I’m writing this on Christmas, midway through a season to be “jolly.” But for many people “jolly” is a mockery, if they are coping with loss.
That’s how I felt my first holiday season after my husband died. I dragged myself to a friend’s dinner party, where I tried to act normal. A joke was told. Everyone at the table laughed. I said,”Mel [my husband] would have liked that one.”
I had thrown a damp rag over their merriment. Was it no longer permissible to mention my husband? These had been his friends, too.
“Let’s keep this happy,” my host whispered.
In the years since then I’ve interviewed scores of bereaved men and women who had a similar experience. Perhaps speaking of one who’s gone reminds people of their own mortality. But mentioning my husband at that dinner party was my way of including him.
Each of us have to find our own way to keep that person with us, especially on holidays shared in the past. Some write a letter to that loved one, saying ,“I miss you,” but also telling about the ways you’re getting on with your new life.
Many people keep a photograph of the missing person visible. Actually, this isn’t doesn’t have to be limited to holidays. It’s helpful on any important occasion – birthdays, graduations, whatever. At my grandson’s bar mitzvah, a framed photo of his grandfather was prominently displayed. His words were also there, when a poem written by him was read aloud. It was the family’s way of saying,”You are with us..”
During my first months of widowhood, I was invited to a 30th anniversary party for my brother-and-sister-in-law. A wedding anniversary was the last thing I felt like celebrating. But this was my husband’s brother, who had been so caring of us. I consulted a bereavement counselor about my dilemma. Knowing how prone I am to guilt, he advised me to go. But he advised: “Make space for yourself within the socializing.”
At the party, where everyone was talking and laughing, I fell into a pit of loneliness. “Make space,” I remembered, and escaped outside to the garden. It was bathed in moonlight, and far above the stars were clear. Looking up at them I had a feeling my husband was up there in that immensity.. “Are you there?” i asked – and felt he was, and that he was still with me. I rejoined the party, no longer totally alone.
Wherever – and however – each you is at this difficult year’s ending, I wish you a new year of unexpected blessings.
(Adapted from “WIdow’s Walk”.)
BOOKS:: Widow’s Walk– iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow – xLibris.com; Role Play and Ten Women of Valor – CreateSpace.com and Amazon Kindle.