The first holidays alone. 2013. I escaped and refused to do anything “Christmasy”. I usually loved the holidays. Decorating, baking, shopping and creating magic for my two little boys. I enjoyed making memories and creating traditions for our little family. The first holiday season, only 4 short months after Benji’s passing, were horribly depressing. I didn’t listen to the music, I didn’t put up a tree, I didn’t bake and create little neighbor gifts, I didn’t shop. Well, I put off shopping until I was on my way to a family party. I ran into the grocery store and grabbed a few gift cards. I did the absolute minimum. Then on Dec 21st the boys and I hopped on a plane and headed to Maui for two weeks, a sweet gift from friends and family. I had hopes that being in paradise away from home that grief would kindly stay behind, but I was wrong. As I landed in Maui and drove my sleeping boys to the hotel, the depression and loneliness set in more intensely than ever. I hadn’t been to Maui since our honeymoon 13 years earlier and the hotel was next to the one we had stayed in. This compounded the grief. Although it was lovely to wake up to a view of the beachfront and the sound of the waves, I felt a heaviness that can not be described. The next few days leading up to Christmas were lovely as we lay on the beach and I was able to see my kids filled with joy. However, once Christmas eve came, the bomb dropped. The boys and I took a stroll down the beach front along the shops and restaurants. We were surrounded by families, husbands and wives with their kids. We got some frozen yogurt and sat in the sand. The loneliness was so heavy I could barely move. It was so unfair. So awful. I think I had PTSD for several Christmas Eve’s after that because it was so horrible and traumatizing.
Christmas morning wasn’t any different. Instead of a beautiful tree surrounded by presents for the kids to wake up to, it was one gift for each of them laying on the patio of the hotel. They each got a video game. One they couldn’t play until we got home. And that was it.
That was it.
New Year’s Eve we spent driving on the road to Hana. The beauty was grayed out. We went hiking and as we were crossing a river I fell in…there was no one there to help pull me out. Utterly alone.
That night, everyone turned in early and I didn’t even know what to do with myself. I had some friends text me telling me to meet them. I immediately jumped on the opportunity to not be alone, as I ran through the sand I tripped. I laid there for a moment and came to my senses. I was so desperate to find companionship, to be hugged or maybe even kissed on New Year’s eve that I was willing to embarrass myself. I stood up, took a deep breath and knew that I needed to do this alone. I needed to feel the sting of ringing in the new year by myself. I could not allow myself to fill it with anything else but pure grief. I found a place on the sand to ring in the new year. As I sat there, I looked around and was surrounded by snuggling couples. I listened to music. I watched the waves roll in and roll out. I intentionally said goodbye to 2013, the most devastating year of my life. I stepped into 2014, the first year of my life without Benji in it. I can still feel the desperate loneliness and depression. In that moment I had little hope for my future. I was unsure that I would ever find love again, and even if I didn’t I would never find anyone that loved my as much as Benji did. He adored me.
I took some deep breaths and the new year began.
This is now my 7th New Year’s Eve without him. I will forever and always remember that night on that Maui beach. It is so significant in my memory.
Grief is not something we can run from or hide from. It follows us into every nook and cranny of our being. We can certainly try to cover it up or ignore it but it will always be there, waiting for us to sink back into. If this is your first year without your love, the sting is intense. The significance of stepping into a new year makes his absence all that more real. But don’t try and hide from it, don’t be desperate for a kiss from someone else. Face it, alone. Feel the pain. Feel it to the most desperate degree, this allows for healing in the future. You can step into a new year with hope, knowing that it can’t get any worse that what you just felt. Embrace the grief, live it, feel it.
I can tell you that it lessens, it gets easier. In your own timing, but it does get easier. The sting becomes less and eventually you will be able to blow that noise maker and shout HAPPY NEW YEAR with a hope for the future! To all you fresh widows out there… you can do this!!