The “season to be jolly” is more often an obstacle course, especially if you’re going through loss of one kind or another. (If you’re the rare man or woman who has never had a loss, cease reading and get drunk on your eggnog.) For so many of us, Christmas or Chanukah, plus must–be-merry-New Year’s Eve, can be riddled with memories of someone who’s missing. After my husband died, I tried to distract myself at holiday times by gamely going to parties, only to find that other people’s festive spirit (and spirits!) left me feeling even lonelier.
Months after Mel’s death I was invited to a holiday party that was also a 30th anniversary celebration. A party celebrating a long-time marriage was the last thing I wanted. On the other hand, this was my husband’s brother and sister-in-law who had been enormously supportive. Conscience wrestled with “who-needs-this?” My sage bereavement counselor (Dominick Bonanno of Cancer Care) urged me to go because otherwise I’d beat myself up with my usual guilt. But he added memorable advice: “Make space for yourself within the socializing.”
I dutifully went to that celebration. But surrounded by other people’s noisy joyousness and toasts to “long-lasting love,” I felt as though I were sinking. Then I remembered those words of advice. How do you make “space” in a crowded ballroom? Grabbing my coat I slipped outside into the frosty air. There was no point in crying, the tears would have frozen on my face. Besides I was stunned by the glitter of moonlight on the snow. Looking up, I saw the stars brilliant in the darkness and felt the enormity of the universe. Somewhere up there, I thought, Mel is watching me. I remembered how he had written in his farewell note to me, You are a creature of life. “How am I doing?” I asked him. Despite the silence I no longer felt alone. I stayed there for a while, then went back to the party able to share in the festivities.
At the dinner table someone told a joke. I laughed with the others. “Mel would have enjoyed that,” I said. There was an uncomfortable silence, as if I had intruded something macabre. I wanted to tell them, don’t keep his name on a forbidden list. Include him, too.
“Making space” still echoes within me throughout the holidays, with all the distractions and busyness . Though I welcome the companionship of people I truly enjoy being with, it’s taken practice to learn how to turn down unwelcome invitations . It’ s also taken strength to enjoy being by myself. Last Chanukah I was a deep shade of blue because my children were far away. But instead of going to a dinner party I wasn’t eager for, I decided to splurge on an orchestra ticket for Carnegie Hall. The wonderful concert was balm for my spirits. The next day my would-be host asked, “How could you be alone on a holiday?”” ”I wasn’t alone,” I told him. ”There were lots of people there.”(Humor helps!)
“Making space”” also means putting a wall around my writing time. I try to write every day, which means not going to chatty luncheons in an effort to be “nice.” As the poet Carolyn Forche advised, “Be at your desk at the same time every day, so your Muse will know where to find you.”
Successful holidays to each of you!
“WIDOW’S WALK” – iUnoiverse.com
“TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW” – xLibnris.com
“TEN WOMEN OF VALOR”- Create Space.com
“Very insightful and uplifting.” – Victoria
“Awesome article.”- Kit Successo