I labeled this entry "part 1" because I am pretty sure there will be more. This being my first holiday as a grieving parent I am experiencing everything as a new, raw emotion. My hope is that by sharing my feelings of the holidays, those readers out there who encounter other grieving people will know what to say during this hard season or at least have an idea of what a grieving person might be going through.
So, yes, this is a HARD season. That is the first struggle. I have always LOVED the holidays. Thanksgiving all the way through new years has typically been some of the best times of my life. I even have a birthday the day after Christmas, so that adds to the fun festivities. All of that is gone this year. A "secondary loss" of huge proportion. And as much as I try to "be in the holiday spirit" I just cannot.
Grief has taken away my happy. This is not bad, and I hope it will return, but right now there is no happy. Thus being around happy people during the holidays stresses me out. I just cannot relate to them. I go to the mall and see all of the toys on display. All of the toys I won't be buying for Caleb. Then I go further and see all the children on Santa's lap or the "baby's first Christmas" things. All reminders of what I am missing this year. It seems like leaving my house this season requires me to sift through one land mine after another.
I had so many "hopes" for this Christmas with Caleb. All of my "hopes" of having an 8 month in our home this Christmas are gone. His Christmas sweater is still here, but he is not. I have a whole closet full of clothes for someone who isn't here, and who isn't coming. I have a daughter growing inside of me this year, but no son on my lap. These are just a few of the things that are still confusing to wrap my head around and the holidays just seem to intensify these emotions.
So there is the grieving of Caleb this season, the grieving of my hopes that I had planned for him, the grieving of buying him toys, seeing him in his Christmas Church outfit, snuggling with him on Christmas Eve, sending out Christmas cards with his bright smile. And the list goes on and on. I can bet any grieving person is similar to me this holiday season. The hard part is that grieving of all these losses is like a perpetual loop in my head. That is why doing things that are considered "normal" just make me want to run and hide. Maybe some are thinking "alright, but you need to make yourself do normal or else you will never get back on your feet." To them I would say -wrong. There is nothing "normal" about our life right now. We have a full nursery decked out in blue with boy clothes and a baby girl on the way= not normal. We are trying to navigate what the "new" normal looks like, and I think that makes people uncomfortable. I think it would be easier on everyone else if we just went along ho-hum with all the holiday traditions and acted like nothing was wrong. But I cannot do that, because something is wrong, my baby is not here.
Please give grieving people in your life extra space this holiday season. Some may want to do the normal things, others may not. It might be hard on your because you will "loose" them in a sense as well. The person you always used to bake cookies with every year may not want cookies at all this year. This is hard for you, but trust me its a 1000 times harder for them. And they have to live with it all the time (remember the perpetual loop).
Our new normal this year for Thanksgiving includes going to the monastery for mass, decorating Caleb's grave with new Christmas things, and then coming home and eating a frozen pizza. This will not be our "new" normal for the next 25 years. This Thanksgiving will look different than next Thanksgiving and so on, so don't worry, we may get back to the turkey eventually. But this year, we just need to be removed from "celebrating." That does not mean we aren't thankful. I am thankful for many things, especial for Caleb's little sister that is kicking inside of me right now. But I am also still very sick and wounded and to go about business as normal would not help heal me.
Talk with your grieving friends or relatives before the holidays and make a plan. If they cannot commit, do not get angry. They have no idea how they might be feeling sometimes until the day of. Be patient with them and flexible and if they want to be left alone, please respect that. Do not feel sorry for them. Truly if we wanted turkey this year, we could get it, but we don't. If we wanted to be around large groups and sing carols we could, but we don't. The things that make you happy about the holidays DO NOT make a grieving person happy. To me, eating a frozen pizza brings me comfort and that is where I am at this Thanksgiving.