• Sat, Nov 25 2006

The first holiday after my mother’s death

I’ve tried several times to write about the first holiday season without my mother. But, for some reason, the words don’t come out when I sit down to type. It’s not that I’m overcome with grief or anything, it’s just that it’s all so weird to have to find a new “rhythm” if you will.

It’s one thing to speculate what the first holidays after someone’s death will be like, but, it’s another thing to live them. Television and other media would have you believe that something dramatic and inspiring occurs at the dinner table to honor your loved one and happy tears are shed as you fade into commercial break.

Truthfully? The actual day of Thanksgiving was pretty uneventful both physically and emotionally.

We usually go to my husband’s family gather for Thanksgiving, and, this year my father went with us. I think I was so hung up on how that was going to go over, that I didn’t have time to think about the situation.

Things went fine, my dad was a little quiet, but, he said he had fun. Then again, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise at that gathering, so, I guess “quiet” is just what most people do there. And, since holding it in is just what we do (yeah, I know) there wasn’t a heart to heart “how are you holding up?” kind of thing. C’mon he’s a Marine and I’m just repressed…

Anyway, it wasn’t until the next day that I had any sort of a hard time with it. I’m not even sure that it was entirely about my mother, but, whatever it was, it kind of came out of the blue. It must have hit my father, too, because in a telephone conversation, he brought up the fact that he doesn’t have much family left (he came from kind of a big family) in reference to having friends perform tasks during the funeral that he feels family “normally” does.

We talked a little bit about expanding one’s definition of “family” since the people he works with are really part of the family even though Mr. Marine doesn’t like depending on other people. I know I couldn’t have done it without them when he had his surgery and they were all right there for us when my mother died. He seemed to take that in and sounded better.

Christmas may be another story for us, I’m not sure. Thanksgiving may have been easier because we got away from our usual setting and it was new and different, but, Christmas will be the same routine we have always done, so, it will be more apparent that my mother isn’t there.

I’m still trying to thing of a new twist we can add to Christmas just to make it a little bit different. It’s not that I’m trying to ignore the fact that she’s gone, I’d just like to have something small that signifies a new tradition.

However, I think part of me wants to try to make my father not sad during the holidays even though that’s not logical. Part of me wants to try to make me not sad, too. I guess we’ll just take it as it comes, and, most likely we’ll do all the same stuff we’ve always done.

In a way, though, I think Christmas will be OK because she had been sick for a couple of years, and, we had some time to gradually get used to her not being around as she was able to do less and less each year. As a matter of fact, Christmas Day 2005 was the last time she ever came to my house, and, I knew it would be when she walked out the door. I think the whole scenario would be entirely different if her death had been unexpected.  

Also, new on the agenda is the fact that I guess I’m going to have to take over her Christmas card list. I always had to give her 10-12 copies of the kids’ Christmas pictures for her cards, but, I’m not sure who all she sent them to. I know they are mostly people from her past who are still hoping to get pictures of my children and that my father isn’t likely to do it.

Speaking of Chirstmas cards, I suppose we’ll get at least one or two from people who don’t know she died. I wonder what that’s like for my father to still have to tell people about her death?

Know what else is interesting?  More Internet friends than 3 dimentional friends have checked on and supported me in the past few days. I don’t quite know what to make of that just yet, but, I am learning from it, and, I hope I can be in a position to help someone else going through this someday.

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  • http://www.the-petset.com Kim

    So sorry about your loss. It’s the “everyday-ness” that is one of the first things to hit after the passing of a parent…not so much something grand and profound.

    After my mother’s passing we began very slowly to create new “traditions” and I began to travel around the the holidays…which my be a little to dramatic a step…but the simplest way approach this is with new recipies…find a new dinner or cookie recipie that you can call your own.

    Best of luck with the Christmas holidays.

  • http://tripleventi.blogspot.com Latte Man

    Glad to hear that everybody held up so well through the holiday.

    Christmas (as you have already alluded to) will almost certainly be more difficult, but I think it has more to do with the Holiday, than the “location.”

    It is a tough making decisions when you don’t know how each one will be accepted. I like the idea that you had of coming up with a “new tradition” but it can be difficult for some, that will react as if you are “too quickly” putting the past “behind” and “forgetting” about the one who is no longer with you.

