The Empty Christmas Tree

It’s ten days from Christmas and our tree is still standing empty, begging for decorations and presents. It is awaiting a happy family to stand around while strategically placing their personal ornaments and alight it with joy. Incidentally, our house is in total disarray from the flooding of our kitchen and only half of the house has festive holdiay decorations. The tree stands empty.

We proudly brought our family tree home last week and ┬ájust haven’t found the time to decorate it. The kids have activities, dad has been ill, and honestly, mom just hasn’t been in the spirit.

Grief and the Holidays

Here’s what no one tells you about grief. Or maybe they do and I just wasn’t listening. Grief hits hardest in the least expected times. As a social worker, I understand the stages of grief and the roller coaster of emotions that we all experience. Additionally, I recognize the ability to personalize the most innocent statement from a family member while wondering what the hell they are thinking. For a licensed social worker, I really suck at feeling emotions.

I am just not as festive as I usually am. As a mom, this sucks, because I want to create amazing Christmas memories for my boys. I don’t want them to suffer because their mom is dealing with my own issues. So where do we find the balance? How do I let go of the avoidance?

Not Dealing is Avoidance

This season is the first one without my mom. While we had a tempestuous relationship and often failed to understand one another, she trusted me with her last will and testament. For me, that is an honor that I don’t take lightly. Granted, it is a total pain in the ass and trying to make things happen from another state is compounding the stress. However, she trusted me to carry out her final wishes and I will make that happen. My internal struggle comes from pushing through those demands and trying to put on a smile for my boys and celebrate our blessings in the hear and now.

Until my late 40’s, I had never had to be the responsible child. After all, I had a pretty amazing older brother who took care of the tough stuff and only filled me in when he thought I needed to know something. When he passed away, those expectations passed onto me. I am pretty sure my extended family thinks my mom was crazy for leaving these decisions to me…after all, I am the wild child… the one who does my own thing and who really likes to live in a bubble. In other words, I like avoidance.

Truth be told, I also wondered if I could step up. But I did, and I will. Because she trusted me to do so. Adulting is tough and watching your parent pass away, regardless of the relationship between you definately changes you. It changes how you feel about the world and it provides a sense of mortality that only comes from that experience.

Stay in the moment

My friend, I know you are grieving. Do what you need to do for you. Will others disagree and judge? Absolutely, but they are not walking your walk. They only know their own pain and grief. And we all grieve differently. We tend to focus on our own pain and forget that others are also struggling. Be kind and try to be gentle with others and with yourself.

Stay in the moment. Today, I am going to go shower, put on some makeup and gather my family around our naked Christmas Tree. Together we will create a masterpiece of memories and together we will smile as we remember the story behind each ornament. I will allow myself to cry when I need to (I really do suck at this) and I will allow myself to be happy and guilt free when those moments arise.

The passing of our loved ones creates waves of emotions that we may not be prepared for, however it also allows us to remember why we loved them in the first place. Never underestimate the connection between love and grief.

And for you? Merry Christmas. Celebrate how you need to for you and yours.