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The Pain of Holidays After the Loss of Loved Ones

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It doesn’t matter which holiday it may be — they are all triggers for me.

Whether they trigger memories of happier times or not, they are all bad dreams…a relentless reoccurring nightmare that repeats year after year after year. My mom died on Easter; one of my best friends and next door neighbor died on Thanksgiving; my dad died the first day of autumn; another good friend died at Christmas…and the worst? St. Patrick’s Day, when my son was killed.

I use to celebrate everything. We had picnics on Memorial Day and Labor Day, fireworks on the 4th of July, huge Christmases that began with special traditions on Christmas Eve and continued throughout the day, New Year’s Eve with rental movies and popcorn, St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef/cabbage/potatoes, etc., etc., etc.

All gone.

Now, everywhere I go there are “reminders.” The stores, the TV, online, etc. Smiley faces and “happy,” “merry,” “fun,” “parades,” “families grouped together”…

I’ve become the Grinch of every holiday…and I hate it. I truly “get” why holidays can be such a source of depression and loneliness for some. They are shoved in our face every year, over and over and over again. I can no longer wish anyone “happy” or “merry” anything. The best I can do is wish someone a “peaceful” and “safe” whatever, while I secretly hope they don’t die.

I don’t want to be this way. I don’t like being this way.

But…it’s the dark side of the “new normal” for me. I have rarely participated in holidays since my son’s passing. I tried for a few years to still carry on with the dinners and celebrations. I was great with holidays. I laid out such a spread of food that we’d have leftovers for days. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving meant placing the extensions in the dining room table, pulling out the linen tablecloth and napkins, setting out the silver from my great-grandmother, lighting the candles, taking down all the decorations from the attic and placing them throughout the house.

All gone.

Holidays for me are now simply a reminder of what was and shall never be again. Now they are simply times of a dreading anticipation; no longer does the excitement of anticipation exist.

And they just keep on coming. They are now days I curl up in bed waiting and waiting for them to end. I don’t want to be reminded!

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days” Colossians 2:16

If you have good holidays, I am happy for you, truly. But please don’t tell me I “should” do this or that on any holiday. You don’t need to rescue me. You don’t need to cheer me up. It’s futile. I don’t want to place a damper on your celebrations. You will not be helping me by trying to convince me that if I do this or that, I’ll feel better. I don’t need your pity either. Tell me you love me; tell me you’re there for me; tell me you’ll talk to me tomorrow. And just let me be. I’ve adjusted to my “new normal holidays.” I’m at peace with doing nothing, and being alone with my memories and my Lord. Yes, it hurts like hell. But there is nothing anyone can do to change it. I’ve tried, truly. I have made my peace in knowing: “This too shall pass.” It may not be what you want for me. It’s not what I want for me. But I have found what works for me.

Holidays are just another day.


Jude’s book, “Gifts from the Ashes,” is available at Direct Textbook.

A version of this post originally appeared on Jude’s website.

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Thinkstock image by a_lis

Originally published: March 25, 2017
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