Dedicated To All Who Are Grieving The Loss Of A Loved One At Christmas
I am reposting this guest post written for me the year my Mother died by Lauren Rockwell – I am sure you will agree it is worth the repost. I dedicate it to all who are feeling the loss of a loved one this Christmastime
I have spent several weeks now wanting to “fill the gap” for Marie, and had hit a stall. I found myself wanting to write about the experience of the loss of a mother in a way that would comfort her. Yet every time I approached it, I started to think about how I felt in those early days when I had lost my own mother and I became consumed, distracted and overwhelmed with sadness. I was left trying to find inspiration and some kind of salve to offer, and not finding much of it for sure.
As Christmas approaches, a Facebook friend posted that she, being part of the motherless daughters club was really missing her mom. She noted that it had been 12 Christmas’s without her mom, and I thought, “Gosh it’s been 19 now for me.” There is nothing more true than when Mariah Carey sings, “I miss you most at Christmas time.”
My mom you see, was Little Miss Christmas. She handmade ornaments, baked her famous coconut pound cake, and she had all these kitschy ceramic trees and snowmen that lit up. Tiny little elves, (collected back then as a promo with dish soap) covered our house, snow was stenciled on the windows, and crafts were made from macaroni and gold paint. The house smelled of rib roast as we came in from church on Christmas Eve, and greenery was everywhere; on every railing it could find. Our house became this little insular bubble of joy at Christmas; it is the most special memory of my childhood.
I remember hearing once that we don’t ever get over losing someone, we just get used to not having them around. I suppose that may be true in some respects, but I am still not used to her being gone. Yet I have also found that I have a new kind of relationship with my mom; one where I do talk with her almost daily and imagine her reaction to things my kids have done, one where I imagine her on a bench in heaven giving milkbones to dogs and having a hand in looking over my kids.
I often see signs of her in my life, and choose to believe she is communicating to me with this new language that defines our new relationship; a relationship with her soul rather than with her physical being.
Once, while sitting weepy and alone on a beach, swarms of conch shells began to wash up. My mom, the ultimate shell seeker surely had a hand in it. Once, I had to leave a shopping mall when I was overcome with grief when I saw all the mothers and daughters Christmas shopping. It was raining as I sat in my car trying to collect myself and I looked up to see a brilliant rainbow…as a child my room was covered with rainbows. My mom is with me every day in the choices I make, in the way I parent, in what I do with my kids at the holidays and in the gratitude I experience for how she parented me. While I am not able to hug her anymore, she is still able to hug me.
Once, while at the cemetery my dad tells me he asked for a sign from my mom that she was okay and just like that, a squirrel popped up on her headstone. My mom always fed the squirrels as she worried about their ability to forage food in the deep snow of Maryland winters. My dad later asked his priest about what happened, asking him if he thought it was a sign from my mom and the priest said, “You asked for a sign and got it, why are you doubting that?”
So off me and my mom go into Christmas, baking her coconut pound cake with my kids in the glow of my ceramic Christmas trees. Her dish soap elves grin from my mantle and our handmade gifts sit under the tree awaiting gifting. Kitschy ornaments are being made, and my kids will experience the insular joy of the day as they run down our stairs; stairs with railings covered with greenery. We will smell the delightful and familiar smells of the season so hardwired to my comfort, and in all of this I will feel the hug of my mother, and my children will feel the hug of the grandmother they never met.
And her love, will come down all lovely, at Christmas.
No doubt about it.
Beautiful post. I lost my mother to cancer in 1992 and still miss her everyday. The pain never goes away, but it eases. Cancer hit my family again in 2001 when my younger sister was diagnosed at age 33 – one week after giving birth to her second daughter. We lost her in 2013. That pain is still raw. I see her so clearly in my mind and am thankful for the memories I have of her. So, like you, I continue holiday traditions we shared and hope she and my mom are with me in spirit.
Mary, I am so very sorry for your losses. Cancer is truly a scourge in our families. Wishing you peace and comfort. Marie
Marie thank you. I had forgotten I wrote this, and what a magical thing for you to do when this Christmas, I am grieving the loss of my beloved Pop. It reminds me of how lucky I am to have had their love. thank you.
I have never forgotten this gift you gave me Lauren – it meant so much to me four years ago.. and still does x
Laurie, Thank you for sharing. Yesterday was 5 years since the loss of my Mom to cancer. Over the years, I have lost my brother, father and mother all in the month of December. Tends to make the “season to be jolly” a little challenging but I always remember the words of my grandmother when we lost my father when I was only 16….”we must go on for those who are living”. She was a strong lady and without her I would not be who I am today. I always think of her and those words when I get down this time of year…she was always there for me and still is!!
My husbands mother died five years ago … Fortunately for us she was a famous opera singer and so we were able to listen to her sing her album of Christmas songs while we trimmed the tree… Something she loved to do… We are very lucky to be able to do this as if she is still with us … Memories
Thanks for sharing the story of your mother-in-law with us Helen. It’s so wonderful that you still feel her presence through her music.