On Grieving and the holidays

I learned how to wrap presents by watching my dad. He would meticulously cut and bend the paper to his will, ensuring sharp, crisp corners and lines; he knew his work would be torn apart in seconds, but he enjoyed the process. Every birthday and Christmas, it was easy to tell which presents he had wrapped, and which my mother had. I used to love watching him, because it always looked so magical when he did it––so easy.

The last seven or so years of his life, my dad’s MS rapidly tore through his body, rendering him unable to walk and use his left arm. By the end of his life, his disease had taken so much of who he was: his movement, his voice, his independence. I can’t remember the last time I got a wrapped present from my dad, which sucks, because I’ll never have one again. That’s the worst part about grieving: thinking up all of the things you’ll never have, never do, with that person anymore. Never dance. Never laugh. Never wish a Merry Christmas.

If you’ve lost someone, you know that the worst time of year when the grief is new (and even when it’s not) is Christmas. I have a love/hate relationship with the holiday. I love the glitz, the glam, the cozy sweaters, the way you can taste snow in the air before it begins to slowly drift down from the sky. But, it’s also a hard time–– a time when you nostalgically think back on Christmases from your youth and wish you could relive them one more time, just so you could say hello or I love you.

This will be my first Christmas without my dad. My third without my grandfather. My fourth without my aunt. My eleventh without my grandmother. Four important people who helped make me who I am today. And, it doesn’t get any easier. Every time I’ve lost someone new, unexpectedly or not, I think “I’ll be more prepared this time. I’ve had to handle my grief over the holidays before––it should be second nature at this point.” It never is. As soon as Thanksgiving rolls around, I know. I prepare.

I don’t know how this holiday will go, or how it will feel. There will be its good moments, and there will be its bad. I’ve compartmentalized up until this point, but all compartmentalization goes out the window when it comes to the holidays––at least for me. My body demands that I feel the emotions, as painful as they may be.

This is all to say: if you know someone who is grieving or who has a hard time around the holidays, be kind to them. Be understanding. Know that they’re trying really, really hard. Give them all your love, and all of your support.

And, if you happen to read this and are grieving yourself, know that I love you, and I’m sorry, and you’re going to get through this––even if it seems like you won’t.

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