I have grieved well for a long time. I write about grief. I understand the purpose and paths of grief better than most. I am rational and physically and mentally healthy.
Certain holidays and annual events have challenges and negative physical and emotional effects on me that I have repeatedly failed to immediately attribute to grief. Christmas is one of those holidays.
Our general perception of grief is one of injury or affliction, something to be healed or eliminated. We go to war against grief, really against the Universe for bringing this loss to our lives. As we incorporate grief into the rest of our lives, we can come to feel that we have overcome the emotions and crushing pain of early grief. We grow around the loss, we somehow become bigger and better able to not feel the emptiness of that hole.
We shared Christmas as a joyous holiday with our son for twenty years before we lost him. It’s been eighteen more Christmases without him. Truth be told, I often wonder how I will feel in the next years when we will have been without him longer than we had him with us.
The holidays add happy pressure to the rest of our lives, and that pressure compresses the empty part of our soul where we have lost someone. That compression of emptiness can flow thru the small cracks left behind and into our enjoyment and celebration of our lives and the loved ones we have surrounding us.
The real fear, I believe, is that we will someday become comfortable enough in our grief to forget to remember our losses. And yet, we remain hesitant to bring those losses into our happy times for fear of diminishing the joy around us.
When the day comes, my mood will elevate, my slightly elevated heart rate and blood pressure will normalize, I will regain my energy, my heightened aches and pains will lessen and I will bring some stories of the joy of his happy life into our family gathering. I will kick myself for not recognizing the signs earlier and then I will repeat this again next year.
In my writings about grief, I project the comfort that I have with grief. This message is proof that comfort is a relative and variable thing when grieving, the waves of emotions become ripples and life goes on. But, coincident with the annual cycles of life, the waves can come back, and while it’s discomforting, that’s just normal for a short time.
When a riptide threatens to pull you to sea, they say to swim across the tide not against it. The goal is to survive the tide until it lessens, not to drown yourself fighting it to exhaustion. Holidays and celebrations bring a riptide of emotions, even to a gentle flat sea of daily life. Swim sideways, stop fighting it.
Be well and peaceful, swim sideways thru the holidays, and be kind to those who have lost, you are one of them. Also, be kind and understanding of those who haven’t lost, they have happily been blessed with no point of reference or understanding of what you’re feeling.