Holidays. Just say the word and for many of us it brings to mind parties and fun, trees and sparkly lights, decorating and packages, time with friends and family. But for some, it means bittersweet memories and tears, forced smiles and avoidance, noisy crowds and irritation. I talked to two different people today that mentioned difficult holiday emotions. For one, this is the first try at Thanksgiving and Christmas after losing a spouse. The other is facing the 3rd round of navigating the holiday season. Both are facing some difficult emotions.
The first holiday season after Terry died is a little blurry in my memories. Our loss was still just weeks old when we were faced with Thanksgiving. Christmas followed close behind while grief still had a stronghold on our lives. Thankfully, we were staying with a friend and spent the actual holidays with family, so decorating decisions were a non-issue. The following year we spent Thanksgiving in Oklahoma for a wrestling tournament. My only concession for Christmas decorations that year was a pre-lit, six inch tree.
In 2008, Gracie wanted to do Christmas right. I wasn’t sure how to face the memories, but I was determined to fulfill her request. I decided to stray from the traditional decor and go outside of the box. Every color my mother said wasn’t “Christmasy” was now on our tree. We bought pink, purple & lime green feather boas to use as garland. If it was hot pink, purple, orange or green, it was a decoration for our tree. We used flamingoes, glittered Santa’s and a few teddy bears from previous trees. The tree skirt was a hot pink sequined scarf. I even had two 4 foot tall stuffed flamingoes that stood guard. The only things banned from our tree was the traditional green and red. It was a new look at Christmas for us.
As the years have passed, more of the old ornaments from past years have been added. We make the cookies and peanut brittle and snacks that Terry loved. And we’ve added some new recipes. I’ve decided it’s okay to eat out for the holiday meals. Not having to worry about cooking the perfect meal relieved a lot of stress for all of us. We’ve kept a few things in our holiday traditions and added some new things. It works for us.
If you know someone that is facing the holiday season with more dread than joy, don’t avoid sharing your holiday excitement. Invite them to be a part of your holidays, whether it’s a party or a program at church or a cup of a special holiday coffee. And don’t be offended if your offers are refused. Keep offering. Because someday, they’ll be ready to share your excitement and joy. It will just look a little different on them.