I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Without You…


 

I’ve always loved Christmas, and when I married Smart Guy and we agreed to raise our children in the Jewish faith, I embraced Hanukkah as well. For nearly 30 years, December has been a month of festivity and fun! I love the season: I love the decorations, the socializing, the music, and all the lights and magic. The last couple of years, however, have been a bit more challenging, and those challenges seem to have piled up in December. The recent suicide of a local Transgender boy, who struggled with feelings of isolation and getting help for depression; the sudden deaths by accident or illness, of several people I knew; the mass shootings in San Bernadino and Paris, that have us all looking at terror in alarming new ways; the mud slinging of the current election, that dominates the news; as well as daily issues that sometimes weigh me down– these all contribute to a general sense of sadness, that has left December feeling less cheery, and grayer than the weather and early sunset dictate. Coming around the holidays and the anniversary of my mother’s death, it’s been harder, to feel as jolly as I once did over the holidays.

Four years ago in December, I was overwhelmed by my mother’s sudden decline from Huntington’s Disease, and death, which came on New Year’s Eve Day 2011. That year, December was a blur of Hanukkah and Christmas lights, holiday music, food, celebratory good intentions, and family and good friends offering comfort and love, while I slowly sipped a cocktail of numbness and deep sadness; and, after three full months in Hospice, watched my mother die. I was so relieved to see January that year! Not that my head’s in the sand; tragedy and loss happens all year. Whether you experience that loss during the holidays or the middle of any given week or month, grief makes it hard to see the sparkle in life. All of your senses are challenged when you’re grieving; the world gets paler. Mom’s death would have been hard whenever it happened, but the stress and loss seemed amplified by the festivities around me. In a month drenched with music, lights, and reminders to be cheery, it can feel so much harder to just sit with sad feelings and grieve.
It seems to me that in one breath we are a society that wants to be compassionate. Most of us know enough to show concern or say caring things, when someone we know has lost a loved one. In the the next breath, we’re also a society that wants to move through difficult things as quickly as possible. We change our FB pictures; we wrap ourselves in shared tragedies, when they happen (Sandy Hook, Paris, San Bernadino), but we want to move on quickly. Many people are uncomfortable around grief and those who are grieving. It’s just easier if everyone feels good, if we can concentrate on the positive. I get that. However, bad things happen to people–painful things that are hard to rush through. I work at Hospice, and I’m reminded each week that others are grieving. At the holidays, all of that is amplified, because it’s a time that can elicit so many memories, regardless of loss. The holidays are particularly hard at Hospice, because it’s such a hard time for families to grieve, and then walk out the door to festivities all around.

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I’m aware that aging has played a role in this as well. When I was younger, I saw the world and the events that shape it, much less personally. As a young child, I was unaware of the issues that complicated family relationships, and I felt happy to gather with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, each year for Christmas. It was a smorgasbord of festivity and I felt drunk on the love, food, gifts and holiday cheer. Later, I was focused on school, falling in love, and my own babies. Christmas and Hanukkah were filled with magic and mystery for them, and so it was for me. I made latkes at their schools, held Hanukkah parties, and hosted Christmases at our home, to try and recreate some what I felt as a child. I set the bar so high for myself, and as my kids got older, it felt less like magic and more like work.

Since my mother’s death and my kids leaving home, December inadvertently brings on a feeling of melancholy for me. I hear the Salvation Army bells, a hallmark of the season; I face the memory laden music that is playing in virtually every business I enter, and I miss my mother and years past. I miss my grandmother, who helped raise me and was my rock. For much of my life, my grandmother was Christmas. The smell of a Christmas tree, the lights and ornaments, chocolate Santas– all of it instantly brings memories of the family I grew up with. As I ready for the holidays in my own home, I can’t help but remember the Christmases we shared through the years, something that is bittersweet. My kids are grown. My daughter lives 7,000 miles away, with my only grandchild, and my boys come home but have busy lives. When the entire month of December is about being with family, feeling good, and celebrating– it’s hard to feel ok experiencing some melancholy or sadness, and not feeling guilty that everyone around you wants to sing Have A Holly Jolly Christmas (insert any cheer themed holiday song).

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With Mom, at Hospice. Christmas 2011

It’s been four years since my mother’s death. The finality of losing our parents however, or the people who are very important to us, can be really hard to accept and fully integrate. It goes far beyond the intellectual knowledge that someone we love is gone; it’s a visceral experience. Our parents represent such a tangible tie to who we are, where we come from, that losing them shakes places within ourselves, that few other losses shake. What the brain knows is true– they are gone, the heart fights to reject. It’s hard to rectify my memories of my mother when she was healthy, before Huntington’s Disease, with who she became. It’s hard to untangle the mess of wishes I still harbor that my mother, grandmother, aunt and sister, could have lived out their “fair ending” and been spared this disease. As much as I’ve grieved the deaths they had, my brain can’t help but slip back into a time when I simply wished none of them was sick. Watching my sister suffer, that wish is triggered over and over.

