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When Grief Refuses to Slow Down for the Holidays

I feel as though I am walking a tightrope this year. My anxiety levels are ramping up enormously, and every morning presents a very real struggle to just get on with the day.

It’s not one thing, or another — it is just an absolute jumble of everything. Work is always difficult, in the race to the end of the year and the long summer break. Harry’s anniversary is a month before Christmas, and it often feels like the emotional reserves I tap into to get through Harry’s week every year leaves very little in the tank to cope with the buildup to Christmas.

It’s not that I hate Christmas, definitely not that. I love Christmas with my family, relaxing in the sun, enjoying some really delicious food and the sharing of Secret Santa gifts. I love the “reason for the season” as well, I have a strong Christian faith and the love encapsulated in God’s gift of Jesus always takes my breath away.

I just cannot stop crying though; and when I add up all of the little steps I need to walk through to arrive to Christmas Day, I feel so incredibly overwhelmed.

Grief is such a difficult friend to have when everyone around you is celebrating. It is a lot easier to cope with the very specific anniversary dates (like Harry’s birthday and his deathday), because I can be a lot more insular about them, and if I need to suck in a lung full of air rather than acknowledge the day, then that is what I can do.

There is no postponing Christmas though, no avoiding it. I need to put up Christmas decorations and bake delicious treats and get through the last couple of weeks at work and complete my Christmas shopping. I need to make it to Christmas morning, and join the masses who invade the quiet space I usually find at the cemetery to sit and remember Harry … because that helps center me before I launch into the full-noise of Christmas Day.

I need to listen to Christmas carols and get my butt to church and remember even though my prayers for Harry didn’t save him, my faith is strong and enduring, and I am an overcomer.

And in all the jumble of to-do and tears inside of me, I also need to function in my everyday life … and I do. I do get myself out of the house every day and into work. I do celebrate all the joys that exist in my life, and I do keep pushing every day, even though my sore knees would rather I stop.

The jumble inside of my head includes the good stuff as well, the darkness is not completely overwhelming me. The jumble reminds me to enjoy that good stuff … to appreciate the little moments, and (sometimes) to remember my life is much bigger than just surviving another “Harry week.” My heart is much more robust than the pain that clenches at it. I am who I am because my beautiful boy was born, because my beautiful boy lived and because my beautiful boy died. Every day shapes me into the person I am now. Every experience, every laugh, every tear. I am who I am because of everything inside of me.

And who I am is equally the woman who will cry amongst strangers at the cemetery on Christmas morning, and will thank God for everything she has and all the love that surrounds her later in the day.

Getty image by tommaso79