Being a product of the self-help era, I recently turned to the book from the local grief center on how to make it through the holidays. As I read, the tips seemed familiar. Ben and Jack were just 7 and 8 when their father and I divorced and I first learned how to recreate the holidays.
This year my children, now grown, will fly in from opposite coasts for Christmas. Those same feelings of angst about how I will make it all okay come over me. Their stepfather, my husband, John, died in September.
I am a good planner. For Thanksgiving I planned. I planned to sit at John’s place at the head of the table. I planned to ask my brother to carve the turkey. I planned to say the blessing. Giving thought to how each of John’s roles would be filled seemed to reduce the risk that one of those unexpected moments of heart-wrenching grief would sneak up, consume me, and distract my family from the beauty of the table I had joyfully set the night before with china, candles, and linen napkins.
I’m not as good at being flexible. But I know how essential it is. As I returned from the kitchen to the dining room table I saw my oldest brother, Dave, relaxing with his chair pulled back from the table. I impulsively plopped myself onto his lap. It was a pose I struck countless times when John sat in his recliner at the end of a holiday meal. Dave, the quietest of the 8 children in our family, just smiled and allowed.
As I consider whether to hang John’s stocking and what to do about the traditional gifts he gave the children, I will plan. And I will be flexible. And I will be grateful.
It is essential that we allow ourselves the time and space to mourn the loss of what was, of the holiday rituals that will never look the same. At the same time, we hold the power to create anew something beautiful and meaningful.
As you recreate this holiday season, how can you plan to make it easier? Where are you being called to show some flexibility? And always most importantly, for what will you be grateful?