Earlier this week, I shared on Insta Stories that I was intent on writing out some tips to how to navigate grief over the holidays.
I had grand plans to give you the Solid Top Five That Really Work™. That would be most useful and helpful to you. Now and always.
These are MY ways of managing my own grief this holiday season.
And they DO work.
Or at least, they have held so far.
But the truth is, we are just now on top of the dates that are and will be the hardest for me to be with. So I’m still in the messy middle of it all.
My mother died December 27, 2004.
She went into cardiac arrest on December 18, 2004.
She was on “day release” from the hospital. It was supposed to be the day she would be well enough to do the shopping she had missed out on and other Christmas things (Christmas is our tradition). But since it had become clear that she was going to spend Christmas in the hospital and likely for a spell longer than we had anticipated, she asked us to come by the house and tend to the things she wanted tending to that she was concerned weren’t happening while she was “away." (Away sounds so much lovelier, doesn’t it? Like she was at a spa in Arizona, rather than stuck in a stale hospital room while her team of care tried to figure out which one of her failing organs needed to be addressed next.)
My sister and I spent the day ironing linens and fussing about her. I lotioned her frail and thin-skinned feet. She was swathed in the fuchsia mohair afghan I had knitted. Dad served her the oysters my brother-in-law had ordered in from a friend in Nova Scotia. She smiled wanly as we scolded her when she smoked her cigarettes. I think I want to feel badly about this, but I don’t. My sister and I left before my husband Greg did. He stayed behind to help Dad get Mom into the car when it was time for her to go “back”. I don’t remember the last words I said to her. Nor hers to me. Probably “I love you. I love you very much.” I may have even sung her our song. Maybe she sang it back.
Greg told me later that when he was helping her down the stairs, she looked very frightened. I can’t recall if she actually told him that or not. I’ll ask him later tonight.
My sister and I were back at my house, talking but not really. Greg came home and poured us all drinks. He and I would be heading to a holiday party shortly. My sister was going to stay over and take care of our 8-month old. I was putting on some sparkly brown eyeliner - the kind I would only ever wear to a holiday party - when the call came in. From my Dad.
She had gone into cardiac arrest on the car ride back to the hospital.
At that moment, our friends arrived to walk us over to the party. I don’t remember what I said. I’ll ask them tomorrow night.
There’s not much more to say about that horrific night.
She went into a coma.
The next week was spent... there’s not much more to say about that horrific week.
But it became clearer and clearer she wasn’t coming “back." No matter what plans my Dad had for making the house more accessible. No matter what deals he tried to make with his God. No matter... anything.
The doctors wanted her to get through Christmas. Meaning, they didn’t want her to die on Christmas because they knew that grief would be inextricably linked with that celebration.
So, she died on the 27th. The irony, of course, is that my sister and I took up smoking that week. We were all outside with our rediscovered habit when she died. We came back to her room to see a nurse covering her with a sheet. The nurse had tears in her eyes. She had just lost family to the tsunami in Indonesia. She and my father hugged.
I don’t recall if I told my brother-in-law that those oysters were the last thing she ate. I’ll ask him on Christmas Day.
My dying father finally signed the Power of Attorney over to me on December 27, 2017. There’s not much more to say about that horrific day.
He died on January 3, 2018. I do remember his last words: “I love you. I love you very much.”
So far, they are holding strong.
I’m allowing for the grief when she shows up. Pouring her a tea when I can, and pushing her away when I can’t.
And we’ll see how said strategies hold for the days to come.
But here’s what I promise: I’ll keep working on the strategies to help me with my grief and I’ll let you know how it goes next Friday.
Do we have a deal?
In the meantime, please know this:
I am profoundly grateful to you. For your time and attention. For your thoughtfulness and kindness. For your ideas and comments and questions. For letting me know how my work and life and business helps you in your work and life and business. It’s everything.
And I want deeply on your behalf. I am wishing you love, joy, and peace. And for you to navigate any and all of the grief that you hold in your heart with care. Any and ALL.