I have actually been dreading this post for the past two weeks. The holidays, specifically Christmas, what a really complicated subject in the grief journey. Hold tight and bear with me as this post may turn out to be an utter mess, as I vomit profusely, and undoubtedly irratically onto the perverbial page.
I’d like to say I have all the answers, the roadpath to survival, but I don’t. No one does. This journey is unique to the individual, and I honestly believe that no one can navigate it seamlessly nor unscathed.
To start, I need to describe the holidays, pre-death. The holidays were not my husband’s favorite time of year, at least not until A was born, then he grew to love them and the many traditions we embraced. Every year, since A was born, we spent Christmas at home, and hosted the event. We had no family nearby, so a spectacle it became, because we housed family and friends for days leading up and beyond Christmas Day. What this entails are many meals, breakfasts, snacks, cleaning, organzing, planning… Those who knew me then would not be surprised to know that I used a binder with tabs to keep it all together. A binder with shopping lists, plans, recipes, and even timing for when to cook what and how long it needed to be in the oven. Let’s just say, this was a big endeavor.
There were many traditions, like my family’s secret egg nog recipe (which today has never been beaten), we baked the same cookies every year, served a Polish feast on Christmas Eve, followed by a big breakfast on Christmas day, a plethera of snacks during the day, and ALWAYS beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner. My parents and his father were always there on Christmas morning, the other guests changed from year to year, sometimes friends, sometimes family, but we welcomed everyone with open arms. We hung out all Christmas Day, watched football, played board games, watched A Christmas Story, etc.
Christmas was a day was always fun. There was always some sort of adventure. Like the year my husband recieved a pastry torch as a gift, we drove around to any store that was open on the 25th to see if we could find heavy cream so he could make creme brulee. (by they way, there was none to be had) But it was fun trying…
The first year…Many people, if you read books, articles, and blogs, have so much to say about the holidays the first year. Some say this is the hardest year, others say the second and third years are harder. Both, in my findings, are accurate. In some ways the first year is the hardest, you have traditions that now seem shallow, you have no energy to go through the motions, and let’s face it, getting through the holidays the first time around are just going through the motions. But in other ways it may be easier than the years to come because the first year you may be just a little numb, and the people in your life are less sensitive to your emptiness as time goes by. In my case, the first year, I pretty much canceled Christmas. There would be no out of town guests, no big fancy meals, not even very many decorations at all. I put up a tree and hung the stockings. That’s it. This was a year to re-group. To maybe find some new traditions. This was the year that the Christmas light experience first began. We packed into the car, wearing pajamas, and drinking cocoa to look at all the festive lights in the area. We googled the biggest light shows and set our course. We may not have decorated our own home, but our season was still filled with lights and celebration. This is a tradition we have continued to this day. The first Christmas was hard, calm, without any chaos, but also without the adventure. It was easy, and yet hard.
Subsequent years have been ok, not great, a bit lack luster to say the least. Still hard, maybe harder, having lost some magic. But we are forging ahead. I no longer enjoy the shopping or the wrapping, the baking, the planning, the cooking, nor the entertaining. A and I have found that watching the happy, sappy seasonal movies on Hallmark passes the time well. I still only decorate the mantle and the tree (for the most part), but did manage to make cookies this year. Here is the funny thing. I actually have not made one single Christmas cookie from my usual repetoire, all different cookies. What does that say? Well, I am not an actual psychologist (I just play one from time to time), but just maybe I am still avoiding the season, if even in just a culinary dessert fashion.
*On a happy note, I found a gingerbread recipe that rocks! 🙂