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Despite this struggle, I still see the wonder in the December holiday season, and there are things I do to turn around the blues. Even if I don’t put money in every Salvation Army red bucket I see, I make an effort to smile at the person who is good enough to stand there for hours and ring that bel; I thank them for their time. I let someone go ahead of me in line, because they have two items and my cart is full. I take heart in the amazing folks who walk into stores and pay off a stranger’s lay-away bill — making the holidays that much more sparkly for a family they don’t know, because that family now knows that others really do care. Every year I stop and shop at one of the Christmas Angel trees, which are all over this time of year. There is something so wonderful each year, in imaging some child I’ve never met, finding the gift I carefully picked out for them. For years, I brought my own kids to pick those angels, and we knew that on Christmas a child we didn’t know was feeling happy to have something they wished for. I drive down certain streets, to look at the lights; I invite friends over and celebrate.

In December many of the things I’ve compartmentalized and (mostly) moved on from, are stirred. My mother, my grandmother, all of the people I loved who are gone, come back to me during the holidays. It’s unavoidable. I find myself trying to figure out how to reformat it all, how to make December feel jolly again. I work to build happy, new memories with my own children and friends, accepting that I miss those who are gone. As my kids go out and create their own families, as we continue to share new experiences in December, there will be new holiday memories to embrace and add to those reserved for loved ones who are gone. Time passes and wounds soften. That knowledge is what sustains me, so that when I find myself a little teary with holiday music, or the beautiful lights, I remind myself that it’s ok; life goes on, and there is still magic to be had.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? What do they remind you of and who have you shared them with? Are you grieving, and do the holidays make that harder or easier? Share your thoughts in the comments; I love to hear from readers.

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
Aside | This entry was posted in Aging, Awareness, Blog, Blogging, Daily Observations, Death of parent, Grief, Honest observations on many things, Life, Personal change, Tales From the Motherland, Wrting and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Without You…

  1. Nice post. It’s easy to become cynical this time of year – complain about the commercialization of the season, make fun of how full the shopping mall parking lot is when it’s a gorgeous day and people should be outside, and so on. And yet… there’s something about the rushing- and then the slowing of time— everything important is scheduled for “after the holidays.” I wish I had more family celebrations, we all take what we can. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My motto has become: I’m doing the best that I can; I just keep trying to improve. I hope my kids look back fondly on the holidays I’ve created. thanks for your thoughts, Lisa; I always appreciate hearing from you!

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  2. Your words are so beautiful, heartbreaking and true. I’m sorry you lost your mom. “Our parents represent such a tangible tie to who we are, where we come from, that losing them shakes places within ourselves, that few other losses shake.” This is exactly how I feel. My dad died suddenly a week before Thanksgiving (his favorite holiday). He was like a mother to me, so it was devastating. It’s been 24 years and I still feel waves of melancholy this time of year. I know that this is normal and nothing to be afraid of. Sadness is what makes us human.

    My own mom is nearing 82 and I know her time to go is coming soon. It doesn’t matter who you are or when you lose your parents. To lose them is like losing a big chunk of our past and who we are. So I try to experience life through my kids’ eyes this time of year and I allow myself to feel the love and the magic. It helps to heal my wounds of grief. I wish the same for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really means a lot to get your feedback, Marla. Clearly you get it, and that helps me not feel like an odder bird than I already feel like… thanks for that. My kids are grown and it’s harder to see the magic they once saw. But, I am working on improving my outlook, trying to rewire some things. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

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  3. Mike Lince says:

    I have had a hard time with Christmas because my family was not close. That changed for me with the arrival of grandchildren, especially while they are at the innocent age when they still believe in Santa Claus. Although I know they want for very little, I don’t mind spending a bit more to spoil them just because I can. As they get older, their parents are good at helping them see that many children have little by comparison.

    Back when my babies were little, there was a Christmas when I was unemployed and we could afford almost nothing for gifts. That year we decided as a family to spend what little we could afford to buy gifts for a needy family who had even less than we did. It helped us keep the spirit of Christmas alive as we went through a difficult time. We still support charitable groups for those in need as a holiday tradition. – Mike

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    • Wonderful thoughts to share with all of us, Mike! Thanks! I absolutely believe that sharing with others is so meaningful. It just expands our own ability to appreciate things we have. I hope your holidays, in your new home, are wonderful.

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  4. This year, I’m centering on the wonderful warmth that my daughters will both be home for Chrisrmas. I allow the grief of change to enter for a few moments, to honor my losses, but then I must open the door to the goodness that fills my life.

