Grief is Grief, Holiday Madness

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

. . . and every day. When you have a seriously elfed up year, that’s pretty much how you roll.

Image by iSTOCK photo

There’s no way to candy cane sugarcoat this. If you were hoping for a ‘ho ho ho’ holiday, you’ll have to wait a year. Though hopefully we each found our share of happy moments, the year itself was an epic suck. Of course, we’ve all had a few-less than merry Christmases. In fact, many have seen some pretty tough entire years. But this one was definitely uncharted territory full of mask mandates, scary death tolls and toilet paper wars. One thing is sure, the year was certainly one for the books — and the holidays are its last chapter.

Will this be the year that creepily cheerful Elf-on-the-Shelf goes on strike? Who could blame him if he did? No matter how the halls are decked with sanitizer, the double-jointed imp might take a pass, leaving tired parents to explain why the obsequious little tattletale never showed. Then again, they might be a tad relieved that the little sucker decided to snooze the season out. Traditions die hard but, but given the year, if a sprite does show, I suspect it will be Chuckie.

No one ever promised a holly, jolly sugarplum world. Even the most glittering of holiday trees hide their share of crawly things among the branches — just to keep you on your toes. Somewhere, along life’s highway, Christmas carols hit a sour note, and our innocent beliefs in magical reindeers and sleighs go the way of childhood. This year, though, you have a hall pass from DIY’ing the perfect holiday. It’s just not that kind of year.

“There’ll be no more sorrow, no grief and pain and I’ll be happy Christmas once again” The Eagles

I have a pretty good idea about holidays that somehow aren’t all that. When my husband died a few years ago, two months before Christmas, it topped my list of terrible, no good, very bad times. This year, thanks to COVID-19, many will suffer their own heartbreaking holiday. To those who lost loved ones, every year thereafter will be Christmas 2.0. There’s no way to sidestep life-changing grief; no magic wand to erase a pandemic. But, I suspect those grieving loss this year from that pandemic would be the first to say, give every precaution your best shot. Giving up a holiday group hug for one year, skipping the major feast and trading in mistletoe for a mask, don’t seem like the biggest ask. Compared with a deadly viral alternative, missing one Norman Rockwell holiday seems like a piece of cake. Okay, maybe not fruitcake because that’s too easy, but you get the message.

“What is Christmas? It’s tenderness for the past, courage for the present and hope for the future.” Agnes M. Pharo

For just this one year, dial your idea of holiday perfect down a notch or three, and leave Hallmark-perfection at the back door. Instead of dinner for 12, think bubbles or pods. Rethink the big ham and all the trimmings. Sit apart. Wear the mask. Remember when your kid got that brightly papered, be-ribboned 10-speed under the tree? I’m quite sure your face isn’t the hardest thing to wrap.

Our Healthcare Heroes are burned out. They are overworked and many too exhausted to celebrate, even if they were off duty and able to. For some people, those driving buses, delivering mail, working in law enforcement like the awesome woman I call ‘my person’, holidays have never been ‘normal’. So this landmark year, if we want a fair shot at making next Christmas, let alone making it ‘normal’ again, we need to fight the virus – together. Ditch the political protest about mask wearing. It’s lame — and dangerous. The life you save may be your own, as well as those you love.

“Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?  It’s a wonderful life.”

How do we celebrate the ‘right way’? Pretty simple really. Just remember what the holiday is all about – and celebrate accordingly. ‘Tis the season’ to be respectful of everyone’s beliefs and traditions, not just our own. Add a pile of kindness, acceptance, generosity and understanding. During this frightening pandemic, more than any other year, there are bigger things to get our tinsel in a tangle over than politics, religion or how holiday wishes are shared. Whether you say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Hanukah or Kwanzaa, words count. Kindness counts. How you share yourself – counts.

Welcome, Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Hope is the operative word this year. Without it, how could we imagine normal again, let alone another Christmas. We can grieve what we lost, while also remembering what we’ve gained — in wisdom, patience and generosity. Resting Grinch face or bigger helpings of gratitude? You decide. Even in this divided, often frightening time, maybe we can take a stab at our own ‘Grown Up Christmas’ list:

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
.

We have to start somewhere.

Life changes on a dime and holidays can, too, especially in a time when things change by the day. To everyone suffering illness, economic loss or food insecurity, Christmas is just one day. To those missing a loved one, though, that empty chair will be there every day. Sure, we miss ‘better days’ of meeting friends, big-time hugging and holidays gone by, but they will come again for us. But for those whose losses require much more than celebrating-as-usual, there’s not a simple Hallmark holiday fix.

Yes, I’ll be ‘Home Alone‘ this Christmas (with masked drive-by, drop-ins from kids and grands). But, I’ve lived through more loss than just a single magically delicious holiday to be crying in my eggnog. So, here’s my holiday menu: Try to fill stockings with gratitude. Wear that mask and stay socially distant because that’s the only way we’ll unwrap a better new year. Look out for others — and know that you’re loved.

Merry Christmas, peeps!

5 thoughts on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”

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