Grief can be like two sides of the same coin. It is possible to miss and reflect on what we had, yet also create new memories and decide to fully live again – even through the holidays. This is how we are now celebrating Christmas.
Another holiday season is upon us. Christmas was my most favourite time of year but now I struggle with this holiday more than any other. A holiday rich in so many traditions is now a time of constant land mines for triggers. It is at least a month of constantly having reminders of who we are missing. Christmas movies that we use to watch together now just hurt so I can’t bring myself to watch them, Christmas music we use to dance around the kitchen to, planning kid’s gifts, then walking through the stores holding hands to buy kid’s gifts, planning activities for the holidays, decorating, wrapping presents together, all of it and so much more now emphasizes who I am missing as I do it all alone. Christmas is a giant count down to the day celebrated by being altogether as a family, yet our family is missing one of it’s members.
Each year I try to celebrate in a new way and make new traditions for the kids and I. Traditions that are different so they don’t feel as lonely without their dad. The hard part of this is we did so many things before, I struggle to think of something that is different. We end up doing many of the same things and wading through the ache with our best smiles pushed forward.
This year we decided to put lights up again on the trees in our yard like we use to with dad. It is so much harder to do it now than when we had him. Navigating the emotions of the kids as they come to understand there is no way it can be the same as when dad was doing this. Sorting out flipped breakers, finding third electrical panels, rounding up lights, ladders and extension cords are all so much harder and take so much longer without him, but we did it. The trees don’t look as neat and tidy as when we had Chad here helping with his strength and height, but the trees are now lit. We even connected them to the timer he had left in the shrub bed.
Christmas is also a time many people reflect on the past year. Covid has made this year more difficult than most for many people but the unrelenting thought I have had is how great it would be to have Chad here isolating with me. How fortunate couples are to get the extra time together. Of these simple life pleasures, I am envious.
Time is measured for us around Chad passing. I look at each photo and can’t help but find the time line….. for example, the thought in my head while looking at a photo of my son is something like, “1.5 years from this day this boy will no longer have his dad”. Or “this photo was taken 6 months after Chad died”.
I was organizing the kids latest school photos to enclose them with Christmas gifts. The change in the kids this past year is staggering. Thoughts then swirl around all that Chad has missed while his kids are growing from young children into tweens and teenagers. So many milestones and so many accomplishments that he hasn’t experienced with us. As the years move forward and time moves on, our hearts remain tethered to the past. Tethered to the past yet yearning to build a new future.
This year will be different
I decided at the start of December that this year I was going to create that happy feeling of Christmas for my kids again. It is a season to be thankful that Jesus was born so we may have eternal life. Life where we will be united with Chad again. It is a season to celebrate the birth of a baby that means so much because of His death. A season to experience God’s love and spread His joy through our community.
This also happens to be the month both Chad and my son were born. It is indeed therefore, a heavy month of milestones, triggers and celebrating. Yet this time, I am pulling it off. This year we have celebrated and it has felt good. The kids and I have talked about how we don’t need dad here to enjoy this season. It was better when he was, but we can do this on our own.
I have planned and carried out several festive activities and we have laughed and enjoyed each of them.
Yes, many we have done before while their dad was here doing them with us however, we focused on being present and enjoying it differently. Touring to look at lights is full of entirely different conversations and music selection with a truck of teenagers compared to elementary aged children. Wrapping Christmas presents that teens have bought with their hard-earned money feels different than waiting for kids to be in bed and the adults then do it. The difference can be celebrated and peace can be found there.
God’s grace and mercy have gone before us. We are celebrating this covid Christmas as a complete family of 4 and loving it. We are seeking the positive and learning to hand the negative over to our heavenly father who is tenderly loving and redeeming us. We are blessed and thankful. Tied to Chad through our heavenly father. He is alive with God who is alive in us. We can’t see him but we are tethered to him and because of that we can keep moving forward.
Christmas, although hard, is again my favourite time of year!