Grieving during the holiday season

This year, I am really trying to put the ‘merry’ back in Christmas.

I fought through the tears to decorate the house. I found the energy to bring back the Elf on the Shelf and I attempted to decorate the Christmas tree this year. I even went shopping for gifts on several occasions. I did none of these things since my son Xavier died.

I still cry, I still hurt, and I still yearn of the days when we spent Christmas together. The Christmases where my son could lick the spoon from my Christmas baking and hang up his own ornaments and unwrap his fits. The mornings where he and his twin sister would race out of bed to find Ginger (the elf), and yell at each if one found him before the other. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can make any ordinary family want to pull out their hair.

From getting all the right gifts, the wrapping, the decorations, the baking and preparing the feast, there is no vacation about that. But these tasks, no matter how time consuming, are what make Christmas Christmas. They stimulate our sense and ignite the holiday spirit within us.

But for some, it is simply too much. And that’s ok.

Christmas is not a merry time for those grieving a loss, or the health of their child who may be in hospital or unable to participate int eh holidays like they used to. This was the case for Xavier. Sadly, my seven-year-old son spent his last Christmas with us angry and depressed.

Forced upon him by the steroid commonly known as Dex; a necessary medication to relive his symptoms of brain swelling, this drug had horrendous side effects and played especially hard on Xavier’s emotions.

He didn’t care Santa was coming… in fact he believed Santa shouldn’t come at all because he was a terrible boy for being angry and crying all the time. It was heartbreaking, and like anyone who suffers from mental illness, there is no on-off switch to magically make it go away over the holidays.

As much as we try to be happy, and we try to make Christmas merry, the grief sneaks up on us. We can’t avoid it, we can’t snuff it or bury it.

Instead, I encourage you to embrace it along with the joy of the season. I am learning how the two coincide and have found the two really can get along. It’s taking the good with the bad. It’s about moving forward and not pretending it doesn’t hurt or wallowing in the bad.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is your heart wants to feel this holiday. Whatever it may be, that’s ok.

How are you feeling this season?

Check out this complication of holiday blogs from our friends at Courageous Parents Network. Maybe one of these blogs rings true to how you are coping during the holidays.

1. Not so jolly - by Tjameika Davenport

Ahhhh, December! ‘Tis the season to be jolly…

But I’m not feeling jolly today. In one week, my daughter will enter our local children’s hospital for yet another surgical procedure. Maybe jolly will find me in January!

2. What feels right - by Brenda Murray

This year, I opened the Christmas bin and took out my other two boys stockings and I felt like something was missing. So I went looking for Sam’s. I hung his up this year. No denial, but rather an acknowledgement that I just plain miss him.

There really is no right or wrong in these situations. We’re navigating this new road as it feels right for us. WE make up the traditions, so WE can change them.

3. More questions than answers - by Shoshana Mirei

Holidays have a way of bringing up big questions for me… What is it to be a family? How can I be so blessed and still feel so cursed? All of my conflicting feelings and questions only lead me to one conclusion: this is what’s happening and I can’t change it.

4. Finding what matters most - by Blyth Lord

Songs that bombard with words like Merry and Happy and Joy ignore that for many people, especially those who are struggling with sadness and grief, these words hurt because of their dissonance.

Despite all of this, I love this time of the year. I love it for how it calls me to focus on what matters most to me… kindness. I believe Kindness is at the root of everything and is actually attainable.