I had read before that the holidays are a tough season for those who have recently experienced loss. My doctor confirmed that when I saw her shortly after my aunt and cousin passed away. I knew theoretically to be prepared for what this season would hold in store, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this.
I feel so raw, like the wound caused by these unexpected deaths has not healed one bit since April. Like all the “progress” I made in accepting and coming to terms with our new family life has been ripped away. Like the phone call I received that cold, dark, damp April morning, came again just a few hours ago.
I knew the holidays would be different this year, that despite the 20+ people who usually fill our house at Thanksgiving, we would all be feeling a giant, gaping hole. I knew that Fran would not be here to stir up the usual drama (would she use Stevia as a sweetener??? Oh, the horrors). I knew that Becky would not be here to sit next to me during Trivial Pursuit. I knew that things would be different.
I also knew that my aunt and uncle and their family would likely be in Hamilton this year, and that the years of us all celebrating Thanksgiving together were likely cut short by the ravages of ALS that my aunt is suffering. I knew that the holidays would be different.
When my mom suggested that we all go to Hamilton this year, and my uncle and his remaining family agreed, I too was relieved. Celebrating Thanksgiving at our house would have been too hard this year. The holes would have been too apparent. As it is, I still expect an e-mail from one of them to find its way to my inbox, or a status update to find its way onto my Facebook page. At least if we changed the scenery, the expectations would shift. I didn’t anticipate then this feeling of grief at losing “our” holiday, the holiday that for the last 25-ish years has been celebrated at my parents’ house. It’s one more loss in the midst of a difficult season.
Then too, there are the losses that are sneaking up on me. Christmas, where we might now host the holiday for the first time in 25+ years, or where at the very least we will be somewhere different. Christmas, where it is now possible that only my family will be around to celebrate together, as life has shifted for the rest of the families. Christmas, where my aunts and uncles exchanged gifts, where for the last 15 years we have received carolers from my aunt. There will be no carolers exchanged this year. Christmas, where the cousins spent so many evenings sequestered together on the porch at my aunt and uncle’s house, watching a basketball game, playing Trivial Pursuit (again), or watching episodes of Friends. The porch where the fire started. The porch where the fire started, at the house that no longer exists. The porch where the fire started, at the house that no longer exists, on the property that no longer belongs to the family.
Things are different, and in this case, change is not good. Change is here though, and so in the face of it, the question becomes, how do I find joy, in the midst of a season that seems to be bringing only grief?