My first birthday after my mom died was my 11th birthday. The end of November and beginning of December of that year my family spent time trying to recreate the same kind of experience that my mom did yearly. On the night before the birthday party, I wouldn’t stop crying and saying that I didn’t want to have the party anymore.
I was hurting for a reality that as a child I’d assumed was promised to me – birthdays with a mom who put the party favors together. Instead I got a team of cousins and uncles, all trying to convince me that the day would be fun and that I was going to be okay.
I had my birthday party that year, but alongside the joy of blowing out candles after Happy Birthday was sung in two languages, was my quiet acknowledgement that the window of time between November and January would suck for me.
I’m not blind to all the good that I have in my life. I’m not turning away from the many blessings I can list during Thanksgiving dinner.
I am demanding that the quiet pain that I feel during the holidays not be ignored for the sake of pretending that a fake it till you make it mentality works when the feelings run this deep.
I know that this is what maneuvering unpaved roads is supposed to feel like. I’m not the only person who has lost a mom, a loved one, but I am the only dealing with my unique, daily, lived experience. This road is new for me, yearly. Every year brings its own lived experiences that influence the nature of how I approach the holidays. This year I’m 24, rethinking the dynamics of so many of my relationships, and wishing I had a mom to talk to.
Whether you’re dealing with missing a loved one during the holidays, family issues, a recent breakup, or the breakdown of your closest friend group, the holiday season – for all its warmth and vibrant colors – is still a season like every other. It’s full of stillness, growth, happiness, and some pain.
The growing comes with pain and isn’t undone simply because mistletoe is hung in doorways. Give yourself permission to hurt during the season. Give yourself the time to maneuver through the unexpected curve balls.
This holiday season I’ve promised myself to take it all one day at a time (sometimes, one minute at a time). I’m working my way towards accepting the magnitude of a 15th death anniversary, and it’s proving a lonelier experience than I could have ever imagined. There’s been a lot of writing and a lot of reliving the memories that only I have.
All year we train for this marathon. Pace yourself. Forget the timer and focus on reminding yourself that the finish line is on the other side of the new year.