays were incomplete without him.
That second Christmas wasn't the best; and, in truth, I barely recall it. I just remember feeling empty. This third year, Mike's absence remains very obvious to me, but this Christmas season has been noticably less awful for me than the first two. It is finally beginning to feel a bit "okay".
I know that Mike is "with" me and I believe that he is around me - especially during the holidays. But, I crave his physical presence. Through all this, I have continued to talk to Mike and I know that he can "hear" me, but it's just not the same because I do not hear him the way I used to. I miss him. And, I miss him even more during the Christmas season that draws special attention to those we Love and gathering as a Family. The Christmas Season loudly pronounces what I have lost.
This third Christmas I am much more aware of everything. I notice that I feel very different than those I am surrounded by. I feel like an outsider who is witnessing a holiday that is best celebrated as a family. I feel displaced in all this. And, I feel badly for my sons. A middle-aged Mom without a husband isn't really what one thinks of when they think of a traditional family. In nearly all the classic Christmas movies there is a husband and a wife and an assortment of children. We are not this family. It is just the three of us. Without a man I feel out of place. There, I f@cking said it. I want to be a strong, independent widow, but I'm not. I miss being someone's "Wife". I was good at it. And, I am only average at being a widow.
Widowing is lonely. It is not easy. And, it can be especially awful during the holidays. There is no way around this. I think acknowleding the terrible loneliness helps. At this point, I am beyond sugar coating any of this. I think it is best to honor our grief and the emotions we feel. I suggest that you allow yourself to feel the sharpness of the pain, all the while keeping Hope in your heart. With intention, and hard work, it is possible to live a life that is full - I KNOW this. It is possible to feel Joy and Love again if you choose to. The future will not be the one you imagined with your spouse, but it can still be something good.
For me, this Christmas, and always, I choose to focus on the LOVE and not the loss. This makes all the difference for me.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and all the Best to you in the New Year.