Everyone has a favorite holiday. Mine is Halloween. I decorate the house inside and out. I spend tireless hours on costumes. I await my first haunted house of the season with eager anticipation. I’ve always liked this holiday, but it wasn’t until after Drew died that it became something I appreciated more deeply.
Just 4 months after he died, my first Halloween without him arrived. I had no energy for costumes or decorating. I was still a complete wreck. But I did do one thing still – I went to a haunted house with one of my oldest friends. It was the first time to do anything of tradition without him.
When my friend and I entered the world of this dark and creepy place… something really incredible happened for me. For the 20 minutes or so we were inside, I was not a widow. I was just… me. Running scared and laughing with my friend through a house of horrors. Yep. Laughing! And feeling deeply alive. As we came bolting out the exit, the euphoric adrenaline was unforgettable. It was one of the first things that gave me proof that I indeed could still FEEL all these wonderful things. Because trust me, I was so broken that I was honestly scared to death that I would never be able to feel true joy ever again. I had a very literal fear of this. And that night as I came out of the haunted house, I realized I could indeed still laugh and still feel joy – even doing things I loved with him. It was a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could make it through this. Just maybe, I would be okay.
My new partner Mike and I went to a haunted house last night, and as it always does, it took me back in time and had me reflecting back…
Just like every time I go to a haunted house, last night, I awaited with giddiness the scares that were coming my way. I also thought back to that year he died. I thought back to how broken I was, and what a blessing it was to feel just like everyone else for a short time. What a treasure it was to forget my pain for a little while and realize I could still live in the present moment. It’s a reminder to me of how far I’ve come since that year, and to be grateful for the fact that my life has begun to be more and more “normal” each year. More and more filled with life and laughter and love again, and less and less with pain. A reminder that my fiance is still right here and part of it all too, because I always feel close to him when celebrating Halloween the way he and I loved to.
These days, with Mike’s daughter, I even get to create fun new memories for her to look back on when she grows up. Memories of making all our costumes and decorating every square inch of the house and creating an entire cemetery in our front yard. Some of the grave stones even have Drew and Megan’s (her mom/Mike’s wife) names on them, because we know they would love the dark humor of that so much.
Lastly, my favorite thing about Halloween is that I feel like it’s a time when our culture is less judgy about death being put front and center – quite literally. I mean, if I could have my house full of potions and skulls and my front yard as a cemetery ALL year long, believe me I would. And even though for most people these things are silly, they’re much more than that for me. They’re a reminder to let death and humor intermingle. A reminder to be inventive, to think in new ways, and to make space in my life to honor my loved ones through the joy of humor and creativity. For me, this really is the time of year I feel closest to my loved ones that have died – my fiance and my parents. It’s a time when I feel like they are right beside me, enjoying the demented humor of it all. A time when death becomes a little bit lighter and their souls and mine feel a little bit closer.
Most of all, it’s a reminder for me to bring that sense of play into the rest of the year too. It’s so easy to forget to welcome silliness in when we are grieving, but I’ve found it to be such a crucial part of healing. If nothing else, if gives us a break from the heaviness of our pain. And it reminds me that I’m still even able to be silly and feel joy, even in small moments.