My father died on Christmas day. This Christmas, like the one thirty years ago, I will host my family in my cozy home with candles burning and my tree gloriously trimmed.
Unlike that year, my nursing newborn is now the 30 year old flying home from New York before he heads off to India. My home is now an apartment instead of a house. There will be no husband to cohost the holiday party, and the widow in the house will not be my mother but will be me.
It’s impossible for me to not connect holidays with losses, even if the feelings are passing. Last Sunday I sat in a darkened auditorium listening to angelic voices of my favorite community chorus sing of the longing and loneliness that joins the holly and ivy. I felt the lump in my throat rise. I allowed the tears to drip onto my winter coat, only mildly embarrassed by my silent weeping.
Why was I crying? I am not alone in the world. I am loved by many each day. I have everything I need and more. So why the tears?
Were they for the loss of those precious glimpses of my children on Christmas mornings when even the worst marriage seemed magical? For my mother who died on another bitter cold December day? For comparison to my married friends who I imagine opening some beautifully wrapped, perfectly chosen gift from their spouse? Or for my memory of when I did the same?
Despite my caroling and my competence in crossing off the “To Do’s” on my holiday action plan, I sometimes feel as though those tears could erupt at any moment. Couple this with the fatigue that can come from celebrations, shopping, and sugar cookies when your energy reserves are already depleted from divorce, you might feel the same. Vulnerable is the best description.
How we manage our tenderness is different for all of us. I recommend you allow the feelings to flow, while noticing what lifts your spirits when you’re ready. Light a few more candles? Spend a half hour admiring your decorations from the view of your sofa? Invite a friend to help make the fudge this year?
Whether the losses you grieve are small or big matters not. When your tears fall, let them. Then allow your clear eyes to see what is before you – the chance to cherish moments now and make new memories. Thirty years from now, I hope to have some merrier memories to look back on from this year.
Merry memories to you.
Looking for some inspiration as one year ends and another begins? Watch Susan’s TEDx talk as she tells the story of becoming her family eulogist starting 30 years ago at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C4FtjissE8.