We are in the season of celebrations…Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas and New Years. The decorations are already in the stores and people are taking of starting their Christmas shopping. You can feel the excitement beginning in people as they look forward to the holidays and spending time with friends and family. But for those who are missing their spouses, it can be the start of a season full of sadness and loneliness.
Family often has expectations of what THEY think we should be doing or not doing for the holidays. They want us to celebrate and be present like we were in the past. But the truth for us is we would rather stay at home and cocoon ourselves under the covers and quietly wait for the day to pass.
So how do we partake in these days? How do we meet everyone else’s expectations of what we should be doing?
I have been thinking back to my first thanksgiving. It was just about 3 months to the day since Keith had died and I was very much still in my fog and trying to cope with what had happened.
There are many times in my journey that I look back on and say “what were you thinking?” Somewhere in my grief haze I thought it would be a great idea to combine the Christening of my daughter with Thanksgiving . If I am honest I think that decision was based on the fact I was going to be in Ontario so it made sense to “get it all over with at once” so I didn’t have to come back again soon….nice thought process eh?
Anyway, the first event to get through was my daughters christening. Thankfully it was a private ceremony – just family and friends but I remember feeling like I was on stage and being intensely watched by everyone. I felt like they were thinking will she break down and cry, will she be stoic and strong – what will she do? That feeling of being watched made me work so hard to not lose it. I remember taking lots of deep breathes to try and stop the emotions from choking me. I had to maintain my image of being so strong!!!! I was doing really well until the minister gave a prayer that was dedicated to those who weren’t with us….I couldn’t hold back the tears after that…and bless the person who got that picture of me!!!!!
After I made it through the christening, we went to my parent’s cottage to celebrate Thanksgiving. I was so emotionally spent from the Christening that I had little left for turkey. I knew my family was rallying around me and doing what they could to try and lessen the pain that I was in and I love them all for that, but no amount of turkey and pumpkin pie was going to soften my ache.
So for Thanksgiving I remember just sitting. I let other people cook and clean. I tended to my children but honestly just didn’t have the energy to do much more. I just desperately wished that Keith was there with me. The feeling of loneliness and emptiness that had sunk into my soul was something that I just couldn’t be grateful for. The unjustness of my life left a bitter taste in my mouth that I couldn’t wash away.
But despite that, I was grateful. I was grateful that I had my family and that they loved me enough to accept my brokenness, my tears, my ache. I was grateful for my children who could always bring a smile to my face. Their innocence was something I was jealous of. I was grateful that Keith loved me unconditionally and for the time we did have together. Despite the hole in my heart, the rest of it was full.
So how do we partake in these days? How do we meet everyone else’s expectations of what we should be doing? And the answer is…there is no easy answer. Do what you can. Be easy on yourself. Recognize that it is ok to come late and leave early! You need to do what is best for YOU. Remember too, that it is ok to enjoy the time; smile, laugh and make new memories.
I will leave you with the a portion of the prayer that was said at my daughter’s Christening.
“We offer all of our prayers and thanksgiving this day for all that has brought us to this place. For families and friends and remembering especially on this day those who have gone before you.”
Wishing you peace this holiday weekend