When I was a little girl I never thought about how the holidays impacted the adults around me. I figured it was all about ME. Or at most, me plus my brother and Santa Claus.
I was blissfully unaware of budgets and baggage.
Now I know better.
The holidays require us to wrap more than presents. They force us to wrap all the pain and expectation and hope and heartache in a giant package and serve it up hot and ripe for dissension and disappointment.
It’s relatively easy to figure out what to put under the tree (or give for the nights of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa). It’s much harder to figure out what to bring to the dinner table or the family gathering or the we’re-doing-something-different-this-year NON-gathering.
I’ve written a lot about the holidays in previous years and I will be sharing those posts again because there is always someone who hasn’t read them or who is just now in need of them. But I wanted to add something to the canon this year-on the ninth set of holidays with one child in Heaven.
It’s not easier just because I’ve had practice.
We have yet to settle into a system that makes space for all the feelings and changes that time brings to lives and loves and hearts and homes.
I’m just as jealous TODAY of whole families as I was the first Christmas without Dominic. I’m just as likely to sit for hours wondering what, exactly, I should cart down from the attic, what I should set up in the living room, how I should honor him without making him a “saint” and when tears are appropriate or distracting and indulgent.
I don’t want to discourage anyone.
I have developed many more coping skills and ways to make it through the season than I had that first awful Christmas when every song, every memory, every EVERYTHING stung like driving snow on frozen faces.
I’m just being honest which is the first and most important commitment I made when I started sharing in this space. And I don’t want any heart who still struggles to think he or she is unusual or defective or weak or “less than” the hearts that declare unmitigated victory over grief and sorrow.
Life is life.
It’s not less treacherous because I’ve developed bigger emotional biceps as a result of child loss.
There is, in fact, a greater gap between what I expect from myself and what I find I’m able to give.
But I keep trying.
I’ll buy the presents, deck the halls, make the meals and cherish every moment I’m with the ones I love.
Because I’m oh, so aware that this Christmas may be the LAST Christmas.
A beautiful and terrible burden to bear.