How I'm Celebrating Christmas Through Grief and Depression

This year will be my second holiday season after one of my parents passed away. I think the first year the motions were robotic — do all the things for the kids, don’t ruin the holidays, just get through them — and that’s what I did. I honestly don’t even remember much from last year.

This year has been very different. I didn’t spend Thanksgiving with my husband, his family and my two youngest. I stayed behind with my college kids and a wonderful friend had us over. He cooked a delicious meal that was completely different from what I’m used to. It was lovely. For me, I didn’t feel that pressure I normally do. Sometimes I think it’s OK to give yourself permission to change things up a bit.

It took a few weeks to get the tree up. I allowed myself to do what I couldn’t last year. I sat with my emotions. I laughed at some of the ridiculous handmade ornaments we had when we were kids. I cried because I remember making some myself and I remember just how proud I was of a silly salt dough ornament that somehow, with some super glue, is still together almost 40 years later. There are lots of hand sewn ornaments and ones from vacations we took. Our tree is a tree full of memories — old and new.

  christmas tree with lights and ornament

I wanted to cram every single thing on my poor tree. I don’t think there are many branches left.

A friend gave me permission to not like every single thing that was packed in those boxes. She asked me, ‘“Would you make fun of that to your Mom’s face?” Yes, yes I would. I did many times. How many horses and cows and baby cherubs do you need Mom?

 “Then why would you put that out? That was just her personality, not her love. They are just things. You are different from her, you don’t have to prove your love for her by having everything she owned put out.” 


She is right. The guilt washed off of me like a wave. I put away a hideous (to me) carousel horse. It went back to the attic.

This year is much harder than last. It’s been almost two years. This year I know she isn’t coming to see us. The kids are so much bigger now, so many things are different, she’s missed a lot. I miss her more, not less. I didn’t even think that was possible. The rawness and shock are mostly gone. Now the deep ache and even physical pain of it all is settling in. Facebook’s “on this day” reminders hurt. 

More and more of my friends are losing their parents. I cry for them to think now they have to experience this horrible club — “the dead parent club.” I know this is just part of life. I don’t know if it’s worse for people with chronic depression like me or not. All I know is I don’t wish this on anyone.

It isn’t fair. It sucks. At some point though, I have to try and start to move on, carrying on traditions and making new ones.

I’m going to do my best to throw a wonderful Christmas for my family and friends. I’m going to do her proud. I want to create memories with the people still alive. I’m going to take lots of photos, even if I think I’m too overweight ,or don’t think I look my best and eat too much and remember my mom saying, “Your dressing is almost as good as mine.”

Please be patient with those of us with losses. We have good and bad days. Check in on us from time to time. Let us know that you haven’t forgotten our loved one. That’s important to us. Remember, tomorrow isn’t promised. To anyone.

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