Christmases with my deceased husband weren't always the best. I remember that last Christmas before he died when the kids and I ate McDonalds' at the Sheraton because he'd come home drunk off his ass and we'd needed to flee on Christmas Eve. The bed had been lopsided and the pool had been closed, but the kids had been little and we'd had a "party"--just the three of us--while I muttered to them about "it's all going to be okay."
How many times have I said that to them?
One Christmas to the next, some better than others, with one constant--me promising that everything will be okay.
But sometimes they aren't okay, no matter how bright the Christmas lights or how many presents are piled beneath the tree.
This year there are no presents beneath the tree and they're old enough to question my promises of "it's all going to be okay." My health is the worst it's been and my own mortality is at the forefront of my brain while I plaster on the smile and tell them and everyone that "it's all going to be okay."
Grief is always challenging, but when the holidays creep up, the pressure to be "fine" is amplified. Perhaps there is an ornament that brings back a special memory, a stocking with a name on it that you debate about hanging on the mantel until--finally--you put it back in the box, an empty chair at the dinner table, a gift you find that would be perfect for the one who's gone, a song that makes you smile with a tear in your eye, or a story you'd like to share with that person who is no longer here...or maybe it's just that you feel extra alone.
As the years pass, people forget about those of us who have lost a loved one. Society always has a timetable and, in my situation, the time is up! No one even thinks of us anymore--too much time has passed and our loss is no longer mentioned. The first year after a loss is filled with concerned people, but as the years pass, we find ourselves more alone than ever. It's still just us three--but we didn't "move on" per society's expectations so we've been abandoned.
I haven't remarried.
I haven't relocated.
And, oh yeah, my husband killed himself and I'm still alone so there must be something really wrong with me, right?
It's my fault...my fault...all of it...even then...should have done this, said that, done more...Society is right, there must be something wrong with me for still caring, still missing him... The whispers of guilt dance beneath the festive songs and linger on the winter wind.
Why should I miss someone who was so lost that his own family had to flee on Christmas Eve? Well, I don't miss that person...the addict...I miss the man I loved before it all went to hell. I miss the promise of us, of an ideal. I miss the security that once was long ago. No, I don't miss the addict, but now that's it's Christmas Eve, I remember that last one with such clarity that I can smell the french fries in that lonely hotel room and it makes me sad.
Grief is not only about death...it's about loss of trust and loss of innocence, too. Grief is complicated and layered and tricky and messy.
Many people out in the world aren't fine. They may be hiding behind a smile and pretending that they've moved on so that you feel comfortable, but more than likely, they're thinking of broken promises and dreams, of what-ifs and never-mores.
Yes, it's the season of miracles and compassion. So if you know someone who's lost someone--even if it's been several years--let them know you care with a text or a simple email. One word of love can reassure someone that "it's all going to be okay" and that they're not alone.
Hope is in the air. It always is when we choose to feel it, but sometimes it's lost beneath the sorrow.
***Amber Lea Easton is the author of the inspirational memoir, Free Fall, that has been named 4th on the "10 Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Her intention with discussing issues of addiction, grief and suicide are simply to make the topics less taboo so that those who have survived similar circumstances never need to feel isolated.
About Moxie Girl Musings
Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com