Holiday, Personal

Grieving During the Holidays

I do love the holidays, but amid the joy there is a great deal of grief. Both of my grandmothers were very fond of Christmas in particular, and a great deal of my memories of them are tied up in those celebrations. For example, my grandmother used to always send us Christmas gifts from the toy store in town where I now shop with my child. My grandma would watch the Macy’s Day Parade with us and take us shopping at the department store where she worked. We would sit with her and she’d teach me to sew little sachets filled with balsam so that the house would smell like Christmas. I miss those things—the little things—and while I love to celebrate, grief comes and goes in waves.

Recently, my friend Jen wrote a post with a title from a line in a Fleetwood Mac song. I had an immediate, visceral reaction to that post–my mother loved Fleetwood Mac, and one of my favorite times I spent with her was when we went to their concert, which was coincidentally held near us on her fiftieth birthday and Mother’s Day. She particularly loved the song “Gypsy,” which Jen quoted. It felt as though she was leaning down to speak to me through those words.

I do believe that moments like that happen–that people that we love are able to reach out to us when we really need them to. I feel this happen so much throughout the holidays. Perhaps this is due to traditions–well-worn and unique celebrations that blur the lines between past and present. Time seems to slip away; it’s easy to forget the years that have passed and forget that we’ve lost people we loved.

This year, when those moments happen–when it feels as though someone I love is reaching down to me–I want to write the moment down, record it, even if it’s just for me. I want to make sure I remember, want to make sure that I am able to take that time and celebrate the holidays with them. Because there are so many people I miss this year! I wrote a little about this last year–the loss of my last grandparent–and how that’s not only the loss of someone I love, but a profound generational shift, the last vestige of me as the younger generation. I’m an adult now, fully; that’s also difficult to come to terms with at times. I love being a mother and I love making the holidays special for my child, but now that I am grandparentless and motherless myself, it feels like so much when I am now the person who holds the memories and the traditions together. It is a weight; not one that I don’t embrace, but a weight all the same.

This year, particularly, I am holding tight to traditions because they bring the people I love back to me; they hold things together; they connect us with the past and with the future in a way that very few things can in this age where everything moves so quickly. This year, I am taking everything slow, and giving myself a little more grace. It’s hard to live without those we love; it’s hard to celebrate without them; but we can still have them with us even if they’re gone.

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