Grieving Through The Holidays

As the holidays come around, I want to offer peace and comfort to those who are grieving. I rarely offer cheerful pearls of wisdom, but rather hope that comes from the idea that it is ok to be broken. The purpose of my writing is to give pain a voice. I write from my heart, and my heart is in pain. The beautiful thing about this pain is that it lives side by side and entwined with love.
As I go through the hours, days, weeks, and now years I am finding that there are outlets everywhere for my love. Love is welcomed by all and everyone wants to know about the things in my life that inspire my heart to love. My pain, however, is shunned from the world. When pain needs to show its face, it is usually met by others with desperation to shove it back inside where it will not cause discomfort… for them. After all this time, I understand, I do. I get it. It is hard to face those difficult emotions. Our society does not have an understood social mechanism with which to greet and welcome the pain of another. We have defined strength as the ability to choke back and cut off vulnerability and weakness, but this isn’t strength, this is avoidance. Strength comes from facing those very tough emotions inside yourself, breaking down, and then getting back up knowing you will face it all again.
As I walk into this holiday season, I am determined to do it excitedly and happily. I know that this season will be very hard, it is my second Christmas without my husband and my daughter is finally starting to understand the concept of Santa Clause. I am excited to do The Elf On The Shelf with her for the first time this year. I am excited for the music and the tree and my daughters visit with Santa Clause. And I am prepared for the emotional meltdown that will happen. I don’t know when it will come or what will set it off, but I will break. I will cry and scream and beg. I will feel like I have lost him all over again and it will hurt. It will be torture. And I will welcome every moment of paralyzing pain that hits my shattered heart, because in that pain is my husband and the love we share. And because I am raising a nearly 3 year old. For her, I have to be as close to whole as I can possibly be. I have to be honest with myself. I have to give my pain expression so it doesn’t harden my heart. Pain is as real as love is, and it needs to be given the same time and attention so it doesn’t come out in the wrong ways.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This is a tough holiday for many because it is about family and gratitude. And though there will be an empty chair at the table (which will break my heart all over again), I will give a moment to acknowledge all that I am thankful for. I will be sitting down at that table with a wonderful family and with my daughter. My little girl is my light, she is my sun and my moon, and he gave her to me. I only had a short amount of time with my husband and on some other day I will shout and scream about how unfair it is that I did not have more time with him. But on this day, and every day, I will be grateful for the short amount of time that I did have with him. I am grateful for the ways in which he changed my life, for the little girl he gave me, for the strength that I now have because I knew him.
This is how I will walk into this holiday season. With hope, gratitude, and with welcoming arms for my pain when it needs a moment of expression. I wish I had some advice or tips about how to make it through the holidays, but that is not what I do best. Someone else will do that better. All I can tell you is to be honest with yourself. Try to go easy on your loved ones who mean well as they put their feet in their mouths. Find what you are most grateful for and hold onto it for deal life, especially while you are at a gathering that brings your your loneliness and pain to the surface. If you want to scream, then scream (bring a pillow and leave it in your car, excuse yourself and go scream into your pillow). If this is your first holiday, you will feel like the odd one out, you may even feel as though people are afraid of you – like your grief is a disease that they don’t want to catch. Do your best to hold onto that love and gratitude, but don’t deny yourself whatever is true to your heart. It is ok to say “no” and draw boundaries. You are fragile, but they won’t break you. You have been through too much for any words to break you. And lastly, the most difficult one of all, try to have patience. They don’t know how to do this either. They don’t know how to hold space for you while you grieve, just as you don’t know how to make it through all of this brokenness. You are all learning and it is so hard.
If you have any advice for others who are trying to make it through the holidays, please put it in the comments. We are all doing our best to make it through. I know that I will make it through in one piece, but not without plenty of bumps and scrapes to show for it. Grieving hurts. Healing hurts more. You will get through it, even if you don’t know how.
Happy Thanksgiving. May you find peace and gratitude on this very painful occasion.
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My Grieving Heart Still Begs To Have My Husband Home

No one knows how to beg like a person who’s lost their love. It was February last year when my husband died. Our daughter hadn’t even learned to walk yet. It’s been nearly 21 months now and our daughter is a firecracker! We have moved and life has changed. It’s not easy finding a way to let it be ok that he is not here, but I’m doing it. I’m here and he is not… and I have this sweet angel to get me through it all. 

I hate the terms moving on and moving forward. I hate those terms because it feels as though it means leaving behind. And it does matter that it never feels as though you are having to leave them behind. And it does matter that you don’t feel as though you are being asked to leave them behind. So I will not say that I am moving forward or moving on… but that I keep moving. I keep putting one foot in front of the other and I don’t stop. 

That old life is now a past life. But I can’t leave it in the past. That is what it means to leave something or someone behind. That past life needs to come with me on my journey through the present and into the future. That past needs to remain my present, so it is imperative that I do not leave it behind, that I do not leave him behind. 

This is why I beg. I used to beg for him to come back, to come home. Today, I still beg for him to come home. The pain isn’t over and the longing hasn’t stopped. But more often now, I find myself begging him to stay with me, just don’t leave me! Because the idea that I might move forward in this life and that he may not remain with me… that’s excruciating. So I need him to remain with me. 
You may have your own beliefs about what happens to a person when they die, but after your love dies, another persons beliefs are of little comfort. My own personal belief that he is with me is all the comfort I will ever get. And I can work to strengthen my spirituality if I choose to, but I will find my way in this on my own.

You see, I have come to believe that the very reason religion exists is because death exists. Spirituality I think comes natural to people as a whole, but the need for community and answers drive us to find religion. And I have come to believe that what you believe in and what I believe in are equally valid, because the only thing that matters at the end of the day is the comfort it brings to a heart in need. Right now my heart has found its way to a spiritual place that I am comfortable with. Right now my heart is still broken and still yearns for another moment in the past and a future that will never happen. And my heart begs. My heart begs for him to stay with me, to never leave me, to stay by my side until the end of my days. Even if I were to find love again, I need him to be with me, too. Because my heart will always love him. And it has been forever changed by losing him, and forever changed by having him. 

So hold the ones you love. Remind yourself why you love them, and then tell them that. Don’t forget. Don’t lose sight of what is important in the forward motion of the day to day. Don’t let “in a minute” become your “should haves”. Love eagerly and passionately. Don’t work so much that you can’t enjoy your life. You will never get another chance at today, and you never know when your time is up.