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  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    I find the holidays can easily become stressful with all there is to do. Even though I tell myself to enjoy it, I usually have a few stress-filled days while I try to get everything done. But I’m getting better. After all, I don’t have too many years left before both my boys are out the door. :/

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    • Definitely enjoy them while they’re still home… while they’re in college, they continue to come and go, but then one day, they have a home and partner, and it all changes. We all need to stop, take a deep breath and be grateful that we have so much to do, so many we love and who love us. Thanks for the reminder, Carrie.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Without You… | ugiridharaprasad

  7. Psychobabble says:

    Our holiday traditions have been changing for several years now, and this year is the biggest yet. B and I are staying in Oregon and won’t go home for Christmas for the first time in our lives. Very bittersweet…..I am looking forward to a very chill Christmas, getting to do whatever we want and making our own family traditions. But things will never be the same again…

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    • It gets harder and harder with children… while they’re really young, we still left home. Once they had expectations (read: Santa) we stayed home the 24th and 25th AM, and traveled in the PM, if necessary. Such a juggle! Hope your holidays are wonderful, Melissa! Sending you holiday hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Somethings change for the better too. Not all things are hard to let go. As a child of divorce we all ways had 2 Christmases; two guilt inducing Christmases because both parents made sure we knew they felt shortchanged. My Dad was better at Christmas but also at expressing disappointment. My brother just told me this will be the last Christmas for Dad’s tree. The same one dad bought when first divorced 36 years ago and decorated the same way every year. Sometimes it’s time to let go! Holidays can celebrate little things too.

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    • You make such true, poignant points here, Mary Ellen. I am happy to see some things change in my own family and life, as well. I know you have created a VERY different reality for your own children. They reflect that in their wonderfully loving personalities. Merry Christmas friend. xox

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  9. etomczyk says:

    The picture of you and your mom caught me off guard. The smile on her face in spite of everything seems to be comforting you as much as you are comforting her. It blew me away!

    On the other note, for the first 29 years of my life, I hated the Christmas season for so many reasons that I note in my first book (I can still taste the pain), but then I was fortunate to have true love come my way, and Christmases for me have been magnificent. When sickness and death become my portion in the future–as it will for us all–I believe Christmases will continue to be sweet taste in my mouth because I loved and was loved.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My losses are far in the past now. I remember and think about them, looking at old pictures, but the mourning has softened to memories, many happy. I enjoy hearing about my children’s lives and things they do. I’m busy running a household here, although I have people helping me. I’m responsible for paying them and organizing things. I also have my writing and blogging with new internet friends. Life is still interesting for me. Happy Holidays to you and yours, Dawn. 🙂 — Suzanne

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  11. Cathy Ulrich says:

    This is the first year in many where we have had family nearby with whom we can celebrate Christmas. My sister, her new husband and my step-son will be here and we’re really looking forward to our time together. I think over the years of living away from family and also the losses of all of our parents, we have chosen to let Christmas be whatever it is in the moment. Sometimes we travel to the Caribbean and go scuba diving, sometimes we stay home and celebrate with friends, but I had to let go of expectations that Christmas would ever be like it was when I was a child.

    I do spend some time thinking about my Mom, in particular, as she loved Christmas and always worked hard to have it be a very special time. But in the nine years since she’s been gone, I’ve gradually been able to make my own way through the holidays and simply honor her and, yes, miss her – a lot. Maybe what Christmas does for me is remind me that life is precious and fleeting, and I need to let each holiday season unfold in its own unique way.

    Wonderful post, Dawn.

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    • Such a wonderful response to my post, Cathy. Thank you SO much for sharing your own experience, and for reminding me to live in the moment. It’s a challenge for me, but I love the way you put it here. Thanks! xox

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  12. Dear Dawn,
    Your words express a great deal of love for your family and the memories of your childhood times. You point out the positive and the negative of some of the things people go through during this time of year. I enjoyed having a view of a small piece of your life. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Children do go off and have their own lives. It was hard to accept that. Money plays a big part in that too. Traveling can be expensive around the holidays. Distance creates more distance until the connection is lost. We forced ourselves to create new Christmas traditions for ourselves with friends or cruising to get away from the bells and whistles on display. I always felt mixed emotions. I focused on the moments rather than on an entire day in order to get through. I focused on the religious meaning of the holiday. It gave me comfort. I do think about my past holidays. Some were grand and some very sad. But, for this year, I will focus on passing on love and compassion to as many people as I can. If I do that, than, I have given the best gift of all.
    Happy Hannukah – Shalom v’ahava Peace and Love,
    Isadora 😎

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  13. hugmamma says:

    As I’ve aged, I find myself reflecting upon life and death more. I lost both parents, my dad when I was only one…my mom, about 15 years ago. I didn’t have the enduring relationship you had with your mom. Ours was fraught with struggles because she was forever manipulating me to do her will, even after I became a mom myself. Nonetheless, I do contemplate my life without my husband and my daughter. I know I would be devastated at their loss. I try to imagine myself pushing to live on were either gone before me, but I don’t dare go too far with my thoughts. I feel I’d tumble over the brink into depression. So I try to remain positive about life, knowing that death is still on the horizon. God bless your life with joy…in all kinds of ways this holiday season…and beyond.

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    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts hugmama. I don’t see any reason to try and imagine such things. Embrace the joy you feel with your husband and daughter and soak it in. As for the “enduring relationship…” my mother and I had many issues. I miss her, because we were enmeshed in each other’s lives… for better or worse. I miss the opportunities to heal and forgive. I miss what could have been… Thanks for sharing; it’s much appreciated!

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