Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas after loss: The Second Year

So it’s Christmas week. Our house is decorated, cards are being mailed out, baking has started, gifts have  been purchased and wrapping has begun.

But there is something missing…my husband, Larry. This is our second Christmas without him. I have had some people tell me that the second year is easier. It is not. It’s a lie.  If anything, this year is much harder than last. Why? I have asked myself that several times. Last year was our first Christmas without Larry. He had been gone for two short months. He passed away on October 24th.  Everything happened so fast. And there were people. Lots of family and friends a constant flow of people who checked on us, brought us meals, invited us over for a meal, sat with us, cried with us. Kept us busy.

That busyness filled the time.  There were gifts and cards and food.  Folks wanted to give the boys a nice Christmas and there were a massive amount of gifts…they wanted to do something, anything to help ease or burden. Such an outpouring of love and caring. I was grateful, (I still am) and so thankful that so many cared for me and the boys, especially the boys.

But none of those gestures of love and kindness could bring Larry back. Or ease the constant burden of his loss.  The burden that fills our hearts every. single. day. The longing, the loneliness. It never goes away. 

This Christmas season it is more glaringly obvious…the silence is deafening. There is no one to distract us. Everyone has moved on…as it should be. Everyone has their own lives and struggles of their own to deal with.  Don’t get me wrong  I have wonderful friends who would come over at the drop of a hat if I asked them to. I’ve made new friends this year and learned to appreciate, really appreciate the friends and family I have. I don’t expect them to always hold my hand. We have to learn what our new normal is. How to cope and live with our loss each and every day.

This is also the first Christmas without my dad and the boys’ pop pop. I know my siblings and their families feel it too, that loss that nothing can fill.

We have been busy this Christmas season. We have not closed ourselves up at home.  We have attend church regularly, last Saturday we participated in our first Kids fun day at our church and had a great day. We have pulled out our Christmas movies and music, have laughed together and felt moved to worship. On Sunday evening we went caroling. We even put  up a second tree this year. Something I always wanted to do so my snowmen ornaments could have their own space. We like it, but you know what. It’s just a tree.  We are attending Christmas eve services and having family here on Christmas day.  But there is an emptiness. I guess there always will be. It is something no one can make go away. It is just always there, unrelenting.

The traditions we have always done, we are still doing, but they don’t have the same meaning as they did before.  They feel empty, incomplete and even superficial. We’re still doing them. But we are gradually changing them. Because the things that seemed to mean so much, have lost their meaning without Larry here.

I know that we are not the only family who is grieving who keenly feels loss. We have said goodbye to a lot of family this year. Attended many funerals. Too many. In addition to Larry and my dad, we have lost two cousins. I know those family members are also feeling a great loss this Christmas season, my heart cries for them.  We seem to encounter more people than I thought possible who have suffered great loss or are fighting a hard battle.  I guess they have always been there, but having experienced our own loss perhaps we are just more aware of it than we were before. We are all carrying our heavy burdens, that some days are so much heavier than we can bare.  

 One thing that has helped us is to serve others.  This year we decided that we would not just buy gifts for our friends and family and ourselves, but to surprise some folks we know who were not expecting it. Who are struggling themselves. It is helping us to help others. It is a way to help take our minds off ourselves, our grief (not that it ever goes away) and do something nice for someone else who is dealing with difficulty in their own lives.

I tell the boys often that regardless of our circumstances, we are very blessed. With family, with friends, with the opportunity to serve others and share the love of Jesus.  It does not stop the pain of loss, but it gives us purpose. I think that Larry would like that we are trying to serve others. It is what he did all his life. Serve others. I could sure learn some lessons there. (now there is a post for another day)

I realize that the true meaning of Christmas is not about our loss, but the long awaited birth of Jesus. Our Savior, Our Redeemer. It is His birth we are celebrating and thinking of His glorious birth, I wonder how could God allow His son to be sacrificed for us? How? I know how I feel with my loss and pain, I cannot imagine knowingly sacrificing my child.  But He did and we are celebrating Jesus’ birth in just a couple of days.  I know that He is the only one who can help me carry my burden when I cannot go one more step. There have been many days I can’t. He carries my burden for me. He loves me when I can’t love myself.

I would like wish everyone who has taken the time to read this a very blessed Christmas. Enjoy the time with your loved ones, as the cliché  goes time is short. It truly is.  I am looking forward to spending time with my family and friends celebrating in spite of my sadness. Merry Christmas.


Jen said...

Michele, you all have been in my prayers. I know it's still so hard and I hate that you have had so much loss this year. I think you're right that Larry would be proud of what you are doing for others and how you are raising your boys. I hope you all have many wonderful Christmas blessings this year!

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