My ears are filled with voices of complaints about everything from preparing food and cleaning to shopping, travel and the guest list. I retract until the sounds of the holiday conversations are muffled. I think to myself, “Just breathe.” Withdrawn and non-participatory, I’m hopeful the conversation will shift from the holiday buzz to everyday chatter. Experience tells me I have weeks of this to endure. I think to myself, “ Please, please, please. Don’t ask me what I am doing for the holidays this year.”
Holidays for me arrive with a dull ache like a muscle you overworked at the gym the day before. Conscious of its existence but the pain not debilitating, I carry on. As the holiday approaches, my anxiety and sadness increase. Holidays are a big reminder I am doing this alone. And although I am doing everything I can to create memories and instill traditions of my own, I can honestly say, it’s physically and emotionally exhausting. My divorced status has my children with my ex-husband half of the holidays. Now that Adam and both my parents have all passed, I spend those holidays alone. I’ve tried traveling, warm weather, cold weather, Europe, or the Carribean but haven’t yet managed to truly escape the holiday. My sons live for the holiday traditions of food and family. As someone who has no family left, I recognize the fragility of life,and the importance of both traditions and family. So when they asked me this year if they could spend my designated holiday with their dad’s family, I couldn’t deny them that. Because I know, better than anyone, that one day that opportunity will be gone. But letting them go somehow feels like my efforts weren’t enough and that stings my heart.
People ask why I wouldn’t spend holidays with friends, but to be honest, nothing makes me feel more alone than being submerged in someone else’s family traditions as an outsider. There is no script for grief and loss. The rule is to simply do what works best for you. For those who have lost, we know, every day is hard but holidays are harder. For me, there is and always will be a heaviness to holidays. That hasn’t changed despite all the time that has passed. So the next time you are in the presence of others and focused in on holiday talk, be conscious of complaining less and appreciating more. There is something special about spending the holidays with the ones that we love. I know. It is what I cherish now and miss most.
Kim Libertini is all too familiar with grief and the Co-Founder of Goodgrief App, the social network for loss available for less than a latte, for download in the App Store, Google Play and www.goodgriefapp.com. You can follow Goodgrief App on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.