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 🙂

 

 

The Half-Circle Of Life

My blog post about how my life has been very different than what I imagined in my misspent youth inspired a lot of conversation.  I’m glad that so many of you could relate to my observations and commented on them.  It made me feel like a less of an oddball. Not that there is anything wrong with being an oddball, but sometimes it is nice to know I am not the only ball rolling around at a different angle than everybody else.

I think most of the conversation generated from my musings about my childless state.  Many of you seem to contemplate what your life would have been with children, without children, with more children, or with less children.  I guess that is just one of those things about which we all wonder.  In general, it doesn’t bother me too much.  I think of my lack of children to be part of my overall existence.  I don’t know what my existence would have been like if I had children, but I do know it would have been different…. And I’m pretty happy with the life I have.

One aspect of not having children that I think still does bother me has to do with my mother’s death.  I wonder if people who are not parents generally grieve differently when they lose a parent. I did some googling to see if I could find any studies or research to suggest that this is an actual “thing,” but came up empty.  Still, just because no one ever studied something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Truthfully, just because I may be the only one to feel it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I’ve talked to some other women about it.  I asked women with children and women without children.  No one seemed to have experienced what I described.  Many offered the perspective that perhaps women with children have a more difficult time with mourning in some ways than women without children.  Women with children often have to put the needs of their children over their own need to grieve in their own way.  Women with children are often much busier than women without children.  Women with children may not be able to spend as much energy on their relationships with their own mothers at the end of life, which may lead to more regrets after the fact.  I think all those points are valid and true.  I’m not saying women with children grieve in less pain.  I’m just saying that the grief may be different.

Being without a next generation myself, I sometimes feel I lost not only my mother, but the entire mother-child dynamic.  I’m sure the women who have children often feel a huge change in the shape and balance of the mother-child dynamic when they lose their own mothers, but that dynamic still exists.  I remember, very clearly, the day my mother’s mother died.  I was six years old.  When I came home from school, my mother told me that Nana had died. She sat in the rocking chair my father bought her when I was born. She pulled me into her lap.  In the same way as she must have done when I was a baby, she folded me into herself and rocked me as I cried.  I remember that rhythmic rocking and the soothing sensation.  I also remembered that, on the day my grandmother died, my mother and I were crying together for the first time in my young memory.  Even at that young age, I could feel the transfer of emotion in that rocking.  I could feel her being comforted by comforting me.

When my mother died, I had no daughter to take on my lap and rock.  There was no little person to drain off some of my sadness and to remind me that life goes on and motherly love goes on.  Even seven months later, it is difficult to face the reality that my mother-child relationship in this world is gone.  It is also difficult to face the fact that, when it is my turn to leave this world, there will be no daughter loving me through that transition.

They say that a parent’s death is part of the natural order of things.  Of course, that is true.  The implication is that one generation passes and another rises. They call it the circle of life.  My circle is incomplete though.  Instead of a circle, my life is simply a curved line.

I try not too be too sad about that curved line.  Even though I don’t have any little circle-makers of my own, I still know that life really does go on and motherly love is forever. And I am lucky to have had it abundantly.

What do you think?  Do people without children grieve differently when they lose a parent than people with children?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a loving day!

Terri/Dorry  🙂