THE HOLIDAY STRUGGLE
Fine. I'll admit it. The older I get, the harder it is to feel the "holiday spirit." A piece of me wants to call BS on the whole thing and go about like usual, but now that I have children, I realize I can't. I've noticed that I love but also hate holiday movies. They're cute but unrealistic. So many Christmas movies involve traumatic events that just so happen to turn around in the end. Today, 26-year old me realizes the holiday season is filled with false hope. Holiday movies are an emotional scam, and I'd very much like to unsubscribe.
The last Christmas movie I watched was so beautiful. It was about a woman whose mother passed when she was 17. She was the head cheerleader dating the captain of the basketball team, and eventually, they went on to get married and have two children. Long story short, she had a conversation with an old friend from high school where they'd both wished they could turn back time. And guess what? In the spirit of unrealistic Christmas hope, TIME WENT BACK 20 YEARS! Super cute, although I was not expecting the plot twist. (Maybe this part of the movie wouldn't be so significant for people that have never lost a loved one, but it legit tore my soul to shreds) When she woke up she realized her mother was alive. She knew the exact day and time to make it home to get her mother to the hospital when she had her heart attack. She got home, called the ambulance, and saved her mother's life! Her mom was able to see her off to the winter dance, prom, her wedding, to see her children born, etc. GREAT MOVIE! Very well written, well-casted production! Terrible for this grieving adult who ultimately just misses her daddy. It was rough. It took me three days to make it through a movie that was only an hour and a half long.
I can't help but think how six-year-old me would save my daddy? Some know the story, but for those who don't, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer on September 11th, 2001, and passed on January 26th, 2002. Four months... That's all we had.
The thing I struggle with today is giving the holiday season and cheer to my children. I have two girls who will be three soon. They are these two little balls of ALL emotions, including joy and excitement. They're engaged with everything around them like any toddler would be. When they were younger and didn't understand, I didn't have to put effort into giving "Christmas." I didn't feel pressured to put up or decorate a tree. I didn't feel pressure to decorate my house (like my mother does EVERY YEAR, without fail). I didn't feel the pressure to do things like play Christmas movies, have matching family pajamas, Christmas photos, etc. Now, I do. The pressure is on, and I am fighting to breathe through this holiday's grief while trying to bring the exact opposite feeling to my children.
I need them to experience the joys and excitement I can only imagine having during this time of year, but I'm so jilted that I don't even know how to give it. So on top of the grief, I feel guilt. How can I show them the "holiday spirit" when I don't have it or even believe in it myself? I feel like I can't give them the childhood I have longed for all of my life—the childhood they deserve.
I started with something simple this year. We have some blow-ups in the yard and that's the most that will happen outside this year. It's December 16th, I still don't have a tree up, but I keep telling myself, "We'll do it tomorrow." The last time there was a tree in my house was in 2017. And even then, it didn't get put up until the New Year. It wasn't decorated and was taken down shortly after our family left.
I'm getting better.
I'm working through it.
I think I am...
I'm not sure if the holiday season will ever feel the way I have imagined it should, but I'll be damned if I don't try my best to give my children memories to last a lifetime.
As a child, I never worked through my grief. I never had to. I just kind of thought I eventually wouldn't miss him as much, and one day, it would all be better...
LIES! It doesn't get better... and when you don't deal with it, when you don't accept it, it doesn't get easier either.
I remember his funeral. I walked in with the family and went right to sleep when I sat down. I didn't even look at the body during the viewing. And although there is a recording, I've maybe watched it one time but turned it off shortly after when I hear the wailing from those who were in attendance both physically and emotionally. I've been to the grave maybe four times in my life... I've avoided accepting this in every way possible. Not accepting his death leaves room for hope.
My most favorite movie that I hate is "Waist Deep". Tyrese's character dies, and he leaves his girlfriend, Meagan Good, to raise his son. Before he passed, he promised his son this horse he'd been wanting. One day while getting ready to leave for school, Meagan and his son were on the beach and saw a man walking towards them. Can you guess who it was? Yep, Tyrese with that damn horse for his son. *CUE THE WATERWORKS*
It's been 20 years, and I haven't, nor can I, accept the fact that I'll never get my Christmas miracle. I'll never see him walking towards me on a beach to hold me in his arms again. Once I come to terms with this emotion I have swallowed for... my entire life, maybe I'll be able to move forward in my grief process. Perhaps that's what I need.
How does this relate to children? I don't feel like adults take the time to explain death and grief to children. We hear it, we get it, but how do we deal with it? Are you, as a parent, comfortable with having this conversation even in the absence of death? As a parent, are you comfortable with being transparent through your grief process when death is present? How do we have these conversations? When is the appropriate time? It's a conversation you never want to have and never want a reason to have it... but like I've said before, the only thing guaranteed in life is life and death.
I pray you find your chance to breathe.
I pray you find your moment to smile.
I pray you feel your Christmas Angel.