Tag Archives: Grief at holidays

An Uncommon Valentine’s Day

avatar-heartEveryday life after losing your spouse or sweetheart can be quite difficult. But handling holidays such as Valentine’s Day can be unnerving.

We start to see the advertisements on television for roses, jewelry and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate weeks before this day. Restaurants feature special dinners for two on that evening. And when you were paired with someone you love, chances are good these ads didn’t affect you.

But they do now.

The anticipation of a significant holiday or date such as the anniversary of your loved one’s death or their birthday can bring many emotions that we might not have expected. But please know that they are natural and normal.

Most of us feel such intensity around holidays because we are sad that we can no longer enjoy the closeness, experiences and love we once shared with our honey.

Some of us also are angry that they died before us. Others of us struggle with the unfairness to the point of cloistering ourselves in an effort to never be hurt again.

But there comes a time when we consciously accept that we are still alive and if we were supposed to go first, then we would have. And since this is the way things have turned out, why not live life to the fullest.

When that turn in thinking eventually arrives, it can gloriously begin a guilt-free new life whereby you take a long deep breath and with a loving kiss planted on their picture, you decide to consider new adventures.

It doesn’t mean you don’t miss them. It doesn’t mean you will not honor their memory for your children’s sake. It only means that you are now beginning a new and perhaps a somewhat scary life where the unknown awaits.

And that is a good thing.

So on Valentine’s Day, find the right thing that will make you happy. Is it the chocolate-covered pretzels, cherries or strawberries? Shall you get that massage you have been promising yourself because you miss your husband’s touch?

Will you finally accept your buddies’ invitation for a round of golf and lunch instead of sitting in front of the television alone?

Will you decide to give a little time to someone who is hurting like you and share a candlelit dinner together with a funny movie?

Or is it, perhaps, time to give that little soul at the animal rescue shelter a new life with you?

Even if you find yourself melancholy at times, no need to be embarrassed. Those who love you know this transition has not been easy for you.

So accept that kind pat on the back or hug, accept all the well wishes of those who love and care for you and remember that your sweetheart would want you to enjoy your life. Their love for you will never die.

Holiday Grief: My Story by Michelle Enis Vasquez, San Antonio, TX

Brian and MichelleI have been widowed twice.

I put up my Christmas tree two weeks ago. On Thanksgiving, my beloved Brian will have been gone eight weeks. He died October 3, 2013.

I decided that the Christmas tree would be a memorial to him, and I got a whole bunch of purple ornaments (our favorite color) and some British ornaments, and other ornaments that reminded me of our time together.

My beloved husband, Al, died in 2007. I have ornaments from years past to honor his memory, and I added a few more this year. I also found two angels that did not look like women (hard to find) and put them close together, symbolizing my two guardian angels, Al and Brian, who are looking after me.

I turn on those lights when I wake up and keep them on until I go to bed. I need a bit of cheer at this very difficult time.

Michelle Enis Vasquez lives in San Antonio, Texas. This picture was taken on a cruise to Alaska they enjoyed just a month before his death in October, 2013. Michelle also recently baked a cake to honor her two angels.

Holiday Grief: My Story by Jenny Montalbano, Astoria, NY

Jenny and Aunt EllieChristmas is my Mom’s favorite holiday.

She would be at Hallmark the day after Christmas for the half-priced ornaments to add to our already full Christmas Tree for the next year.

She would spend hours putting out her Christmas Village house and arranging cotton wads to look like snow.

She would bake her Mother’s Italian Christmas cookies and fill the house with the smells of holiday comfort and love while she listened to her favorite Christmas music, with Frank Sinatra in high rotation.

Each year, when “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” would play, Mom would re-tell me how it reminded her of the Christmases in the early 1950’s as she and my grandparents would wait for word from their son who was away in the military.

My mother, Ellie, passed in October of 2011. As my first Christmas without her was creeping up, I couldn’t believe how much I was dreading a holiday that I used to love so much.

Every Christmas decoration, commercial and holiday scent made me burst into tears. I wanted to hide from it all.

One night when I was home alone, I played all Mom’s favorite Christmas songs and wept as each song flooded my brain with memories of my incredible Mom.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” brought me to my knees and I allowed myself to sob as long and as loud as I needed to. After that, I began to cry a bit less and smile a bit more.

