According to everything I’ve read about grief, the holidays are hard. It’s an emotionally charged time for pretty much everyone and navigating traditions and family obligations while you’re grieving can be especially difficult.
For me, December itself holds an even more painful reality, since every day marks a milestone in the journey toward the end of John’s life. December last year was a brutal month for us, with daily infusions to keep John hydrated, three surgeries (two of which happened in Seattle at the University of Washington Medical Center where we spent a week), and the rapid decline in his health. It was the month he started designing his headstone and mapping out his memorial service with our pastor friend Kathy. At one point right before Christmas he confided in my mom that he wasn’t sure he would make it to January.
I went through the motions, numb on my good days and very sad on my worst ones. I decorated my house, bought and wrapped gifts, had holiday get togethers with friends, and did my best to keep things “normal” in the midst of the chaos of caring for a terminally ill person nearing the end of his journey.
As I took down the tree the week after Christmas while he lay on the couch watching, I said to him, “This stuff isn’t coming out of these boxes for a few years, I can tell you that. I think I’ll just skip Christmas next year.” In his usual, positive way, John admonished me to never say never, that I had no idea where I’d be or what I’d be doing next year.
As usual, he was right. As Christmas approaches this year, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll be getting a tree tomorrow and decorating it and my house on Saturday. It feels good to be doing that in my new home and I’m actually looking forward to it. But I’m also just profoundly sad and have been for the past week or so. The only change has been the turning of the calendar but that seems to have reignited my grief.
I’m moving on and I think I took feeling pretty good for granted because these “December blues” have hit me unexpectedly and hard. I hate the feeling of not having control that grief brings. I can’t fight it, I know that for sure, but it’s exhausting. I’m not a sad person by nature and I am challenged by those feelings.
Today marks exactly ten months since John passed away. It seems like a lifetime ago most of the time. Ten months since I’ve heard his voice, felt his big hands on me as I lay in his arms, looked into the eyes of the person who loved me more than anyone ever has, or laughed with my best friend. And I just miss him still, so much.
As I decorate my tree in my brand new home on Saturday, I’m sure he’ll be top of mind for me. And just as I have for the past ten months, I’ll get through that day and the rest of the month. I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other and looking for the happy in every day. I’ll find people to laugh with and I’ll focus on what I’m grateful for.
But today, this week, grief is winning just a little more than usual. #lovetrumpscancer #livelikejohnny