It's funny how certain Christmas songs pop into my head these days.
I'll have a blue Christmas without you...
I'll be home for Christmas...if only in my dreams...
Nothing like a little bit of Elvis and Frank Sinatra to make me miss my boy.
These songs play on our Christmas playlist and are a surprising trigger for grief to wash over me. It's got me thinking about grief at Christmas. I feel like I have to prepare myself in advance for Christmas gatherings and programs. What if there's a trigger that will cause me to spiral into pit of mourning again? It's inevitable, really, but I'm thinking there has to be a way to prepare our hearts for these triggers.
Some triggers I'm finding already are:
-his missing voice of glee
-his missing face
-presents not bought
-old ornaments bringing memories back
-old favourite Christmas carols or carols that have never really struck a cord, squeezing my heart in a new way.
These triggers are inevitable. They are going to happen, so I'm working on how to make this season as smooth as possible. Some ideas I've/We've been trying:
1. Say 'no' - It's okay to say no to outings, concerts, and activities that you just don't think will be wise to participate in. It's okay to say no and we shouldn't feel guilty (still working on that).
2. Rest - Grief is hard work. It's exhausting. I feel like I could go to bed at 8:30 every night and still not get enough sleep. I'm working on that.
3. Admit grief - I have permission to cry. Didn't Jesus weep? Loss is a big deal and it does no one any good to suppress the grief. It has to be dealt with eventually. Admit that it's hard and that it sucks and that you just want your son back.
4. Focus on kids - my choices of how to get through our first Christmas without Mikail affect Olivia. Choosing to decorate and make things special for her, also fills us with joy. If we withdraw and skip Christmas, she will be truly confused and perhaps even blame herself.
5. Reach out to others who are burdened- showing others the love of Christmas takes our eyes off of our problems for a moment and helps us realize that we are not alone. There are millions of others in the world hurting as much, or more than we are.
6. Acknowledge - I'm trying to acknowledge Mikail's continued presence in our lives by including his ornaments in our tree, by buying a special ornament in his absence, by making donations in his name, by visiting his grave...
7. Keep things simple: fewer decorations, less baking, less outings, internet shopping.
8. Plan ahead - if going to an event, plan ahead to bring our own vehicle so we can leave if it gets to be too much (lesson learned the hard way), park on the street so you don't get parked in, bring Olivia's blanket so she has her comfort if needed.
9. Grace - be gracious with yourself and others. We were told to expect anger to rear its ugly head this season. This has been very true. We have found that we easily anger when it comes to participation in Christmas events. We know the triggers that cause this anger are directly to do with other people's behaviour and disrespect that we have no control over, so it's difficult to do anything about it. We try to give ourselves and those involved grace. A quick, short change of scenery or distraction usually helps.
10. Take care of yourself - take a walk, a nap, listen to music, get a massage, go to bed early, drink lots of water.
If you're in the midst of grieving, how are you actively making it bearable this Christmas? I'd love some more tips.