White Christmas

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…

 

 

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 died I can't hear him the way I used to.  I am tired of our one sided conversations.  I am tired of his 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.  In my head, I know the life we shared is over.  Still, it was not until late in my third year of widowhood that I began to work on "accepting" Mike's permanent absence in my Heart.  And, even now, this remains a work in progress.    

My second Christmas as a widow really felt like my first because I really didn't feel anything that first year.  The first Christmas I was in complete shock - Mike died 6 short weeks before Christmas.  So, the second year, in anticipation, I started dreading Christmas in July which gave a whole new lousy meaning to "Christmas in July". 

I remember I felt extremely anxious about being without Mike over the holidays.  I knew that there would be a hollowness to the entire holiday season for me and the worst would be Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I felt like the holiday would be incomplete without him.  So, in an effort to fix the unfixable, I started trying to plan for Christmas months ahead of time.  I tried to get in front of the sadness.  But, this is not how grief works.  You can not side step the pain.

I was right, the second Christmas wasn't the best.  In truth, I barely recall it.  I just remember feeling empty.  Beyond empty really.

The third Christmas, Mike's absence remained very obvious to me; but, the season was less awful for me than the first two.  Things finally began to feel a bit “okay".  I managed to cry less and smile more.  But, inside I felt utterly gutted and alone.  I quietly missed him and the life we were supposed to share together. 

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 this mess, I continue 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 always miss him.  And, I miss him even more during the holidays.  For me, the Christmas Season loudly pronounces his absence. 

The third Christmas without Mike,  I was much more aware of everything.  I noticed that I was very different than my peers.  I felt like an outsider who was witnessing a holiday that is best celebrated together as a family.  I felt displaced.  And, I felt badly for my sons who are also displaced by default.  It is just the three of us. Our family is tiny.  Death and divorce have isolated us from what used to be big family gatherings.

My fourth Christmas as Mike's widow is nearly here and I have experienced less dread leading up to it.  Now, I know what to expect, and what not to expect.  I admit, I am less out of sorts about the holidays this year, but I am not altogether “okay”.  I miss being light hearted and carefree.  And, I quietly grieve that I will NEVER feel this way about Christmas again. 

I do not think that I will ever feel completely joy filled and wide eyed about life again - not just Christmas.  I know full well that participating in life can be joyful; but, surviving Mike’s death has forced me to know a darkness I never knew existed.  Daily, I live with a heaviness that would bring most “regular” people to their knees if they had to endure it. 

We the bereaved do not live like the ordinary.  There is a constant heavy feeling within us.  There is a sense that we are separate and apart from the people and things around us.  And, there is a certain look in our eyes that reveals how very, very tired our Souls are.  During the holidays, we are not granted respite from any of this.  

I have come to intimately know the ugliness of grief.  Surviving what I thought would kill me has changed how I experience the world and the holidays.  Grief has altered me in some good ways; and, it has changed me in some less good ways too.  Outliving Mike has revealed the strength of the human spirit to me.  I know I am “strongish”.  (I've had no choice.)  I am living without him, but  I miss being Mike's "Wife".  I was good at it.  And, I am only average at being a widow. 

Widowing is lonely.  It is hard stuff.  And, it can be especially awful during the holidays.  There is no way around this.  I think acknowledging the truth of the terribleness and loneliness helps.  I can not and will not sugar coat any of this.  Grief isn't a something you can sprinkle with sugar to make it more palatable.  It is difficult.  Ideally, you should 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 eventually.

Best to you this holiday season,

 

~Staci


Showing 7 reactions

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  • Sue Howard McAulay
    commented 2019-12-18 18:06:04 -0800
    Staci,
    My widow time line is close to yours. Mark died Sept 28, 2916. I didn’t remember that I "hosted " Christmas that first year. I was in such a fog. Christmas year 2 was awful, because reality had set in. Year 3 wasn’t quite as bad, and now comes year 4. I still get sad that he’s not here to celebrate, but I’m trying to find gratitude for the 20 years I had with him. Even though a couple of years were “rough,” I still miss him enormously.
    So again I’m trying to be grateful for all I had, and all that I still have.
    Wishing everyone a blessed holiday season, and hoping the good memories we have bring some comfort.
  • Jeanie Miller
    commented 2019-12-18 17:30:31 -0800
    “I was good at being (JR’s) wife. I am only average at being a widow.” This is my second Christmas without him. On December 25th, he will be gone 17 months. Last year, I went through the motions and did all the things. This year it is harder to do. I started out ok, but as it gets closer, I have lost the little bit of enthusiasm that I started out with. We haven’t celebrated on the 25th for years; it’s always the Saturday after. This year, instead of relishing the time to do the “little extras”, I am dreading that it will be 3 extra days until it’s over. I’m glad that I have this place to say (write) this where I won’t have someone telling me that once it gets here, I’ll feel better. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Either way, it is what it is.
  • indie
    commented 2019-12-17 20:32:15 -0800
    “We the bereaved do not live like the ordinary”…..says it all. Like Don my husband was so sick Christmas Eve day we went to the ER. All doctors were busy on Xmas day and the day after they decided to operate and he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic. He lasted 27 days.
    This is my seventh year without him and I just don’t care anymore. I have no children and even with a few people who have remained close and tried to understand grief it just doesn’t matter anymore. At 67 (almost 68) I just don’t need this. I could if I wanted to. Nothing would hold me back. I am just tired of pushing air around with no real purpose other than to pay bills. I have plenty of advantages and year by year the functional part of me has gotten better. But my heart is gone. It was day one and still is. I just miss him. Terribly. HE was the best of everything. HE had my back. HE knew me better than I knew myself. I am totally familiar with the old universe and its surroundings but I don’t live there anymore. And you know what……that is all ok. I don’t need to explain how devastating his death was for me. It was, is and will be. Not depressing, just reality.
  • Sharon Moriarty
    commented 2019-12-16 16:41:19 -0800
    You’ve said it all Staci. You really have said it all.
  • Don Yacona
    commented 2019-12-16 11:27:20 -0800
    This will be my 5th, but this year its hitting me harder than any year since the 1st. Compounding that, the last few months, I’ve been haunted by the things I saw and heard during her long battle, first of which, was her 1st heart attack on Christmas Eve Day 2012 while on dialysis, I was told that her heart stopped for 10 minutes. So while others were out having wonderful Christmases with their loved ones, I was sitting in ICU begging her not to die. Screw Christmas, Bah Humbug!
  • Staci Sulin
    commented 2019-12-16 09:58:05 -0800
    Sandie
    I hope this third Christmas without Jeff is as gentle on you as it possibly can be.
    All the best to you and yours this holiday season,
    ~S.
  • Sandie Chester-Kunkely
    commented 2019-12-16 01:50:49 -0800
    Staci, Thank you! This will be my 3rd x-mas without Jeff. I have chosen to attend some family gatherings…and skip one. There is some minimal guilt associated with not attending a dinner, but it will help me get through everything else. I believe this is a fair trade-off. Still working on Joy and Love. I know I will get there. Wishing you and your family a loving holiday. Sandie~