Christmas-time is wonderful and beautiful and uplifting and gives us hope – and can be a terrible time of year for those who mourn their soul mate. Memories of Christmases past haunt us – wrapping presents together, little rituals as a couple, visits to family – together --- these are happy memories but also sad reminders of what no longer is.
|Christmas in the Poconos|
John and I had a special ritual that we did every year. I am Italian by heritage and one of the things I carried forward from my childhood was the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” that we as a family did on Christmas Eve *. John had never had this experience but he came to love it and look forward to it. Since we didn’t like the traditional fish used, our challenge was to come up with other fun things to eat – shrimp cocktail and crab dip, for instance. We had this meal – usually with some bubbly- while we opened our presents at midnight. As we got older, midnight morphed into an earlier and earlier hour but we still did it on Christmas Eve. It was our special time. Some years we would go away for that holiday. Our favorite destination was a place in the Poconos. We would pack up the car with our presents for each other, our stockings, and our Christmas Eve feast and off we’d go.
After John passed it was very hard for me to even think about Christmas, let alone decorate or buy presents or celebrate in any way. I was lucky in that friends and family understood and respected my need to be alone and cut back. Slowly, after the passage of a few years, the idea of celebrating Christmas became less painful. Last year I put up a tree again and decorated the house a little. This year I did a little more. The decorations are new – it was and is too painful to use the ones John and I used but at least I am making progress.
And I have started some new traditions with some close friends – dinners together and afternoon tea.
Life and time marches forward with or without us.
We each mourn in our own way and our own time.
If you are mourning a loved one, don’t berate yourself because you are not doing things as you think you “should” or friends and family think you “should”. There are no shoulds. Only what you can do now, in this place and in this time. You will know in your heart when the time is right. Forcing it will only makes things worse.
I can only tell you from my perspective. This will be my 7th Christmas without John. Does it still hurt? Oh, yes! Do I still wish he were here with me? With every cell of my being.
But he’s not.
So, I honor his memory by doing things like donating in his name to charities I know he would love. And I celebrate the holiday with friends and we share stories of our loved ones and we smile and laugh and for a few moments they are in our midst again.
We do what we can. You do what you can.
It is enough.
All is well.
* From Wikipedia: Origins and tradition: The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, although it's not called by this name in Italy and is not a "feast" in the stricter sense of "holiday," but a grand meal. Strictly speaking, Christmas Eve is a vigil or fasting day, and the abundance of seafood reflects the tradition of abstinence from red meat until the actual feast of Christmas Day itself.