Forever Family: celebrations and grief

Celebrations are powerful, especially for children.  They don’t understand I’m not really up for Christmas this year or let’s just let this birthday pass quietly.  They understand the inherent joy in special days, and they’re drawn to reveling in them.  They’re children, after all, even after they’ve morphed into bigger bodies, and if we’re lucky they haven’t lost the magic in marking milestones with joy.

Which has made this past year somewhat difficult for me.

I lost my mom last January, and there has been more than one occasion when I just wanted to sit it out.

Mother’s Day was hard, and frankly I would have been fine with passing it by altogether.  Luckily we’ve never made a big deal about this particular day in our house – none of that breakfast in bed thing or such – so we still managed a pretty low key year.  We threw all of our usual activities out the window and took my dad to lunch.  It was tough, sure, but manageable.

Thanksgiving was tougher seeing as it also would have been mom’s 80th birthday, but we all pulled together for dad’s sake.  My niece shares her birthday with mom so it was important that the family gather, no matter how hard it was going to be.  I thought that day was going to be the roughest, but nothing prepared me for Christmas.

To be brutally honest, I wasn’t even anxious to put up decorations this year.  I mean, we had the excuse that the painters were in the house, but even if they hadn’t been I would have been hard pressed to pull out all the Christmas stops.  Several people reminded me that the kids needed Christmas, so I did what moms do and sucked it up.  But every ornament I hung reminded me of my own mom (who had a special thing about decorating the Christmas tree), and I sighed as I put out her wood angels.

BrightSide helped me take a very “do what I can do” approach to December.  I finished all of our shopping done early so I wouldn’t stress out about delivery dates or wrapping.  I didn’t send out photo Christmas cards for the first time since the kids came home, a decision that was an extraordinarily big deal for me.  (For those of you who usually get those from us, this is why.  I had to strip down December to make it through, but I absolutely loved receiving your cards and seeing how your children have grown over the past year.)  And then there were some things that, well, just didn’t happen.  I did what I could do, but I also took the time I needed.

Christmas still managed to wipe me off my feet, though.  It’s so family centered…everywhere I turned I found myself bumping into memories of mom, and you just can’t suppress that kind of grief for a week straight.  But once I made it through to the other side I actually thought I’d survived the worst of it.

Until I changed the calendar over to January.

As I was writing my birthday on the square I started crying, because last year we celebrated my birthday at the hospice home, singing around mom as she lay in her bed.  All I could think was well, there’s my birthday – and mom died two days later.  And now I wonder, is this it?  Will this forever be what I think of when we circle around to my birthday each year?  I suspect it will, just perhaps not as sharp as this first year.

So given my choice I’d be lying low for my birthday this year, too, but with two kids who love cake to celebrate that’s probably unrealistic.  It’s been almost a year and my heart still aches.  I just don’t know how I’m gonna hold onto that smile.

5 thoughts on “Forever Family: celebrations and grief

  1. Oh Laura. My birthday was last week and we put off celebrating until the weekend. But my dad passed away two days later, and now my kids keep asking when we are going to celebrate my birthday. It’s so hard to explain, even to teenagers, that we are not going to celebrate this year. And maybe not next year. Or the year after. Hugs to you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so very sorry for your loss. One of my best friends lost her dad a few years ago and I only now realize how little I understood what she was going through…there just is no grasping this grief until you’ve lost a parent. Be patient with yourself and be open with your kids — they may understand more than you think they would. Hugs to you, too.


  2. This might be the wrong thing to do, but I’ve taken to telling my kids that I’m having a “non-celebratory” whatever day it is. My kids are 14, 14, 23, and 25 years old so I figure they are old enough to get the concept. In fact in 2015 I called it a “non-celebratory year” – just did the basics. On the other hand, there is something to be said for sucking it up and going through the motions sometimes and kind of borrowing our children’s inherent joy of holidays & such. Only you can tell where you are at and what you need to do not just for your family, but also for yourself.
    Your post reminds me of a resource article I have about grief. The article basically gives us permission to take the time we need to walk outside of tradition while we deal with a loss in our lives (which it sounds like you figured out by your “stripped down December”). I’m sorry for your loss – it sounds like you miss your mother and you know you will always have that with you. It seems like you are a thoughtful person and very much in touch with your feelings. My heart goes out to you as you learn to adjust to the loss of you mom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I no longer believe there’s a wrong thing to do, only the right thing in that moment. 🙂 Yours are older so I’m sure they’re better able to understand when you need to step it down. Mine are young (10 and 12) so sometimes I’m torn between caring for myself and protecting their childhood, but I think I’m walking the line decently well.
      It was very kind of you to reach out and share. Thank you for that.

      Liked by 1 person

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