I entered this holiday season with a spirit of defiance and anger. And it’s not been easy. At first, seeing all the happy messages and Santa pictures and Christmas cards infuriated me. I hated everyone for having something I could not.
But slowly over the course of the last several weeks my heart has softened. I reflected upon my loss, but also my response, or rather how Christine would want me to respond. It was my job to be the calm and thoughtful person in our relationship and that hasn’t changed. I also thought about the man I want to be in her absence and decided it isn’t someone who responds to love and joy with anger and spite.
I awoke this morning with a feeling of… not contentment, but peace. I also feel the budding growth of hope. It’s in its infancy, just pushing against the surface, trying to break free and blossom, but it’s there.
That’s weird to think about. Hope and peace. This month has been so incredibly turbulent and difficult. I’ve struggled at work, the kids have been more sensitive than usual. Add the extra work involved in the holidays, shopping, getting to events, all while the absence of her is brought into hyper focus.
So it’s been hard. I’ve dreaded the Big Day since Thanksgiving. How was I going to make it through this while carrying my kids through it? Anxiety has been through the roof. I’ve been more forgetful than ever before. And then I got here. I got to the Christmas Eve.
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house;
Not a single present was wrapped. Fuck.
I hate wrapping presents and I’ve been putting it off. I knew time was up, there wasn’t any more wiggle room. Then something great happened. A friend of mine texted me and asked if I wanted to keep her company while she wrapped her gifts. I said yes as long as I could bring mine over and do the same. We hung out, played with her dog, shared stories and got the presents wrapped.
And then she gave me a stocking.
I was so touched. It meant so much to have a friend I’ve only recently met think of me and go out of their way like that.
It’s funny how incredibly powerful a small kindness can be. I want to be more purposeful about that in my life. Just letting people know they matter, that they’re important.
I went home, tucked the presents under the tree, got the stockings filled and sat on the couch. It was shortly after 3:00 AM at that point and I should have gone to bed but I couldn’t rest my mind.
She wasn’t going to be here. No matter what we did, no matter how the day went, we would be constantly reminded Christine wasn’t there.
I talked to her, told her how I felt, how much I missed her and how much I wish I could feel some closeness to her. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I woke up on my couch at six after dreaming about Christine. She was upset with me, she was dismissive of my feelings. I had wronged her somehow and she didn’t want anything to do with me.
Sleep found me again, but I was sure this was a sign of how the day would go. And then I woke to my kids coming down the stairs… and there was that peace and that hope.
We tore through our stockings and then followed our tradition of taking turns opening each present one at a time, youngest to oldest. Then the kids cleaned while I started breakfast.
That part was hard. I made the same Irish food we had the year before and I needed help I didn’t have. It turned out OK. It’s hard to cook through tears.
So we had our food. The kids were playing with their new toys and I dressed for a run. Off I went. I made it a couple miles between breakdowns. I let off a few blocks from home to compose myself again.
You can do this. You can do this for the kids. Game face.
And I did. We took it easy, we spent time together. I felt that peace again.
I messaged people, telling them Merry Christmas. I messaged widows and family and friends old and new. Merry Christmas. Peace and hope.
We left the house around 2 for dinner at my parent’s. We arrived to find a giant pile of snow my uncle brought down from the pass so we could have a snowball fight. It was so much fun. The neighborhood kids joined in, and a few parents.
And then dinner. It was great.
We opened a few small gifts and talked about the past. My uncle cried when he picked up a Santa mug that had been owned by my great grandma. We laughed about getting hit by the grief train. I talked with my aunt and her new fiance. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried quietly. We had dessert. I got a ‘Merry Christmas’ text from someone I hadn’t talked to in a while. My family shared a drink, and then we went home.
More peace. More hope. Why??
I took a nap, E played video games. We all kind of did our thing. My friend texted me around 9 and asked if I wanted to watch Daddy’s Home. I said yes and went over to her house but we just played fetch with her dog instead. She gave me a stuffed unicorn to replace one of the ridiculous, oversized throw pillows for my new couch (the one I keep falling asleep on). I don’t know why I find this so important to point out but she is a friend. We hang out. It’s so nice. I don’t want to say ‘just a friend’ because that means a friend is less important than a spouse or girlfriend. It isn’t always that way. Sometimes we all just really need a friend.
And then home.
Now I’m trying to write about my day to work through these feelings. Peace and hope. Hope and peace. And I think I got it.
The day wasn’t easy. I thought about her a lot. I cried a lot. I’m thinking about her now. I don’t miss her any less today than I did yesterday. Probably more.
But here’s the thing. I made it through the day. I did it. I did it with the help of the people I know reaching out today telling me Merry Christmas. I did it with the help of my kids who were just amazing to be around. I did it with the help of my family. I did it with the help of my friends.
The peace and hope I feel is the realization that as hard as it is and as hard as it will continue to be… I can do this. WE can do this. And we’re going to.