The holiday season is over. Starting in early November, every year, I begin pondering Megan’s death at an elevated rate, leading up to the anniversary of it. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day all occurring in the weeks just after, it’s two months of absolute stress, that nobody seems to understand, including myself. My work becomes overwhelming, the weather is never “nice”, no matter what the actual conditions, and it feels as if my world is falling apart.
I present myself as totally and unalterably angry, save for the three to five days where I am just flat-out depressed, until sometime on or around January 2nd of the new year. There is no specific pattern, other than November starting, along with the initial thought of “this is the month Megan died”. It’s all a plummet from there.
I have no control over it. I can intellectually analyze it and realize that my anxiety is wholeheartedly related to her death occurring within the month, but 95 percent of the time, it is buried in my subconscious, with the quick-hitting excuses of “work sucks”, “money is tight”, or “I’m just tired” taking the forefront.
The holidays have become something to “get through” anymore.
I got through them.Read more
I noticed Kelley Lynn put up a couple of lovely questions on her Facebook page in the run-up to Christmas. It went along the lines of:
- Tell me, what/who are you missing?
- And if you’re joyful, then say more about that
It’s Christmas morning, and I am sitting in bed. No rush here, because for over a decade, Mike and I said to our guests, “Christmas lunch will be 3pm or 4pm.
That habit probably started in my teens when, as a family we went to the Lake District, walking in the hills, at Christmas, and seven of us (plus hangers on) stayed in a tiny miner’s cottage. We had to go for a long walk just because it was beautiful, whatever the weather; and because inside we’d have got on top of each other, metaphorically in terms of nerves and literally in terms of bodies.
Then living with Mike in France, he and I got into the habit of going for a gentle Christmas jog in the local woods, which made the whole preparation thing get quite late. So late that lunch/early dinner it became. And of course, added bonus, there’s no need to actually provide lunch (nibbles will do), nor dinner (because you’re still stuffed).Read more
Soon it will be my fourth New Year's Eve without Mike. Huh. Wow... I don't even know what any of this means. Everything and nothing all at once I suppose. No matter the year, I miss him and this will not change.
My grief is evolving with time, but the missing is always there. It is more tolerable now, but in my fourth year of widowhood the sense of his absence is still ever present. I do not think this will ever change.
Mike is missing from me and it is hard to live with the aching inside me - time does not make it better. Easier? Maybe. With time, the emptiness inside me is less shocking. I am more used to the hollow feeling I have within me. In truth, I hardly remember living without the dull ache of my grief.
A new year is before us whether I like it or not. 2020 is a year Mike will never be here to live. But, I will usher it in. I didn't die. Shouldn't I welcome the new year and all the possibility it holds? Shouldn't I rejoice in my life? After all, I do still have a good life. I am grateful for all I have; but, nonetheless, I hate NYE because it feels like it puts more distance between Mike and I. He feels noticably further away these days. I don't sense him like I used to. With time, his physical attributes are fading. His voice isn't clear anymore. The feel of him is blurring. Time is making him more of a memory and less of my man.
It is very difficult to welcome in a year he will not be a part of. But, for the rest of my life this is what I will do.
I’m halfway through this winter warfare others call “the most wonderful time of the year”. The annual arrival of the four holiday horsemen. Just as one battle ends another commences giving us barely enough time to heal the wounds and gather back the troops. Thanksgiving with grief in the gravy. Christmas’ hallmark heartaches. Now the approach of a New Year further away from our yesterdays with the final horseman named St. Valentine charging into battle just a month after.Read more
I’m sitting in a coffee shop that is brimming with hustle and bustle and holiday cheer. And, amid all the merriment and the hum of constant conversation I am realizing, for the thousandth time, how very detached I’ve become.
Sitting here alone at my table, I put in my earphones, then I cranked up my music because I just can’t listen to the idle conversations that are going on around me. I had to drown the sound of their voices out before the ridiculousness of it all swallowed me whole.
I don’t care.
