The holiday season can be joyful for many, but it also brings up mixed emotions and grief. One of the sacred traditions of Ana’s Advent Calendar (in fact, the largest reason for creating this event in the first place) is to honor and welcome all whose hearts are tender at this time of year.
This month isn’t all doom and gloom, and we have plenty of laughter and silliness (Lynn, those naughty kitties were hilarious even if I do vow to exact revenge for taking my name in vain!). But in the midst of a joyful, noisy, celebratory month where the world seems to be filled with reminders of loss…this is where we come to soothe our hearts. At least I do, and for the past three years you have soothed your hearts with me.
Another tradition of Blue Christmas has been inviting a guest to write a post after losing a loved one that year. Sadly, this year many qualified.
Because talking about grief is not a typical response in many of our cultures, I’d like to offer a few brief suggestions before we begin.
1. If reading about grief triggers more emotions than you can deal with right now, it’s okay to step away. You might not be in the right place to “go there,” and there’s nothing wrong with that.
2. If reading Joanne’s post brings up memories of your loved ones (whether the loss is recent or long ago), especially those who passed away during the holiday season, please “light a candle” with us today and share your favorite story. If you have lost a loved one through estrangement rather than death, or for other reasons (such as divorce), or even if your loss is something more mundane like having to spend the holidays away from loved ones, feel free to share.
3. While this is not a support or therapy group, we have built up (already, in just a few short days) some strong connections. Please reach out to others on the thread, as you have done so far. If you can’t think of anything to say or don’t have the time, just a simple “Thank you for sharing” or “I hear you” is nice.
3. Remember that we won’t spend the entire month in grief. Tomorrow we have a cute and light-hearted day planned, and Sunday is our annual St. Knickerless Day. So if today stirs feelings that won’t easily go back into the box, trust yourself and keep coming back. We’re here. ❤
Much love to you from Ana.
And now, here’s Joanne!
This will be my third Christmas without my Mom but instead of getting easier, this year will be harder for me to get through than anything I can imagine.
Because on September 26th, 2015, my Father died.
Let me backtrack a little bit, we can use The Wayback Machine if you’d like but I prefer the TARDIS because it is bigger on the inside after all, this way we can all fit comfortably as we travel back to a small suburban town called Sayreville New Jersey some time in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. Those were the years that mattered the most, when my two brothers and I were still young enough to believe in magic yet old enough to start noticing what our Parents went through to make sure our Christmases were magical.
And oh! They were, every single one.
My Mom would decorate for weeks, beginning after Thanksgiving. I remember the annual Sears Wish Book would come and we’d fight over first-look rights, Mom shouting from the kitchen that ever familiar line, “wait till your Father gets home!” while she simultaneously baked what seemed like millions of cookies, threatening to rap my knuckles with a wooden spoon if I didn’t stop stealing the Italian Honey Balls.
How she decorated the house and somehow still had dinner on the table every night at 5pm, when Dad got home from his 40 mile drive home from work remains a mystery to me.
Dad was an ex-Navy Vet, back then he worked for Bendix Corporation, where they did things he wasn’t allowed to talk about, something having to do with the guidance systems for the Apollo rockets, including the one that first landed on the moon, but he was a company man and he wouldn’t tell us anything other than he’d met Wernher von Braun and he turned down an offer for us to all go watch the take off of Apollo 11 because he didn’t want to fly. He didn’t tell us that little nugget till years later, can’t say that I blame him, I’m such a crybaby I’d probably still be crying that I watched Apollo 11 laying elbows down on the hardwood floor in front of the old black and white instead of up close with some big-wigs in Florida.
But back to Christmas; I guess everyone says this, but it always seems like it snowed more when we were kids, especially at Christmastime.
There’s a 5 year age difference between my brothers and I, thinking back, my older brother must have been mortified at the age of 15 having to drag his 10 year old sister and 5 year old brother up the block so we could ride our sleds down the hilly snow covered streets.
The town would come around and block off the side streets during the days when a neighborhood bursting with kids were all home from school for Christmas break. It didn’t matter what you used, a wooden sled, a silver round garbage can lid, a flattened discarded box, anything would do. Dozens and dozens of red-cheeked kiddies would fly down the length of the road for blocks, sharp ice pellets stinging our little faces, eyes watering from a combination of the cold and plain unbridled joy.
