It’s January 3rd. I have been wanting to share my experience of Christmas Day for over a week and I am just now able to actually write about it. I tried once last week and I deleted the whole thing. I knew what my feelings felt like but I couldn’t think of the right words to describe them.
What made December 25th different from another day, say December 12th? It’s because I have no specific memories of any December 12th. There is nothing emotional, personal, or exciting about December 12th. But December 25th is an entirely different story. It really starts with the days leading up to it. Memories of Christmases past crept into my brain. As I got ready for bed Christmas Eve, turning off the lights, filling stockings, and neatening up, I almost dreaded going to sleep knowing that this Christmas would be different.
We opened gifts with our adult children and that was lovely. After lunch my married children went to spend the rest of the day with in-laws. The house was so quiet. Just my daughter, my husband, and me. Memories flooded in. I couldn’t decide whether memories were a good thing or bad thing. All I know is the way that I handled them. I allowed myself to feel them intensely for awhile. Then I smashed them down deep inside which is probably not the very best way from a psychological standpoint but I did the best that I could. I was determined that I was not going to allow myself to completely ruin the day for the whole house.
I looked at the clock and it read 1:00 pm. Bedtime is usually 11:00 pm. I remember thinking that it would be 10 whole hours before the day would come to an end. On any other December 25th that time would go quickly, but on this particular December 25th the clock moved so slowly. Sort of like it did when you were a child in elementary school and you were waiting for the final bell to ring at the end of the day. It took thirty minutes for the minute hand to move 5 minutes. We decided on a plan to select a movie at a theater and go to a matinee. The movie turned out to be a nice way to break up the day. When we returned home, we ate leftovers from the night before and watched a couple of movies on television. The next thing I knew it was bedtime. I knew that if I went to sleep that I had a chance for the next day to be a little easier and it was.
My memories of Christmas as a child included a houseful of aunts, uncles, and cousins at my grandmother’s house. After my grandmother passed away, my mother created a new type of Christmas. I was 20 years old that first Christmas without my grandmother. I am ashamed to say that I had no clue as to how hard that first Christmas without my grandmother was for my mother. Honestly, it wasn’t until I had my first Christmas without my mother that I fully realized how hard it was for her. I was 49 years old at that time. I wish that I had the maturity at 20 years old to be cognizant of that and to love on her a little.
The first Christmas that I remember my mother being truly joyful again was eight years later, the first Christmas after my son was born. Small children at Christmas will do that. He was the first grandchild, so Christmas was magic again for all of us. We created yet a new tradition. Seven more grandchildren followed and we all enjoyed a new kind of Christmas. After my mom passed away, that first Christmas had to bring its own new tradition . My husband and I celebrated Christmas with our four children. My children were 21,18, 14, and 12. I am proud to say that they rose to a higher level of comfort to me than I was capable of at the age of 20. That was the year they gave me the locket. We enjoyed eight years of yet another new tradition.
So this year brought an even bigger change to Christmas. Two of my four children are married, one in college, and one passed away in October. The freshness of losing him was not enough time for me to adjust enough to be fully capable of creating a new tradition. So my game plan was to just try my best to celebrate the memories of Christmases with him and enjoy the additions of two new daughter-in-laws.
The pattern that I saw emerge once I looked back on all the Christmases in my life is that I have survived many types of changes. New traditions take a little time to adjust to but they can be even richer than the ones we mourn. But it sure is painful during the transition. I freely admit that I had some low moments but I am thankful for my family who made an effort to comfort me. I received texts and Facebook messages all day long from real life friends and virtual friends telling me that they were thinking of me. Never underestimate the power that your words of comfort can bring to someone who has had a loss. Just the words “I am thinking of you today” were just the little bit of encouragement that I needed to put one foot in front of the other.
I have hope that next Christmas will be a little easier and we can ease into yet another new tradition and be able to cherish the memories of those we love.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.