I’m different now that I’ve had to outlive him. I won’t apologize for how I’ve put myself back together. I’ve survived. I’ve been forced to reinvented myself. And, I’m changed for better and worse.
Thanksgiving was a beast in itself but Christmas can be the kraken in unicorn’s clothing. I love parts of Christmas like the lights, smell of Christmas trees and giving others gifts. It’s the other parts - families gathering, couples under the mistletoe, Hallmark everything that always ends up like a fairytale…Read more
I can tell you as I am sitting here in my living room writing this blog, I am feeling numb. In the past two months, they found an irregular function with my heart, my house got hit by a tornado, and thankfully only knocked down a wall in my backyard. I had to get my roof redone and as they were putting in the new roof, a bunch of water poured all over my furniture and Christmas decor. I rushed back and forth trying to get buckets to collect all the water that was coming down, all while trying to take care of my sick two-year-old daughter.
All I can say, is that I wish you were here.
I am trying to get festive. I really am. But little things tick me off.
Like Christmas decorations. Particularly the really garish ones. And the plastic snowmen. The ones in our house are okay. Right now, that’s the sum total of an undecorated Christmas tree. And fairy lights that never actually went down after Christmas 2017. Somehow they have stayed permanent, if not always lit.
Like Christmas greetings. Particularly the, “2020 will be better than 2019”. Well, I heard that at the end of 2018, the end of 2017, the end of 2016 and the end of 2015. I now hold my tongue as a response, and if I am feeling benevolent respond with a light, “gosh – I do hope so”.
Like Christmas chit chat. “You must be so happy to have Ben and Megan home”. Yes – I am. And their presence, while comforting and warm and noisy and large is not comforting or warm or noisy or large enough. Julia’s absence is ever-present. More than ever. I slept in her bed two nights ago, when both my big ones were home. I have barely been in her room since she died. I haven’t wanted to be there. But I wanted to be in her bed on Saturday night. I needed to be in her bed, just as I had got Ben & Megan home safe and sound.
Like Christmas letters. I can’t even go there. But one was particularly painful as it talked of a very exciting and special time that was slap bang the day before the letter writer joined me in my family in Geneva for my youngest child’s funeral. When I think what I was doing those days – visiting the morgue, finding clothes for my dead child, meeting the celebrant and arranging for Julia’s friends to come and talk, preparing a funeral speech, arranging for beds for visitors, talking to police, cooking meals galore. Cathy N – your Christmas letter remains a firm favourite – a type of Christmas letter that I have long wanted to emulate and haven’t managed to do yet. But I live in hope.Read more
The first year, Christmas came along 6 weeks after he died. In many ways, this was a blessing because I was in such shock. I have almost no recollection of that first Christmas without him. And, I think this is the way it had 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 opening 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. Maybe the trees were already up prior to Mike dying - who knows. Like so many things, 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 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 shared past. This is a huge loss. Secondary losses were 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. Looking back, part of my lack of memory is likely due to my white wine intake. That first holiday as a widow Riesling was not optional. I was in survival mode. And, no one was telling me what to do, because no one I knew 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 bearing witness to the horribly dramatic, sad and awful moment at the cemetery when Mike’s coffin was lowered as TAPS played no one was about to tell me not to ease up on the wine. So, with no regrets, my first Christmas was definitely a White Christmas…
You would think that becoming widowed just before the holiday season could make said holidays an overbearing mixture of grief, stress, and memories going forward. That remembering that first Christmas without Megan, watching a seven-year-old Shelby bounding down the stairs to a room in which her father was already bawling, would not be the ideal nostalgic thought of the ghosts of Christmas past. Family traditions, like ice-skating, making hot chocolate, decorating the house, or cutting our own tree to trim would always be stained with the term things we “did”, rather than things we “do”.
For the most part, I suppose those sentiments are true, but in the grand scheme of things, the holidays have been a stressful time for most of my adult life. Megan’s death was just the cherry on top of a season already filled with anxiety, frustration, and a sense of being pulled in every which way but the one I wanted to.
Perhaps I’m a bit of a scrooge.Read more