I know I am not the only person who struggles with change. I know people who are in their 60’s who have clothes they wore in high school. I have seen people who have not changed the way they wear their hair in the 25 years I have known them.
After our son died in July I can’t remember how or what we did for Thanksgiving in November of 2011. Our daughter was newly married. We were still in shock. I can try to put the puzzle pieces together in retro-fashion to figure it out and remember but quite frankly it is not worth the effort.
I remember Christmas 2011. It is like I have a picture of it framed in my head. It was cold and painful. We tried to the best of our ability to keep it as close to what we were used to – a tradition that spanned at least 26 years. The tradition we have kept was established when our daughter was born and we could use her as our excuse to stay home and celebrate Christmas as our own little family without having to travel three hours south to the grandparents.
Now, with our daughter being married, our son gone, it is time to think outside the proverbial Christmas box. The tradition has reached its expiration date. Nothing we do can force it to be what it was and trying to hang on to the shreds is painful. Not that anyone has forced it to be that way! I understand we all – my husband, daughter and I – wait, hoping someone else will make a suggestion, not wanting to be the one to blame for further change.
Yet without any suggestions it has begun to take on more pain.
Change comes slowly at times and swiftly at others. I need this time of year to change in some way in my heart and head so that I can make it through without headaches, depression and hair-trigger emotions. I need this because I have other people in my life and they deserve attention too.
I kept my mask as firmly in place as possible during Thanksgiving. My daughter and I ended up in a much needed lengthy discussion at one point. Our mutual loss was at the center of the conversation and we bounced over the waves again caused by ripples that flow out from that central point of the death of this person we so love. She has anger at the pain that has been caused for everyone. She does not cry as easily as I do and she like her father tends to busy herself in an attempt to not think and move on.
I allow myself times of abject grief in private. I face each day knowing that I will try to achieve the list of things I must do though it may be punctuated by “grief attacks.” I am accustomed to them. I don’t push them away nor do I try to make them happen. They probably occur as often as I used to think about my son when he was still living. I’ve never plotted it on a graph but I think it is as plausible as any other explanation.
I don’t feel as guilty when I am able to be very busy and very productive these days. In fact I like to think my son would be happy for me and I know my daughter and husband are.
But Christmas, what to do with Christmas. We have decorated the house. I have up two trees this year. Their are lights strewn around the outside of the house and the lighted trees have been placed in the outside entry way that play music while their lights dance. We will host a small Christmas gathering for my husbands co-workers. I have a couple of little presents that I have purchased and really doubt I will do much more. We are at a point when things are not what is needed. They really were not needed before but we kept going through the motions – hoping against hope that the motions would make us feel like things had not changed.
I baked my son’s favorite cookies over the Thanksgiving holiday. The first time I had made those cookies since before July 2011. It was a big deal. It was a very big deal.
At a Christmas Party at a local restaurant on Monday night a friend asked if I still went hiking. I had to answer no. The last hike I took (and I am talking more than walking up a trail for 15 minutes and back) was with my son. I need to gather up my stuff and go again.
I need to take better care of myself. I need to stop eating the things I shouldn’t and exercise more. I need to figure out how to market my artwork more effectively and do these things just for myself. I want to train my wonderful little mini australian shepherd to do those tasks that would fulfill him as the brilliant little dog he is. Maybe these are my resolutions presented a bit early. My personal resolutions.
There are other things-big things- nagging at me. They threaten to drag me under at times. Worries about my loved ones health. Worries about choices made or being made – that I know too well I have no control over and wait wringing my hands, to see the consequences.
So change is going to happen whether I choose it or not. I might as well be a party to the process instead of standing and waiting for it to knock me down.
This was the third Thanksgiving holiday since our son died. I felt like my grief was more keenly focused than ever before. I am so thankful for my family and friends. I am so thankful for my son and all the things he shared with me and taught me. I am so thankful for my loving husband and my daughter and our relationship.
I cannot honestly say that it has become easier or clearer or lighter – but it has changed.