Second Christmas

I woke up this morning with a heart so heavy it felt like it was dangling lethargically somewhere in the vicinity of my left kidney.

Everyone says that the first year after losing a loved one is the hardest. I can certainly understand that. All through the tail end of 2017 and 2018, the “firsts” bombarded me. I experienced my first birthday without my mother. I experienced my first Christmas holiday season without my mother. I experienced my first Mother’s Day without my mother. I experienced August 22, which was my mother’s birthday, for the first time without her. I experienced the first anniversary of her death.

In addition, there were many challenging activities related to her death that I had to plow my way through in that first year. I told friends and relatives of her passing. I arranged for her cremation. I packed up her personal items from the nursing facility. I scattered her ashes. I applied for life insurance proceeds. I closed out her affairs.

Now that I am in the second year of orphanhood, I expected life to get a little easier to bear. For the most part, I think it has. It has been a year filled with a certain harshness that has been hard to overlook. On the other hand, it has been a year of great satisfaction in some ways. I’ll be writing more about that next week.

However, the Christmas season this year has been much harder on my psyche than I thought it would be. At first, the sadness surprised me, but I came to realize it makes perfect sense.

Last Christmas, I expected to miss my mother bitterly. I knew I would feel bereft and broken. In a world where most people love Christmas, my mother was a uniquely committed Yule-a-phile. She never met a Christmas decoration she didn’t like. She purchased truckloads of presents. She gathered her family to her heart like toys in Santa’s sleigh and draped us with holly. She let her wacky side run wild, embracing oddball traditions and creating serendipitous surprises.

People who know me would say that description sounds a lot like me. Trust me, the angel doesn’t fall far from the Christmas tree. I am only a faded carbon copy of my mother and her addiction to all things ho-ho-holiday.

Strangely, I floated through the holiday season last year without unbearable pain. There certainly were times when I was sad, but, for the most part, I managed well. I was easy on myself, anticipated moments of grief, and allowed my Christmas season to be gentler and more peaceful than usual. I cocooned myself in the warmth of that gentleness and enjoyed that kind of Christmas. It wasn’t that I tried to avoid celebrating Christmas because the whole holiday thing reminded me too much of my loss. I just settled into enjoying simplicity and doing whatever felt appealing in the moment.

Last year, my mother’s death was still so fresh. I felt shell shocked. I was processing my grief through a veil of relief that my mother wasn’t suffering anymore and that the job of accompanying her as she died little by little was finally done. I think my psyche was more wrapped up in the close of that painful chapter than in the close of the entire book of my mother’s life. I was so glad to turn the page that I didn’t fully experience the sinister finality of slamming of the book’s cover.

This year, the finality of the loss has had time to resurface in my brain. I am no longer as vague and relieved as I was last year. I just miss my mom being with me and doing the things we used to do. As a result, this holiday season has felt much sadder. And I think that is a good thing.

One of my biggest fears when my mother was ill was that all the difficult times and suffering were overlaying the lifetime of joyful memories I had with my mother. I felt like I was not only losing my mother in death, but that I was losing who she had always been in life because I could no longer fully experience the joyful memories. If you’d like to read more about that fear, you can visit my blog post I Miss My Momma. You can access that post by clicking this link:

I Miss My Momma

I think my sadness in this holiday season has to do with the joyful memories returning to take their rightful place in my mind and heart. You can’t miss what you don’t know, right? I think the fact that I am sad that my mother isn’t here to “do Christmas” with me means that I am remembering and cherishing the times we had when we were together. I’m okay with that. There is nothing that can change the fact that my mother died. There is nothing that can change the fact that most everyone will go through the death of one or more parents in their life. There is nothing that can change the fact that it is sad when we miss the people we love. Since there is nothing we can do to change any of that, I’d much rather be sad sometimes than forgo the joy of remembering and re-experiencing the happy times!

To all of you are experiencing loss this Christmas, may you be blessed with peace, hope, and joy.  That is what Christmas really means.  In a Christian perspective, it is about the beginning of our redemption by Jesus.  In a secular perspective, it is about allowing the warmth and love of this world to fill your heart and comfort you.  Please allow my warmth and love for you travel through cyberspace to fill your heart and comfort you.

 

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

 

8 thoughts on “Second Christmas”

  1. Dear Dorry,
    I absolutely loved your mom’s Christmas spirit. I will never forget the day she invited all of the office staff to her house to decorate her Christmas tree. Joe painstakingly and with great care put the lights on the tree so that they were evenly abundant and spaced perfectly. Then our boss Kathy showed up late as usual and saw a tag on the wire at the top of the tree, that I am positive said don’t cut this tag off with a scissors. She proceeded to do just that and poof there went all the lights. Joe was dumbfounded but started over and redid the whole tree while we all laughed and had a good time with unwanted instruction. Needless to say Kathy was never allowed to touch a scissors around Dorothy’s Christmas trees again. I miss her too! Merry Christmas Dorry !!!

    1. Yes, Bonnie, I remember that party when Kathy created a Christmas blackout! There are so many wonderful memories that break and heal my heart at the same time. A merry Christmas to you and those you love, as well! Please spread my holiday peace, love, and joy to any of the folks who loved my mother.

  2. I remember my time at Christmas in Israel. There was no tree in the home. I remember playing the piano of Christmas carols with no tree or anything that made it seem like Christmas. My Father read the Christmas story from his Bible and suddenly it seemed like this was the real Christmas. I don’t even remember gifts but we did have a service that day to remember Christ’s birth. It was a REAL day of celebration of His birth. My Mother made a dinner of mostly vegetables since there was no meat at that time, due to rationing. It was a real time of celebration of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, which was not far from where we lived in Jerusalem.

  3. Yes, yes and yes on everything you are feeling. This Christmas, every Christmas, every holiday, every birthday…there will be sadness and that’s ok. I thank God every day for His gift of our Savior and the hope He brings, as you said, that is the real meaning of Christmas.

  4. Thinking of you throughout the holidays. May your wonderful memories and experiences of your mum, overshadow the sadness of her not being here anymore. I can only imagine what a grieving process this has been for you. However, I can’t even imagine the pain of losing a mum, especially when you have had such a close relationship. I’m sure your story has resonated with many. Keep writing your beautiful blog for others to read. Have a great Christmas! Xoxo

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