In the past year, I’ve lost one of my best friends, my grandfather, and my illusion that I can keep my family safe.
It is that first loss, the one of my friend Lisa who was my best friend in Los Angeles and the woman who gave me a reason to move here from Connecticut when I was 24 years old, and who died suddenly at the age of 40 for no apparent reason, that first rocked my world and sent me into a tailspin of grief and loss and barely hanging on. Then my Grampa, who was in his 90′s and choked on a chicken sandwich and had a heart attack and left us suddenly, even though he had had a long, prosperous life that was full of love and sacrifice for his family.
That was two too many funerals for me to attend in a few months.
Then the shootings last week in Connecticut, where many people will attend 26 funerals in the space of a week.
When Lisa died her friends and family came together and filled a huge church. They keep her Facebook page alive with tributes. They fund charities and pour wine in the ground near her grave.
When my grandfather died people came from all around to pay respects. The wake was extremely long and I have no idea how my grandmother got through it with such grace and strength.
The entire world watches Newtown, CT and asks “Why?” and “What can we do to help?”
But at the end of the day, even in a crowd of people who love me, I can still feel alone in my grief. It’s actually a depression, that sense of no matter what you do or how much wonderfulness is around you, things are still really shitty. It feels like a giant hole has been cut out of my heart.
Over the past year I have climbed out of it, mostly, but when bad things happen, especially like Newtown, I plummet back down again. My friend said the other day that it seems like I’m stuck. I told her I didn’t think I need grief counseling, because it is normal to grieve. And what is normal, anyway? In America we really don’t have a framework for grieving. There isn’t a time period that is set aside, like maternity leave, for me to work through my emotions and then get back to the business of living.
I credit my children the most for giving me a reason to get out of bed and function. They need me, and I love them so much. I don’t know what my life would be like today if I didn’t have them.
Still, sometimes I feel terribly alone.
And here it is, Christmas again. It’s the second year I won’t be taking Kyle to Lisa’s house to bake cookies with his godmother, while I watch and drink her amazing chocolate martinis. It’s the first year in my entire life that I won’t be checking in with Grampa and hearing his gravelly voice with the Boston accent telling me to have a Merry Christmas.
Shake it off, I tell myself. Other people have it way, way worse. And then: be kind to yourself, I tell myself. That’s what everyone advises me to do.
I have learned that in my worst moments I should turn to other people. In fact, turning to my blog has helped a lot. I know that I have blogged a lot about Lisa and grief overall in the past year, and that sometimes this site is one huge pity party. But its primary purpose is to be a place for me to express myself, and that’s what’s going on right now.
The fact is that way too many people are going through similar things, and a lot of them have found solace by writing about it. I find solace in reading their words, at the same time that I am sad that we all have to be members of this awful club.
That’s why we started #HugsForTheHolidays, this movement of remembrance and support for people who are experiencing Christmas without their friend, parent, child, sibling, lover, or spouse.
My friend Mary lost her dad 12 years ago, and she writes:
I am living proof that it gets better, and that light will shine for you one day, and the tears won’t burn a hole in your sweater when they stream down your face, and the hole in your heart will not weigh you down to your knees.
Caught in this awful moment, even though I’m pulled out of myself by my wonderful, innocent, enthusiastic children, I find it hard to believe that there will be a day in the future that I will not feel such a conflict of emotions within. But I have more faith in Mary’s statement than I’ve had in anything else, mostly because her loss came before mine and now I know her as a vibrant force of life. And that’s what this blog link-up exercise is all about. If you share your story, you might help someone feel better, even for a second, and that’s a lot better than nothing.
We have multiple link-ups on the sites below, where you can comment and/or link up according to the type of loss with which you are dealing. We have also created a Pinterest board called Hugs for the Holidays and will be pinning many of your posts there as well, if you would like to follow it.
You can link up anything you would like to share about your lost loved one: a link to a Facebook photo/post, a blog post about a particular memory, a Pinterest pin sharing how you cope, whatever you would like others to read or see. The link ups will be displayed as follows:
If you have had a miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of an infant link here: fourplusanangel.com
If you have lost your mom link here: sandiegomomma.com
Your dad link here: mamamaryshow.com
Your sibling link here: myinnerchick.com
A child link here: aninchofgray.blogspot.com
A spouse here: gfunkified.com