Well, here we are. I survived my “first Christmas” after losing my husband. I’ll be honest, it was much harder than I had anticipated. I guess I figured that since I’m not sure we ever actually spent Christmas Day together anyway, it wouldn’t really feel that different.
I was wrong.
First of all, we always spent at least part of Christmas Day together. Usually it was just a brief visit at the fire department on my way to/from Christmas with my family. Last year we even had a meal together at the treatment center. All the firefighters/nurses/veterans that were in his unit sat together with their families. It was really special, seeing everyone come together like that.
So, not only did I not get a visit or a phone call or a text message, I was greeted with the realization (for the millionth time) that I will never have any of that again.
As I’ve said before, I’m really not a holiday person. They really don’t mean what they used to many years ago. However, holidays are a time that you are supposed to spend with people that you love. So now, they will just be a continuous reminder of all of the people that I love that are no longer here to spend time with. In the past 7 years I have lost four people that I love. Three in the past 3 years. At this point I feel like there are more empty chairs than full ones in my life. Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but I’m really sick of losing people.
To say that I felt the absence of my husband would be an understatement. I was smothered by his absence. Everywhere I turned was a reminder that there were no gifts for him, no gifts from him, no treats eaten in abundance, no long text messages telling me how much he loves me. (No, seriously…he loved doing that)
It’s like the pain of loss that one feels every day is amplified a million times over on a holiday. I tried very hard to be “present” with my family while we gathered together. I tried to remember to reach out to the people I care about. I immensely appreciate the people who took the time to reach out to me. None of it is the same without him.
I know that each year it will get “easier” and there will be more people that I love and care about both entering and departing this world. I feel like I owe it to Josh and to myself, however, to spend a little time together on Christmas for as long as I’m allowed to live here in the Earth.
So, yesterday I started a new tradition. From an outsider’s perspective it might look sad or pitiful, but please don’t view it that way. I felt the happiest I have all during the holiday season when I decided that I wanted to do this – and I wanted to do it alone. Yesterday, I went to see a movie – just me and my husband. Even though I couldn’t feel him there with me (yep, still fighting that battle) I just know that he was there and he was happy to get to spend some time alone together for Christmas.
For the first time in five years, I got to pick the movie 😜 and we saw Collateral Beauty. The critic reviews said it was horrible but I disagree. It was interesting, thought-provoking and entirely too fitting to my current situation. Of course, I missed having my best friend there to nudge me when I started drifting off (I seriously can’t help it) but he must have been doing something because I never fell completely asleep.
Overall, I guess I would say my “first Christmas” after loss was bittersweet. His absence was palpable, but the presence of so many of those we loved and those who were hurting right along with me helped ease the pain.
Like they said in the movie “just be sure to notice the collateral beauty – it’s the profound connection to everything.”
In all great losses, great pains there is also tremendous beauty – it’s just a matter of choosing the right perspective. And we all do. In our own time, at our own pace. We all find beauty from the ugliness of grief. Hold on to it.
To all of the beautiful people that have come into my life because of Joshua – both before and after losing him – and to all of the beautiful people who have stuck around as I’ve dragged you through this with me: thank you.
I hope that you all have had and continue to have a joyous holiday season. See the beauty – even if you have to create it yourself!