Taking a Pass on Christmas

This sweet little face. These bright piercing eyes. Those delicate little hands reaching out to touch and feel the world.

I’m struggling right now. I knew the holidays would be hard and that grief would ebb and flow. But it is flowing fiercely and I’m suffocating in this season. I don’t feel holly or jolly without my little elf. I’m burnt into a million little ashes right now.

And that is okay.

I think I’ve been really brave these last few months. I think I’ve done hard things with honesty and courage. And they have been good for me.

Sometimes standing naked and raw with my marrow exposed, feeling all of everything, is exactly what I need to help me heal.

But I simply can’t jingle bell this year. I just can’t.

The thought of getting a tree without Gwendolyn, taking out the lights we always strung around her, unwrapping her ornaments without her little hands to help me hang them… it’s torture. It feels like someone is peeling my skin back with a paring knife. And I just need to run away. To hibernate through this season.

There is an intensity to the holidays, an expectation of joy, and my truth doesn’t fit in. I don’t really feel bah humbug, I just physically can’t participate in the festivities.

Honoring Gwendolyn by sending out a holiday card with pictures from her last year of life or hanging the dozens of butterfly and G ornaments we have packed away would be a beautiful thing to do.

But it hurts too much. My stomach literally tightens and I feel I may be sick at the thought. I don’t really fully understand why I’m having such a visceral reaction.

Maybe it is having to endure so many special things without her already that I just need a break to catch my breath.

Maybe this is the Christmas I was afraid of for years. The one without her. And each year I hung her stocking I thought of it.

Maybe it is because Christmas day marks five months without my daughter in my arms. And instead of watching her open her gifts, we watched her headstone be placed.

Maybe time isn’t healing; it is making her feel so far away. So gone. And maybe the numbness of losing her is starting to fade and now I am feeling the real heat of raw grief.

Maybe doing these sacred traditions without her means I can no longer pretend.

So we are taking a pass on Christmas this year. A timeout. We’re not sending Christmas cards. We aren’t getting a tree.

It may seem crazy. And that is okay, too.

I’m learning to be gentle with myself. To listen to my intuition. Gwendolyn taught me that. And sometimes courage comes from knowing your own limits.

This is mine.

I’m sorry if I am quiet my friends. I am sorry if you don’t see me at your parties or if I don’t comment on your holiday cards. I can’t hear about the school sing-a-long or look at your Santa photos. Not this year. It isn’t personal. It has nothing to do with you. I’m not jealous or angry that you can do these things. In fact, I want you to live fully this season. And savor these things, knowing what gifts are in your lap.

I’m not meaning to push you away. I know you want to be there for me. But it doesn’t help me to talk about my grief with you right now when I can’t even understand it myself. 

I’m shattered. And I need to be just that right now. I just need to feel the hurt in my bones and allow myself to simply survive each day. I need space to process, to grow, to heal.

We are going on a trip for Christmas this year. Somewhere we can be in our thoughts and find peace in solitude. Somewhere we can be a family and soak in our love for one another, without the lights and carols.

But I don’t feel alone. I don’t feel hopeless. I know I am supported by a mountain of love. Your gifts and your kindness and your gentle notes with no expectations remind me of that every day.

I know this may seem dark. I know it may not make sense to anyone else. I just know this season is one in which I need to regrow my roots. I’m charred to the core. And the embers are still burning too hot. But, I know, I will rise from the ashes. Slowly.