Many people who experience living grief fall into the crevice of dichotomy around the holidays. On one hand, we are grateful for another memory making tradition, for one more elated Christmas morning, one more opportunity to kiss and hug at the stroke of midnight, one more wish upon the midnight stars for a year filled with health and happiness. We are filled with hope.
And on the other end of the barrel we are filled with melancholy for what could be all the ‘lasts’ and run around in a furor trying to gather and experience as much as we can in reverence of that which may be our last and final memory of the one we love.
The last few weeks have been difficult. Those who know me well are probably rolling their eyes right now and nodding in agreement. It really is hard to explain what it is like living grief amongst the celebrating.
I would wonder around the shopping centres and see people laughing or stressed out about finding gifts for their loved ones. People hackling over fresh or frozen turkeys, greeting friends with hugs and how you doings. It would evoke deep feelings of sadness from the pit my belly that without warning would erupt into a quiet sob and I would find my cheeks damp with tears.
I would sit in my car or drive around the back farm roads trying to deplete my body of tears, trying to cry out the living grief my heart is constantly bounded by.
At some point in time, I would wonder home and bring myself to step back into the celebration almost to the extreme in order to drown out the sorrow burrowed into my soul.
I would get up early on a Saturday morning and crawled up on a tall ladder to put up the Christmas lights all by myself. I would scour the shops like everyone else looking for that special something that Sophia could open up with elation on Christmas morning. I would pour myself into making a delicious turkey dinner for friends and family, taking it on myself as a symbol of that which I could do…can do, would do, needed to do as distraction.
But eventually, with all the celebrating done, with family gone home, friends tucked back into their own abodes reality eventually seeps back into our existence.
And this is where learning living grief is so important. Living grief doesn’t ebb from one moment to the next, it doesn’t go away, there is no ‘getting through’ living grief or ‘getting over’ living grief. It is living grief, the profound journey of ongoing loss.
It didn’t go unnoticed that all Sophia ate at Christmas dinner was mashed potatoes and soft cooked carrots with gravy because that is all she can chew and swallow now. That she slept until 10:00am versus bounding out of bed at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. That there are more medications to administer throughout the day and night than last year.
It is a profound journey of ongoing loss and it doesn’t simply stop because the rest of the world is celebrating and it certainly doesn’t change at the stroke of midnight.
Christmas is traditionally about celebrating the divine, a night of miracles and the birth of a saviour. New Year’s is about letting go of the past and welcoming the new, with fresh renewed energy.
I believe living grief necessitates believing in the divine or a higher power and rather than letting go of the past, we learn to shift into our new normal and at some point in our day within our journey we find the strength to breath new life into our step, and like everyone else…leap into 2014.
I don’t know what this year will bring and I try to not think about that. What I do know is I will ride the energy of those around me and allow myself to be swept into 2014 with renewed energy and yes, even hope.
We are the curator of our own resilience and bringing in the new year is just another example of how we can do that even living grief.