We always had to be home when the streetlights came on and Christmas was no exception. Nearly every house on the street would be lit up, and we had these big wooden life-sized decorations, Christmas Carolers, a snowman family, all homemade and hand painted, and our Christmas tree was always placed in front of the living room window, multicolored lights blinking, tinsel draped piece by piece, shimmering against the backdrop of ornaments of all shapes and colors, more and more ornaments made by Mom as the years went by.
I remember my Parents would put a cardboard fireplace together, 5 stockings, each with our names on them waiting to be filled with a nectarine, a handful of nuts, all kinds of Santa-shaped chocolates and a candy cane sticking out of the top.
Bowls filled with ribbon candy and homemade cookies were on every table but come Christmas morning, nothing could rival the endless pile of gifts waiting to be torn open. We didn’t have the patience to give them out one at a time, the three of us dove in and ripped apart everything with our names on it.
We’d hurriedly dress for Church then come home to the magic meal my Mom somehow managed to put together, turkey and ham and sweet potatoes, stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and platter after platter of pre-dinner appetizers, celery and mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese and green olives, cheeses and crackers and pies of every flavor imaginable.
Then we’d have to leave our new treasures to visit Nana and Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles and cousins filled the house and I remember the feeling of pride I felt spending my allowance on gifts for everyone. How I ever managed to spend five dollars and wind up with gifts for everyone is beyond me. But I always made my chore money stretch.
As far as our own haul, it never mattered what we got, we were grateful for everything Santa left us, although my most favorite gift ever was the year I got my own pair of ice skates. Nothing beat the freedom of flying over the ice, swirling and turning, jumping and landing smooth, the sound of the blades cutting through the ice spraying chips everywhere as the bonfire crackled and I sipped on my thermos of hot chocolate my Mom always made me before I left the house.
It was joy, love, and a feeling that will never leave my heart.
When my Mom passed away a few years ago, I tried my best to recreate everything she did, but my Dad was never again in the Christmas Spirit. When my Mom left us, she took a part of him with her (as well as a part of me), it took me weeks to convince him to at least let me put up a small tree in his living room but that was about it.
I made Christmas Dinner but it wasn’t the same without Mom, even though I cooked her menu, even though my food tastes exactly like her food did, it still wasn’t the same.
I’ve been worrying for months how I could make this Christmas memorable for Dad, I never expected to lose him just 3 months before Christmas.
I don’t know how I’ll make it through this year.
My relatives on my Mom’s side have disappeared without so much as a phone call or sympathy card as I grieve.
My Dad’s side of the Family consists of 2 cousins who keep in touch but live out of state.
My younger brother is now divorced and my older brother is headed down the same path.
Instead of coming together, we fell apart when my Mom died and the loss of my Dad has only made it worse.
Yet still, I feel Blessed. And it’s all because of you. Ana’s Advent Calendar has filled the Mom(and Dad)-shaped hole in my heart and for the first time since Mom’s gone, I find myself once again looking forward to this time of year. I am grateful for each and every one of you, for you have collectively un-Grinched my heart.
There is nothing I can do to Thank You all except to wish you all the Happiest Christmas/Holiday/Hanukah/Whatever-You-Celebrate, and offer you my undying Love and Gratitude for making the most difficult time of the year into something I once again look forward to.
You have reminded me that although it may be a Blue Christmas, there are many shades of Blue. Thank you for making my heart beat again.
This is a Christmas song I wrote in memory of those we have lost who remain in our hearts.
Feels Like Christmas
let’s drink to good cheer
it’s not complicated
just wish you were here
I think of you,
and it almost feels like Christmas
The snow’s gently falling
the fire is bright
the carolers calling
singing Oh Holy Night
I think of you
and it almost feels like Christmas
the seasons they come and the seasons they go
time melts away like a late winter snow
I hear your voice
and it almost feels like Christmas
It feels like Christmas
when I think of you
you give me strength
you help me make it through
it feels like Christmas
when I’m in your arms
for your arms feel like home and there’s no place that I’d rather be
- Day 1: Welcome and Christmas Expectations
- Day 2: Christmas at my House
- Day 3: Giving Tuesday
- Day 4: Pizza and Poker/Holiday Recipe Exchange
- Day 5: Little Lynnie’s Christmas Crackers
Download this participation sheet to keep track of your daily visits. Or, if you don’t have MS Word, access the Google sheet here (choose “yes” to make a copy).