Grief and the Holidays

By on Dec 10, 2016 |

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It’s the Christmas and holiday season.  Everywhere I have gone since Thanksgiving, Christmas has been everywhere.  The Salvation Army Ringers are outside Hobby Lobby so it is For Real Official.  Putting up all of the decorations, ornaments, buying gifts, and  planning holiday meals remind me of Christmases past and happy times.  We also have another happy occasion coming up this particular December.  Our #3 son is getting married the week before Christmas.  The date has been set since spring and we have been looking forward to this special time in his life. It’s been 9 weeks since our oldest son passed away.  So now what?  How am I going to handle the month of December?  It clearly isn’t an ordinary December.

I always send Christmas cards out the week after Thanksgiving.  I know everyone doesn’t do that as much as they used to but I still send out cards.  I always love to write a personal message inside to let each recipient know how grateful I am to have them in my life.  I love to get Christmas cards.  As a general rule, all that is in my mailbox on an average day are flyers and bills.  Also, the occasional catalog for clothes I want but do not need.  When I open my mailbox in December, I always have the anticipation that there will be that distinctive envelope that screams, “Hey, I am not a bill. You don’t owe me any money!  Open me! I know you!  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”  So for that reason, I always send around 60 cards that are hand addressed.  It gives  me pleasure to write to my friends and family.

So what to do this year?  I usually tuck an amateur snapshot of my kids inside.  In my imagination, I think the people on my short list are close enough to us that they will, at the minimum, take a look and enjoy it for a brief  moment.  This year when it was time to think about cards I wasn’t sure what to do.  It seemed odd to put a photo of my children minus their brother in a card.  I will be honest, right now my baseline mood is melancholy, which on a scale of 1-10, if 1 is sad  and 10 is excited, is about a 5 or 6.  I’m not sitting around crying but there is still a little rawness around my heart. So, for me, I wasn’t quite ready to not have his face in a photo. But I didn’t want to ignore sending greetings out at all. So instead, I decided to just send one of those Walgreen’s photo cards that you can make from your Walgreen’s app with a collage of photos of our family in happier times. I only sent out around 20 or so cards to those closest to us.  I wrote personal messages on the back thanking the recipient for the extra support that they have shown us. It made me happy to see the smiling faces of a family who love and support each other.  I also wanted let our friends know that we can still wish them glad tidings and be happy for others in spite of our circumstance.

As for the wedding, that is a great occasion. It is a happy,  once in a lifetime event.  I decided a week ago that I wanted to make a change in my mood as I prepare for this happy occasion.  Son #3 deserves that.  The rest of my family deserves for me show up emotionally, so I decided to make that happen.  At the two week countdown mark, I decided that I was going to take my blanket of melancholy and metaphorically fold it up and  gently place it, with care, on a shelf in my closet.  Notice I didn’t say shove it on a shelf or wad it up without respect.  I gently folded it and placed it with care in a safe place.  If I want to get it out after the wedding and cover up in it for a little while, I will, and I can.

I gave myself permission to lay down my grief until at least after the wedding.  It is not disrespecting the memory of my son.  It is not forgetting about him.  It is not acting as if I am Over It. I am not Over It. I know It will still be there. For how long, I don’t know. But  I was able to reset my thought process by realizing that my son is fine.  He is in Heaven.  Oh, but what if there’s not a heaven?  I will be honest, I have had some doubts  in the recent weeks. That is what happens when there is too much room inside my head for me to debate with myself. Then I had the feeling, or maybe it was the Holy Spirit telling me,  “You have believed in Heaven without a single doubt until 9 weeks ago. The only reason you are doubting it now is because it is a mother’s nurturing nature to make sure her children are safe. Just believe in what you have believed for 57 years without a doubt at all. The only reason you are thinking this is because you want to make sure that he is safe. He is.  He is in Heaven. You did the last kind thing you could do for him by providing the safest way, to your ability, to lay his body to rest.  You gave him a funeral service that honored, respected, and loved him.  You made the whole process personal to him.  That was the last physical and loving thing you could do for him on Earth.”  Wow.

So here I am, one week post possible-Holy Spirit talking to me. You know what?  It helped me a lot.  For the past week, I have been able to focus on the Next Right Thing To Do which is to be truly happy and excited about the wedding festivities without  guilt and sadness.  I have thought about my son  many times every day but I have been able to shift, without guilt, to the task at hand, which is to honor son #3.  To not lay down my grief for a while is disrespecting son #3 and the good things happening in his life. I want to do that because I love each of my children with equal favor. They each deserve my attention to their lives.  It is a mother’s nature to be sad after a child’s death but not at the expense of her other children.  They are hurting too.  Their brother died.  Their hearts are a little raw, too.  Maybe not in the same way as a parent’s heart, but raw, just the same.  They need and deserve my attention.  As a mother, I am a leader in setting the tone.  I am strong enough and determined to be emotionally healthy enough to do this.

So please keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers for the next week.  Pray specifically that we are able to fully enjoy and soak up every single moment of happiness while at the same time honor the memory of our son and brother.

Peace and love.

Cindy Magee

Cindy Magee

Cindy Magee is a wife, mother, and blogger living in Jackson, Tennessee. Married to her husband, David, for 31 years, they have four children, three boys and a girl.Two of their sons are married and their daughter is in college.

She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.
Cindy Magee

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