I dread this time of year. The daylight hours get shorter, the weather gets colder. And I don’t feel joy around the holidays. I feel sadness. I wake up and the all too familiar weight of grief sits on my chest. My eye starts endlessly twitching. I look around at the twinkling lights and would love to be filled with cheer. This year I’ve desperately tried to find the magic key that will unlock the holiday spirit. I want my kids to have good holiday memories. I want them to look forward to this time of year more than I do. We set off to holiday light displays and breakfast with Santa. But nothing has worked. In fact, I think I’ve made it worse. During the drive-through light displays, while I envisioned my kids looking out the windows in wonder, absorbing the flashing lights and in awe of the spectacle, my child kicked my seat and screamed “I want to go home.” At breakfast with Santa, I imagined my toddlers’ eyes widening when they saw Santa… but instead one was moderately interested and the other stared blankly at him while requesting more Fruit Loops. I know they are still a bit young, but the feeling I can’t shake off this year is that everything would be so much different if my seven-year-old daughter were here. I imagine her excited to get dressed up to go to her grandma’s band concert. We’d go pick up my grandma first and have dinner. We’d stay out late so we could get ice cream afterward. We’d sip hot chocolate while walking around the Zoo, stopping for photos where we’re both looking at the camera. I see the commercials for princess toys and glittery purses, and I wonder which she’d like the most. I love my boys. I love making memories with them. But I also miss my daughter and everything we should be experiencing together.
And I remember this day 24 years ago. When my dad died. And how for some reason, it just seems especially cruel to die right before Christmas. Tragedy has hit so many people I know. You can’t turn on the news without hearing more devastation. I think of the people who are finding out their loved one has died. Instead of decorating their tree, they are heading to a funeral home to pick out a casket. And, yet, everyone around is still bustling along, singing their Christmas songs and wearing holiday sweaters. Oblivious to your pain. Maybe that’s why I find it particularly disheartening. The forced joy. The constant reminder that this is supposed to be a time of celebrations and togetherness. And I will never be able to fully celebrate. Too much is missing. Too much pain has been inflicted. Our society tends to push away grief. To follow any bad news with “but..” There’s this constant need to find the silver lining. I worry about what that does to people because I know what it’s done to me. It makes you feel like you’re not allowed to just be sad. That you constantly must put on jingle bells and dance until you’re happy again. But that doesn’t allow people to process. To feel. So please, if you see me or any of the other people hurting, just allow them to be whatever they need to be. Tell them you know that what they are going through really sucks. Don’t follow it with “but.” They likely already know there’s joy out there and they’ll find their way to it again… but sometimes they just need to miss their dad and their daughter.