Yesterday my son took a Christmas music box my mother gave him off the shelf and stared at it. He turned it on. He watched it.
He’s eight years old. He’s a child who wants to act like a man.
I knew what was going to happen before it happened – the way a mother does. I felt the ripples of grief move up and down his body even though nothing had changed on the outside.
“Mom, can I speak to you in private please,” he said, like a man in a child’s body.
As soon as we were alone, he collapsed in my arms. “I miss grandma so much. I am never going to see her again.”
My mother died 17 months, one week and two days ago (but whose counting). This is our second Christmas without her. I did my masters in psychology with a focus on grief counseling, so I have the benefit of knowing the second of everything is usually harder than the first, when it comes to grief.
Watching my son walk this journey in grief has been a gift. Don’t get me wrong, I’d give anything for him not to feel the pain he feels at my mother’s passing. They were incredibly close. She understood him the way I fear I never will.
Little M honors his grief. He gives it its space, and although his need to be a man affects where and when he cries, he does not judge the time or space he needs to heal. He is sad when he is sad. And he is also perfectly fine with laughing hysterically on the way to school 5 minutes later. He sees nothing wrong with enjoying life alongside his grief. There are no “shoulds” in his process.
Grief has no set path. There are no rules of engagement, as much as some of us wish there were. And as much as this holiday season is one that is filled with joy and love and peace, it is often the point in the year that hits a grieving person the hardest.
I miss my mom like hell. I watch the families near me who have lost so much more and feel a deep sadness that we live in a world that creates so much pain. I also love dreaming about my children’s faces when they open their BIG Christmas gift. I’m excited for my daughter’s first Irish Dance recital. I am happy about their future.
I am going to love more this holiday season, not despite my grief, but because of it. Because grief reminds me of what I truly value.
If you are feeling grief because of a loss you understand or for no good reason at all, be gentle with yourself. Allow it to flow and be as it is. That flow will bring you back to joy and peace, I promise. And if you can’t quite believe that right now, I want you to know I am praying for you. I have been in that darkness. Maybe not your darkness but that place where it feels like happiness will never return. So I can hold that faith for you, even if you can’t.
And if you are one of those blessed people who is free from grief this year, I celebrate that with you and wish you many years of the same! I know you are probably holding the candle of faith for someone else right now, and that is a beautiful gift. Thank you.
No matter where you are – may peace and light, love and joy find their way to you this holiday season