I’ll never stop missing my Mom, especially at Christmas time but allowing myself to be happy and enjoy the holidays feels as though Mom still is enjoying them, too.

Jenny Montalbano is from Astoria, Queens, New York and enjoys her family and friends. Her mother, Eleanor, was a lifelong friend of my Godmother and thus I had the pleasure of enjoying her company at family events. She was an amazing woman. To read the comments on my Facebook invitation, click here.

First Christmas Without Your Loved One

After the death of someone close, no one holiday is more difficult to endure than Christmas.

Everyone around us is in the holiday spirit, buying gifts, decorating trees, baking cookies, arranging tables for dinner, cooking delicacies and family-guarded secret recipes. And while you may be participating in body, your soul just isn’t into it this year.

No surprise there. When your heart is aching for the loved one who is no longer near you, you try very hard to get into the Christmas spirit…to feel genuinely happy. But it doesn’t seem to be working.

If I could tell you just one thing today it would be this…it’s ok. No one said you must be overjoyed every single Christmas of your life.

We will go through peaks and valleys whether we like it or not. We will experience happy and sad times and if this is your first sad Christmas, it’s all new to you.

Those who have had other sad Christmases will tell you that they all can’t be perfect. Life hands us tough times and our job is to never forget those who go before us, yet find a way to still live our lives.

Some Christmases are just more painful than others. Some are filled with happy memories and maybe this Christmas you’ll see others enjoying themselves, but inside you, it’s not the same this year.

So if someone close to you died this year, just know you are allowed to feel sad, broken, unfocused, disinterested, jealous of others’ joy and intact families, loneliness, despair, anger, bitterness, frustration, depression.

I’ve been in your shoes before and it’s just miserable. And the only thing that helped even a little, was trying to remember the happy times spent with that individual. In an effort to keep them alive, I’d talk about them out loud. When we were at the dinner table, I’d start by saying, “Do you remember when…” and tell a funny story about them.

Now some family members were a bit silent when I began, because they weren’t sure how it would all go over. Exactly what is the grieving protocol during Christmas dinner anyway? Well whatever people imagine it should be, I usually broke that myth and kept going. I really didn’t care because somehow I didn’t have a very high tolerance for nonsense or other people’s opinions anymore.

And an interesting thing happened, the elephant left the room, people started to laugh at the stories, some added onto them, told their own stories and, yes, some folks even cried, but it didn’t matter. We were no longer worried about saying their name out loud nor were we walking on eggshells around each other. Those awkward silences and pauses had left with the elephant and boy, was I glad for that!

So if this happens to be your first Christmas down the grief path, don’t be so concerned about ‘doing the correct thing’ because nobody really knows what the correct thing is. Just open up because you’ll probably be the only one who has enough guts to start talking out loud about them and guaranteed, someone will thank you.

Mostly, you will feel better…and Christmas dinner will be much easier to bear.

Sending you love on this special day! xoxo

Memories at Holidays

As I work through my “to do” list this Christmas season, I find myself thinking about all the people who have left my life. Some have died and some are still living.

Those who have died take an added measure of thought. I decorate with ornaments and beautiful trinkets that they won’t enjoy admiring with me, purchase gifts that they won’t get, wrapping presents that they won’t open.

I miss that I can’t call them to tell them all that is going on with me this season…the good and bad. And while some have moved from my life for decades now, I find them coming to mind.

There was a time when I thought it would be better if I’d never thought of these folks again, simply because it was too painful. Especially soon after their deaths I thought this way.

But as time moved on, I came to think differently. I came to a place where it was comforting in a strange sort of way. Comforting because it was really the only way I could have a piece of them in my life.

And now, while it still stabs at my heartstrings when I realize I can’t have them here any longer, I am grateful for just the little things like memories of good times, things they said, things they did, gifts they gave me at other Christmas long ago. I think of special days we spent together, how they made me laugh and how we acted silly at times.

I guess what bothers me the most is that I’ll never have that back again. But I guess the love I shared with each unique person I’ve loved and who has gone now, can never be replaced exactly the same way with any other person who is now or will come into my life. It’s just the way it is.

So I try to be content with the memories because I can’t get back their presence. And even with all the pain I’ve endured with each person who left before me, no one can ever take my memories from me.