by Robin Aronson
There is also always the "before" and the "after." What we had and enjoyed during these holidays before our loved one died is usually quite different than what we experience after. Some people refer to it as the "always empty chair."
If it is your first, second, or even third holiday without your beloved, you are still finding that new normal and figuring out what works and doesn't work. Perhaps for you being around other whole families is just too painful still. For others, it might be a good distraction, especially if those you are around are sensitive and accommodating to your needs and are willing to keep his or her memory alive.
Yes, as the years tick on, we have hopefully learned how to incorporate the grief into our lives, how to honor our loved one, and have created a new relationship with him or her. After all, we will always be our child's parent, our granddaughter's grandparent, or our sister's brother. The love doesn't die when the person does. All death changes is how that relationship manifests here now. If your loved one lived in another country where you could not see him, touch her, or spend the holidays easily together, your love for that person would not change, and you would still refer to him as your son, or to her as your sister, or to him as your grandson. Once they have died, we bring them with us into our "new lives." This is especially obvious during the holidays.
I recall always feeling excited starting in October because that meant Erika was coming home in November, again in December, and then we would visit her family in Canada in January. Just the thought and planning of it brought me joy! After Erika died, October has never held that excitement again, and these 12 years later, every holiday is a bit of a challenge. Yet, as the grief journey continues without her here, it is clear that one thing is absolutely true about the holidays (and every day, really) that each and every one of us can hold onto...
We do and will have "moments" where we feel peace, moments where we feel joy, moments where we feel happy, moments where we know we will be okay, and moments where we know he or she is with us. Moments count. They are huge, and they matter. They are just as valid and meaningful as overall joy or happiness, albeit shorter. But add them all together, and you will find that you do in fact experience joy, love, happiness, and meaning during the holidays. A moment of laughter, a special look from a loved one, a grandchild's embrace, a flickering fire, a silly gift, a comment about your loved one, and on it goes.
So as we approach the upcoming holidays, we remember that we can fully embrace and be grateful for those precious moments. Watch for them. Notice them. They are all around you.
May the rest of 2014 be filled with moments of peace and joy and laughter. We can all count on that. Just look for them, and you will see they are there. "Moments" are precious.
and resources to parents, siblings, grandparents,
family members, and communities.