So it’s Christmas again (well, Christmas Eve actually as I write this to you). Yet again, I’m here, like we all are, having to deal with it. I would describe my attitude towards Christmas these past 4 years as apathetic at best. The first year, I was terrified, having never before faced a Christmas without him. The entire week leading up to Christmas was a hurricane of anxiety. The second year was better. I didn’t have the anxiety. I knew I would make it through, but I still didn’t really care about any of it. Most of my caring laid with helping Drew’s mom out, who was struggling to make it through the holiday too.
The year after that was about the same. Last year, I was in Texas after having moved to Ohio, and it was incredibly hard on me. Flying over the holidays to begin with, oh, so fun. Returning to Texas to be with Drew’s family brought both comfort and pain. It was comforting to be with them and painful to remember that our lives were beginning to diverge a little bit, as I embarked on a new chapter.
This year has been perhaps a gradual step towards genuinely enjoying Christmas again. I know this because it’s the first year in ages that I have not only gotten presents for everyone done early, but I also got them all shipped off well in time for them to arrive for Christmas. And what’s more, I wasn’t just doing it because I had to do it… this time, there was actually a wee bit of caring there. A small trace of finally wanting to give special presents. It’s not much, but it’s a glimmer of hope for me…
I think one big part of this small step towards caring about Christmas again has been in Shelby. There are just a lot of things that neither Mike or I would even be motivated to do if not for her. Going to look at Christmas lights, baking cookies, watching tons of Christmas movies, decorating the house inside and out… trying our hardest to give this kiddo beautiful, happy memories in these years after losing her mom. Being able to do that for her, in a way, has given that little girl in me her Christmases back. You see, in the years after my mom died, Christmas downgraded majorly.
There were no longer piles of presents under the tree, and stockings filled to the brim. My dad hadn’t a clue how to do it all without her running the show, and was likely too depressed to make it all happen. My older siblings didn’t get along with him much, so there was a lot of strife. There were a few presents i’m sure, as my sister always tried to hold things together, but mostly I remember our dad just taking me out to the store and letting me pick out things. Nothing was wrapped. There weren’t ever any surprises. It was the best he could give, but to this day, I wish he’d have just taken the 2 minutes to throw a gift in a gift bag.
So now, here I am, the woman of the house with a little girl… and I get to help make her Christmases be all they can be. I get the chance to make sure her holiday memories of the years after her mom’s death are far happier than mine were. And I get to see Mike doing a much better job at keeping Christmas going than my dad was ever capable of doing. As a result, I get to give that little girl in me a second chance at Christmas too. To my surprise, creating Christmas is soothing some wounds that run quite deep for me.
Although this is the first Christmas I will spend far away from Drew’s family, I’m feeling more okay about that than I thought I would. We have ways we remember him all the time. Making little helicopter gingerbread cookies with Shelby was one of my favorites that we added into this holiday. My bond with his mom has not waned since I moved. We talk less, but the love is still there. Just yesterday she sent me a picture of his stocking hanging where we always put it since he died. She added lights this year, which gave me a smile. I’m sure I’ll have a good cry at some point tonight or tomorrow, but that’s how it goes. I’ve already had a cry about being so far from my friends over the holidays. We will always miss folks this time of year, whether they’re gone or just living very far away, and I’m okay with that. I may not get to see Drew’s family this year, but that’s okay too, because I’m looking forward to the Christmas I will have here.
That’s right, I said it… I am “looking forward” to Christmas guys. What! Crazy!
No, I’m not excited about it the way I used to be before his death. Maybe I never will be, as I am different now. Who knows. But this 5th Christmas without him here, I am finally beginning to look forward to it, and to having more Christmases to enjoy with those I love in the future. I honestly never thought I’d get to that point, and it’s a huge deal to be at that place in my journey after all these years. I guess, it just takes time… and a glass or 5 of wine on the shitty Christmases to make it through.
As I close this, I can’t help but think of anyone out there who will read this post, who is going through their first and very terrifying Christmas without their person. I can still remember it like yesterday. My anxiety was through the roof for a week before Christmas. It was awful. Sometimes the best we can do is just make it through. Take breaks to cry. Lie in bed as much as you’re able or need to. Have a bit of wine if it helps to relax you. Find ways to help someone else – that helped me a lot the first year… just to keep busy helping others.
Breathe, and know that many of us have made it through that terrifying first Christmas too. Even if we are not by your side, we are a family of widowed people thinking of you on this day. Even if we don’t know you, we know you are scared, and overwhelmed, and breaking inside. And though we cannot be there beside you, we’re holding your heart in ours. We have made it through and you will too.