"I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel." -Charlie Brown
If I had had my way, Christmas 2005 would have been cancelled altogether. Two of my very dearest friends died 9 months apart, and I remember thinking I would never be okay again. My heart strained tremendously under the double loss. Up until then a full-blown Christmas enthusiast, I told my husband I didn't want to decorate one iota for Christmas that year, we didn't, and it was the right decision for us in that moment in time.
Last night I was at the hospital bedside of a woman in her early 80s who was dying unexpectedly, in that she'd seemed fine just days earlier. Her large family of children, grandchildren, and people she'd taken in when they had nowhere else to turn, filled the room with their stories and tears. She couldn't go, they said--she was their "boss". She was only 5 feet tall in stature, they said, but she was a full 8 feet tall in personality. And she LOVED Christmas. She had just spoken of getting her tree up, setting up her train set around it, and decorating the rest of the house she shared with her husband of over sixty years. That family, while fluctuating between begging their matriarch to stay and saying the goodbyes they knew they had to, was already laying plans to get a Christmas tree this week and to decorate big and beautiful in her memory.
As a grief coach, I often meet with people in their homes, so I have the privilege of seeing firsthand their havens/sanctuaries/caves (all terms clients have used to describe how they see their homes as they retreat from the world in their grief). One decorating trend I've noticed with my clients this year is the understated, petite, non-Christmas Christmas tree. The pretty white ones made to look like bare Birch trees, lit with tiny white lights. The kind you find at Pottery Barn or Michael’s, or if you’re lucky, online, so you don’t even have to leave the house. Because for some, who feels like going out and shopping, let alone full-blown decorating, when your beloved husband died at the holidays last year, or your wife’s health has been compromised due to a stroke and you’re exhausted just trying to keep up with everything, or your child died and you wonder if you can even make it to the holidays, let alone through them?
How, when in grief, do we "decorate for the holidays", both tangibly and theoretically? As I hope these stories illustrate: However we want, in whatever ways feel most comfortable/comforting, with no explanations or apologies needed. Grief and our responses to it are as unique as each of us and that which we are grieving. There's no right or wrong and no one has the right to tell us otherwise.
Here are two articles you may find helpful if you're grieving in this season:
https://whatsyourgrief.com/64-tips-grief-at-the-holidays/ and/or you care about someone who is: whatsyourgrief.com/8-tips-for-supporting-a-grieving-friend-this-holiday/.
May peace, love, and comfort be yours this month and into the new year. xoxox
Long ago I was an English major. Though some may say my degree has been under-utilized, my love for the written word remains, and sometimes my words turn out okay.