Christmas, the first one since my son’s death…might offer the truest and most raw moments of grief I’ve actually allowed myself to experience and express since his passing in February. You might think it weird that I want a record of my experience. I don’t care. Grief is real, and I know I’m not alone, although at times I truly believe I am. Someone else needs to remember they aren’t alone, too.
Our tree didn’t get put up this year. No lights, no wreath, not even a candle flame. Santa wasn’t coming to visit. Unless he was bring me Christopher, he wasn’t welcome. The only thing I had to do on Christmas Eve was create a batch of medicinal herbal infusion (tea) and try to get some much needed rest.
Of course I couldn’t rest, so I took a scroll through social media looking at pretty Christmas pictures with happy smiles, dressed up kids and homes, and lots of wrapped gifts. At first it offered some mind numbing relief, as I began to sit with the harsh reality that my son wasn’t going to be joining us this Christmas.
It wasn’t long until morning, and I couldn’t find my way out of bed. How could this day really be happening with Christopher? I can’t do this. I heard Peyton up, but couldn’t face him. I’d failed at Christmas and I felt like my heart was being pulled out of my chest. Actually, that was what I was wishing for. Time passed and I was at least able to close my eyes here and there. That is, until I had a complete come apart. My Sweet Boy heard me and left his video game to come check on me. He even lay down to let me hold him close. I calmed some, and convinced him I was OK, so he resumed his paused video game.
I wasn’t really sure I was going to be OK. I was not even sure I was going to get up to get the day started. A migraine had increased momentum and nausea was coming quickly.
I knew I needed to calm down and relax. So I lay there in my darkened room practicing pranayama and realized my state of mind could be headed to a dangerous place. I thought maybe I should call someone, but realized this was something nobody else needed to see on Christmas. Besides, I don’t know any other way. When stuff happens, I deal with it alone. Always have. But I put my friend Scott’s number in my phone dialer for a quick dial, just in case. Then I got up to prepare a hot bath with essential oils and Epsom salts. Eventually, I felt my headache lessening but my emotions escalating again.
I realized that as happy as I was trying to be for all of my FB friends whose kids have come home from college or the military, I really felt like I was being smacked in the face. Good for you. Your kid is home. Mine never, ever will be home again but thanks for reminding me! I found myself resentful for pretty and fun gifts. That’s what’s important right now? Materialism isn’t LOVE. I love my kids more than anything, but there just isn’t enough money to overindulge them. They aren’t hurting for anything, and in my heart I realized there is absolutely no reason to set myself up for disappointment if they don’t show appreciation or if they left messes for me to clean up. Yet, how guilty I felt for having not put myself through all the petty pressure of shopping needlessly and exhaustively expending time and energy I don’t have this year!
(Seriously. I bought gifts for one person, at Peyton’s request, because he is a sweet young teenager who likes a girl who likes him back. That was an experience that brought me joy, especially when a stranger and I began chatting. He was a young man who fully expressed his love for his girlfriend and her children, and he was having the time of his life spending his earnings on them. This very well could have been one of my favorite parts about this Christmas, and I told him I hope my son loves so unconditionally when he is older.)
During a meditation, I was reminded of Christopher’s Greatest Gift. It’s a gift he gave freely and open heartedly. The Gift of Time. I realized that in my own way, that is exactly what I had been trying to give my kids. At least to Peyton and Cameron. Kymberlee doesn’t need me so much anymore. (Yes, I’m dealing with that, too.)
A calmer mind helped me remember the few people who are genuinely generous with their time whether in person or through messages and phone calls. They share it so beautifully with me, even when I’m not the best of company. The gift of time with no strings attached, no expectations, no judgments, and no running off to tell everyone else what may or may not be the full truth. These are the ones I trust most, the ones most likely to really know how I am because they can see through me. These are truly precious people and their presence in my life is powerful.
Yet, here I was, on Christmas morning and I couldn’t find the motivation to be with Peyton. I was in the bath, feeling as though I was drowning in grief, when Kymberlee came to check on me. My tears weren’t hidden by the bath water, and of course her waterworks started, too.
I was thankful she was keeping an eye on Peyton, and I told her where three gift bags were. I explained that I wasn’t able to label the bags this year, getting as far as I did was all I could handle. I told her who was to get the one that should have been for Christopher, and asked her to go ahead and distribute them. The bags were exactly alike, as were the contents, and I didn’t care if they were from me or from Santa. I apologized that it was all I could do, and she was amazing. They all were. Not one child cried or complained that they only got a small amount of money for Christmas this year.
I finally was able to gather myself and my composure a bit so that we could go eat lunch with our family at my mom’s house. It was a good day, spent with people I love, but we all felt the void. When Christopher was a baby, we started the tradition of making a Happy Birthday Jesus cake and signing before we cut it. This year was no different. My grandson did bring me pure joy when he said “Jesus isn’t going to eat any. He can’t because He lives in our hearts.” He’s 3 and he knows what’s up! The True Spirit of Christmas, right there, Folks.
I struggled all day. Once or twice before the night was over, I typed out a message to a precious friend I had been in contact with already that day, to please, please tell me everything was going to be OK. Part of me thought I might believe it coming from him. I was adamant that I was keeping my &#!% to myself, though, so I deleted quickly. I wasn’t going to be someone else’s problem today.
I don’t know what it is about grief. It is all too easy to get lost in it. When I use the tools I’ve gained through Yoga, mindfulness and other meditation practices, I know there is no shame in it. Yet it isn’t something that can be shared easily with others. Just in one day, I experienced every emotion associated with grief, and I thought of all the ways I could numb out but didn’t. I was proud of that. I didn’t try to put on a fake smile and pretend everything was fine. It wasn’t. It isn’t. But it will be.
I found acceptance for my Christmas grieving process and I sat with everything that came up, no matter how excruciating.
And I survived.
To those who reached out to check on me on Christmas Day, Thank You. To those I’ve seen since and my eyes leaked as you told me you remembered me in prayer, Thank You. To those who reached out through cards, calls, and text messages, Thank you. To my family, who shares this grief in their own ways, Thank You. To Christopher’s friends who have checked in and are grieving, too, Thank You. To those who pray with enough faith it goes without saying you’re praying, Thank You. To those who have presented me with gifts or other tokens of thoughtfulness, Thank You. To those who have shared your precious gift of time, Thank You.
You are the ones who continue to help me learn how to live without my firstborn child.