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Grief during the holidays – You are not alone

Kentucky Gypsy | Holiday Grief | 1
Christmas 2015 – my niece, Cora, and I

For those of you, like me, who are grieving through the holidays and you feel like you want to just fast forward to New Year’s Day…

Remember, you are not alone.

For those of you who are battling depression through the holidays… Remember, you are not alone. And if you’re witnessing someone else go through these things – I realize it can be hard for everyone.

There are lots of mornings I wake up thinking I want to cancel Christmas… It goes back and forth every few days or even hours. You would never know this about me because my house looks like Santa’s workshop and Michael Buble has become a regular guest. Regardless, that isn’t an option. During these times, it feels like everything is a reminder of my loss. Even if it’s something new and completely unrelated. I am going through the hardest time of the year and several things are flying around my mind at all times – gratitude, compassion, anxiety, doubt, excitement… It’s a mind fuck.

I realize that those close to me have no idea what I’m going through.

But I’m reminded daily of the support system I have.

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December 2017 –  my brothers and sister-n-law
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December 2017 – my brother and sister-n-law

Hugs and a simple text go such a long way. Compassion is so incredibly important.

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December 2017 – my brother and I

People keep asking me if I’m okay… because I’m not myself – too quiet or they see side effects of the social anxiety I seem to have developed.

Is it hard to share that, YES. But that was the point of starting my blog. To share with others about my experience…

I initially started writing because a) I was scared of it but b) I knew that if my words could help even one person feel comforted about what they’re going through – it was worth the vulnerability. Well, after the first handful of truths, I have already succeeded, so here I am again. Writing about things that matter to me… that’s true to my experience.

 

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Christmas 2012 – my mom and I

My mom started prepping for Christmas months in advance. Recently, I actually found a spreadsheet with all of the kid’s names on it with Christmas lists and what she had already bought so she could keep track. This list also included her girlfriends and even a list of appetizers she wanted to be sure to make. She was always so prepared – every little detail of wrapping, cards, present toppers, and stocking stuffers… Perfect. I swear our house could be featured in Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Edition for the amount of beautiful decor that went up.

 

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Christmas 2012 – my niece, my sister-n-laws, my mom,  and I

I feel like from December 15 all the way through Christmas dinner,  there was something scheduled with family, friends, or both. Dinner parties or bowling, shopping or making cookies. Mother-daughter lunch dates with her girlfriends. Food, wine, and smiles never really ran out. And she and I seemed to be attached at the hip.

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When I lived in LA, I didn’t come home nearly enough. Or stay long enough. The first year, I came back for 3 weeks. In 2015 it was barely 5 days. I always crammed as much as I possibly could into the time I had. How many friends and parties could I make? Lunches with former teachers and local artists. I somehow managed time for friends in Louisville too.

In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done any of that – and spent every second with mom.

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Christmas 2011

I try not to think about it too much. Sometimes it’s hard to block out the regrets. I’d do anything to have stayed 3 weeks and come home several times a year. Thinking back on the holidays in the years before I moved, to how they are now is pretty upsetting – so much has changed.

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Christmas 2011

But there is also so much to be grateful for…

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Christmas 2015

Last year was the first time without her. It was pretty tough. I started dreading it just after Halloween and by December 1st, I was a complete mess. And by that, I mean I drank as much as possible each night and cried my eyes out each day. I chose to spend Christmas day alone because the thought of spending it with my brothers and their kids was really overwhelming. It was everything that I wanted to do with mom. And just too sad to do without her.

Christmas to me means one thing – MOM. It has for my whole life.  

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Christmas 2015 – the last photo taken of us before she was diagnosed

For a long time – I had a lot of trouble remembering anything besides what happened in the two months of caretaking. It’s like my whole life of happy memories with her disappeared for the first year. It goes in waves. But when I do the things that she liked to do – happy memories come back – like decorating the house for Christmas.

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My current home in Lexington

Each ornament that she gifted me and that I made as a little girl is so incredibly important. X4 for 4 kids… (and now 11 with my sister n laws and nieces and nephews) We decorated her beautiful tree with these memory trinkets- Every. Single. Year.

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Christmas 2015 – mom, my nephew and my sister-n-law

I especially enjoy making the appetizers that she always made. Just opening her cookbook gives me so much comfort.

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My brother made exact replicas of her coveted cookbook – one for each us.

I have to accept that I will never share a relationship with a person the way I did with her and that the magic of my childhood Christmas must somehow shift to something new. Things will never be the same.  

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Christmas circa 1991

During these holidays, I sometimes feel a lot of pressure that I should be happier, or more positive or more energetic… I’m not those things all of the time. As to being scared of sharing these truths – the things that I am most scared of in life usually turn out to be some of the most rewarding things in my life. It’s therapeutic to let it out.

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Christmas 2011

I can’t go back in time. I remind myself that my mother always encouraged me to catch my dreams and be the social butterfly that I am – like her. The friendships that I strengthened in those times spent with my girlfriends, sometimes over family, are now my backbone.

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my best friends from high school
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my childhood best friend
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my best friend in LA

Those jobs that I couldn’t leave in LA to come home from, laid the framework of my growing portfolio and molded me into who I have become. Surrounding myself with people who remind me of her helps too. Her friends. My family.

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Try not to be so hard on yourself.

Give yourself a break, and a hug.

I have to remind myself of this on the reg.

 

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mom took this photo of my brother and I

 

Time to make new memories. Hold onto the old ones. You really have to feel into what is going on in your times of happy and sad. Don’t hold anything back. Say things aloud. Telling memories of her make me happy.

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It’s times when I have to suppress these thoughts that things get bad. It’s times that bringing up the fact that the worst thing that could have possibly happened to me – has already happened – makes other people uncomfortable. And you’d be surprised at how much I have to deal with that.

In spite of that risk, you have to talk about it, talk about it, talk about it.

Make sure when you talk about it – your friends or whoever know that you aren’t leaning on them for answers or a solution – but that you just need them to listen.

Bottling it up leads to bad. Drinking too much leads to bad. Especially around the holidays. Surround yourself with those who are compassionate. The world needs more of it.

 

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December 2017 – my roommate who has become like a little sister to me

 

Circumstances are out of your control. You are in control of you and that is all.

 

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Christmas 2016

 

But tomorrow, at my annual Christmas party, I’ll try and be in control of the appetizers.