Last year we experienced all of our “firsts” without mom. Everyone expected me to pretty much be a train wreck. I had always envisioned these great family Holiday gatherings with people and food constantly rolling in and out of my house. Growing up in a large extended family, I envisioned those traditions to continue. Because family members had started moving away, those big gatherings had already started dwindling. Last year, they came to a screeching halt. I knew my mom was the glue that held me together most days, I didn’t realize how much she was holding everyone else together as well. It truly was a different kind of Christmas. I didn’t have my mom, I didn’t even have my extended family. It was awful. People skated around me on thin ice trying to avoid the flaming darts coming from my eyes.
Honestly, because I have kids, Christmas was easier on me emotionally than Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was so freaking hard. I don’t think anyone really expected that, so folks weren’t as gracious around me. Not there fault, they were just surprised that I was such a mess. Thanksgiving was our thing. Go back to the lots of food and family thing…. And, as everyone was talking about all they had to be thankful for, and even though I knew I was blessed, I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head about horrible my life had been that year. I had lost way more than my mom, and I wasn’t grateful, I was pissed. As Christmas rolled around, my kids kinda pulled me out of my absolute funk. We focus on them at Christmas and sharing the meaning of Christmas with those around us. If you feel like you need a blessing, take time to serve and bless someone else. I promise it will help. Our immediate family traditions stayed in tact as my Step Dad and Ex-Brother-in-law (You read that correctly, I told you my family has been a mess the last couple years.) and niece came over for Christmas Eve dinner. I certainly missed my mom and had to fight back tears, but having people where they were supposed to be and doing what they were supposed to do eased some of the pain.
Everyone says after losing someone, the grief and pain start to subside or change around the one year mark. I’d say around 15-18 months for me life kinda started falling back into place. I could drive through town, have conversations, and think about my Mom without losing my lunch or becoming a free flowing fountain of tears. As the second round of holidays started rolling around, the emotions build back up. I wanted to call Mom and tell her Happy Mother’s Day, I wanted to celebrate with her on her birthday, I wanted to ask her about recipes for Thanksgiving, and I want to share in the excitement of what we have for the kids this Christmas. I REALLY REALLY want her to go with us, as what we are doing is something she always wanted to do. The thing that is different about those emotions coming back is that most people around expect you to handle them differently. Support from friends and family wains, those who understand you’re grieving kinda forget about it. No joke, one of my friends asked me if we were going to my Mom’s for Christmas or if she was coming here. They aren’t a bad person, they weren’t trying to drive a dagger through my heart. They just forgot. My normal isn’t their normal anymore. Our 55-60 year old parents aren’t supposed to be dead. And, we get so busy and wrapped up in our normal lives, we forget to think and act and do differently around those who are grieving.
And, I will be grieving the rest of my life. Will it be easier, maybe. But, Christmas will always be different for me. There will always be a missing place at the table. I will always miss shopping for blow out deals with my mom, or calling to tell her about the great things we are doing. ALWAYS. Time will not ever heal that wound. And, honestly, I don’t want it to. Some have “forgotten” or “replaced” my mom with other people or things. And, that is okay. But, in my heart and in my house, my mom’s spot will always be empty.
A song that really touched my heart last year, and I have been listening to a good bit again this year is Mark Schultz “A Different Kind of Christmas”. I’ve tried to attach it here, but, I am not sure I’m good enough to make that work. If you don’t know the song, go out to You Tube and watch the video.
And, remember no matter the reason, no matter how long it’s been, there are lots of people around us having a “Different Kind of Christmas this Year.” Extend grace and love. Say something even if it’s hard. Just show up. They don’t expect you to know how they feel, and please don’t say you do. You don’t have to say anything. Being there to fill the gap is enough.