For so many the holidays are a time of cheer. Decorating homes and family gatherings are a huge part of everyone’s plans. The expectation of a perfect holiday season is evident every where you look. From the Hallmark Christmas movies that play 24/7 to the Christmas music that starts before Thanksgiving begins.
Seven years ago my holiday celebration came to an abrupt halt. My youngest son, Matt lost his battle with addiction. I was so broken that hearing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” left me running out of the grocery store with tears running down my face.
Prior to his death, Christmas was my favorite holiday. I was that person who decorated every room in my house. I was that person singing Christmas Carols and watching every episode of Home Alone over and over. I would immerse myself in finding the perfect gift for everyone on my list. My kids called me the crazy Christmas lady and I loved it.
After Matt’s death, nothing mattered. My only decoration on display was my nativity set. I gave away our tree to a needy family and never put up another. The holidays became a painful reminder of his absence. We were no longer that happy family gathered around the tree in past holiday photos.
The years went by. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years became days I learned to survive. I’d go to church. Have family and friends over. Going through the expected traditions all with a broken heart.
I don’t remember when my heart began to heal. I don’t know how or why I began to feel joy. Or when the memories of prior holidays began to become less painful. I do know it snuck up on me. Hearing Christmas music while grocery shopping no longer sent me running for cover. Seeing trees brightly lit caught my attention as I stood before them remembering trees that once graced my hallway.
My healing has been a slow process. I’ve read that losing a child demolishes you. If you have ever witnessed a demolition you know that what was once whole has been completely destroyed. The process of rebuilding especially when it’s a life can and does take years.
I’ve learned grief has no time frame. Grief doesn’t up and leave after you survive all those firsts as society wants you to believe. I’ve learned I had to acknowledge my loss, live my loss, feel every bit of my pain before I could once again begin to feel the joy the holiday season can bring.
This year a beautiful tree graces my hallway. The white lights remind me of twinkling starts. My Nativity set is at home on the mantel. Santa’s and snowmen have found their way out of boxes to fill once empty spaces.
I know Christmas Day will continue to hold a painful reminder that Matt won’t be home to celebrate. I know there will be tears. This year there will also be joy as I sit near my tree that symbolizes not only Christmas but my healing heart. ♥️🎄