    I know, because although I try NOT to be that person, I still have this tendency to want to do things exactly as my father did them before me. Heck, this year I even had people notice that I carved the turkey in the exact same manner my father used to. How specific do you have to be to be able to cut meat, place it on a platter and have people be able to recognize how it was cut. But most of the time, I don’t realize until after that I am doing this.

    This is my long (and rambling) way of saying the new traditions are good, but don’t try and force them, just for the sake of having them.

    As for the Internet vs. 3-D friends, I really don’t think you probably need to make much of it either way. In both worlds you have people that talk, and people who sometimes remain reticent just because they don’t know how to approach the subject. Doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Plus I bet if you put down in percetages the people you know in both “worlds” and how many approached you, I bet the numbers would be fairly comparable.

    And for the record, I think this blog is already a fantastic step for people that need help dealing with the situation in the future, and even those like me, that can revisit, validate (or re validate as the case may be) thoughts emotions etc. It is tough enough to have to deal with the emotions, but to be able to also catalog and present them, is amazing.

  • http://sistasmiff.typepad.com Sista Smiff

    Sometimes doing some things a little different is helpful. It doesn’t have to be a grand something different.

    I’ve watched my mother go through the long illnesses and deaths of two husbands, now…she didn’t/doesn’t want to face so many firsts…first holidays, first seeing this friend because it made her think of Dad and reminded her things were different, it would just be too hard, etc.
    I think facing the firsts and letting them be whatever they are is healthy. If it makes you cry or sad…good. That’s a normal and healthy emotion. My mom didn’t want to face those normal, healthy emotiones (which are not fun ones)and ended up becoming totally shut off from all their friends. She won’t even talk to her family members on the phone anymore. She prefers total solitude.

    I’m not saying you or your dad run the risk of becoming like my mother (eek) but don’t try to avoid the sadness. Roll with it. That sting eventually goes away.

    As for the internet friends, it’s easier to send an email than to have a personal, face to face contact. I remember when my dad died, how often I would see people for the first time I hadn’t seen since before he died, and they wouldn’t even mention the fact he had died, that they were sorry, etc. It’s not because they don’t care. People don’t like to see other people cry and people are afraid they’ll make you cry if they mention it.

    Divorce and death bring out the worst in people. They just don’t know how to respond to it.

    And this is very long and I’m so sawry.

  • http://tinykingdom.typepad.com Anne Glamore

    We printed out a little piece of paper to slip inside cards for the out of towners we thought wouldn’t know of my mom’s death. I’m happy to give you that wording if it would help.

    Since I was helping my dad last year, I didn’t do any myself, so now i have to tell my out of town friends, a year after the fact.

    I am dreading Xmas.

  • Larisa

    Glad to hear your dad did ok during Thanksgiving. I was dreading it, too.
    And BTW, you are already helping someone else ;)

  • http://sittingstill.typepad.com Nicole

    Maybe your new tradition can be some acknowledgement of her life? Not blatant, necessarily (like “let’s all talk about how sad we are that she’s gone”) as that wouldn’t do for the Marine and the repressed.

    But say she liked gingerbread the best. Maybe you make gingerbread cookies and deliver them in the neighborhood. Or play a CD of her favorite Christmas songs. Just a thought.

  • http://cariadsrealm.net/journal Lynne

    I’m having the same feelings as you. Although I think it will be easier for me, since I’ve lived so far away from my parents for so long. That’s not to say I won’t miss her, but it’s been a while since we were actually together on Christmas.
    Like you, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it ‘less sad’ for my dad. I know he’s dreading Dec. 25th. I’m really at a loss as to what to do for him, and what to say. I’m hoping closer to the day I’ll find something profound to say and hope my kids will be able to make him smile with a phone call.

    I’ve been meaning to drop by here for a week or so to tell you about this site http://val-thomas.gonetoosoon.co.uk/ (that one is my mom) – not sure if it’s your thing, but my dad was quite pleased to see my mom on the web. I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I like the idea of a page for her.

  • Sherry

    I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my mother this year on Valentines Day in a tragic house fire. I felt a lot like you did on Thanksgiving. My parents were divorced, but it really hurt my father when mom died.
    Maybe with starting a new tradition, you could do something in her honor. Something that she loved to do. I am going to try to do the same. See if your father would like to help you. It might bring back some very happy memories of your mother.
    I wish you and your family the best this holiday season.

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