I don’t think anyone would be surprised if I say holidays are one of the hardest times after the loss of a child. The reasons why are many. Significant days, fun days, memory making days when your family isn’t whole are obviously miserable. However, it is more than that even.
Most days I can just act like it is any other day. If you knew me before, I am the ultimate planner. I plan our school year on Christmas break of the year before. I know the summer camps my kids will attend for the next several years. I have plans that carry my kids through their high school years. As you can imagine, my weeks are planned out to the minute. All of that was before. Before my world came crashing down around me. Before my family was ripped apart.
After. That is where I live now. In the after, I do not plan. I take one day at a time. Sometimes I take one hour at a time. I have a vague understanding of what I need to get accomplished each day. Gone are the days of lists of my lists. Now, I am so distracted, just getting through the next few minutes is sometimes the best I can do. And this is not because I am overwhelmed by grief, although sometimes I am. It is just because the grief takes so much of my brain space. And then there is the time…
Looking into my calendar, the fact that she isn’t here slams me in my face. The fact that she did not see this November. She didn’t see this fall, much less this summer. Those plans I had with her were lost with her. The struggles I imagined at the pool this summer didn’t happen. This day, this moment, she wasn’t with us. I can lose that thought if I stay away from my planner. If I stay away from dates. I can live in the thought that this is just another day to get through. Another moment to hurdle. Nothing significant—not a specific day or date when she isn’t part of us. Not another day further from her touch, her sound, her smell. My calendar feels like a count down away from her and the further I am away from her, the more I want her.
But holidays. It is those days when I can’t ignore the date. Holidays, by necessity, imply time passing because they are specific moments. It can’t just be another Thursday, because it is Thanksgiving Thursday. It can’t just be another Sunday, because it is Oct. 31/Halloween—a specific date, a specific moment she isn’t here. I don’t know if that even makes sense, but in my world, the world of after, dates are feared and avoided, and holidays force me to face them.
So if you try to make plans with me and I act indecisive or put you off till the last minute, it isn’t that I don’t want to see you or our plans aren’t important. It is just the sheer act of “planning” something that doesn’t include one of my children is absolute misery to me. Forgive my current spontaneity and flakiness. I know it isn’t like me. I know avoiding holidays isn’t like me. It is just more than I can do right now.
When I am ready to face holidays again, they will be different. We are different. She changed us and that impact will live forever. We can not and will not go back to the same traditions and celebrations and pretend that my baby girl never even existed. The things we chose to do will honor her memory, will help us focus on what is real and what is important, and will help us to maintain a connection with my Abigail. It is important for my kids and for us.