Deck the Halls?-Dealing with Grief During the Holidays

Not so merry and bright? Find out how I discovered my holiday spirit during a difficult time.

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas?

I’m not going to lie. Holidays are a difficult time for me. Emotionally speaking. I’m a bit of a Grinch. I find the season over-commercialized, wasteful and just a little bit tacky. I know, Bah Humbug. There ARE certain things I find charming like: little boys dressing up in clip on ties for school concerts, Bailey’s and chai tea (Thanks, Sue), baking treats from recipes that have been in the family for generations and receiving updated family pictures from friends out West.

Additionally, I’ve had some significant personal losses that have put a dent in the shiny veneer of the season. Specifically, one of my best friends died, unexpectedly, on Christmas. And, well, my Mom isn’t with us any longer to spoil us rotten with her love and joy for the holidays. She was a faith-driven, cheer-making machine. Still, I do my utmost to ensure that my boys feel the magic and sense of wonder that I was given as a child.

Holiday magic may feel in short supply when you are grieving

Fake It ’til You Make It

We write letters to Santa and bake cookies. Pick out a tree at a local tree lot. We watch Elf and the Peanuts Christmas Special. More importantly, we celebrate our Christmas Eve baby’s birthday. He once told me that he was almost Jesus…just born a day too early. Such sweet innocence. Having a birthday close to the holidays can be a real downer. We make sure that Levi is celebrated with cake and gifts. No combo presents for our charming prince. However, always at the edge, just slightly out of sight, lurks a melancholy for people and places that are no longer with us.

A Blue, Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas

15 years ago, a flood destroyed the contents of our basement. It included my Christmas decorations and tree ornaments. Precious and irreplaceable. It was rather devastating. That event launched me into a span of collecting and hoarding ornaments. I would snap up baubles at sales and haunt craft shows for replacements. Purely an emotional response. I know now that it’s the FEELING I was trying to recapture, not the actual ornaments.

Now, this is my idea of a Blue Christmas!

As a result, I amassed a vast collection of, as I see it now, crap. Plastic crap. Glass crap. Wooden crap. Reindeer-themed crap. Red and green-coloured crap. I would DREAD pulling out the Christmas bins for decorating. Everything was in a jumble. It was a representation of how I feel about the holidays. There was no magic, no joy. Only stress as stuff was unpacked, without order or honour, to put on the tree.

“Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me.”

Organizing Ornaments is Good for the Soul

So, last year I decided enough was enough. I purged, I donated and I tossed decorations. It was a scene straight from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 version). I only kept what I loved and truly precious pieces. Popsicle stick trees, glittery handprints on construction paper, inherited vintage balls, my parent’s tree topper from the 70’s (in the original packaging) and the like. It was liberating. And, I felt something. A small warmth in my chest. Something like my heart growing three sizes.

Actual depiction of heart growing sweeter

I picked up lovely holiday-themed boxes for storage. Wrapped breakables in tissue paper. Labeled. I wrote the origin stories of some of the older pieces. It was like visiting with loved ones over a hot cup of tea. I took my time. Remembered. I cried and laughed. And, I cherished the memories of the PEOPLE associated with the ornaments. A funky shoe from Linda, Baby’s First Christmas from Mom, a beaded spider of my Nan’s, a single, pink glass ball that belonged to my great aunt Iona.

The process truly helped me in dealing with the grief I feel during the holidays. I have something to look forward to instead of dreading. When I finally cave and bring the Christmas bins out of storage, I will play Boney M’s Christmas album (1981), pour myself a spiced rum & eggnog and appreciate my beautiful AND well organized ornaments. I will always (ALWAYS) miss my loved ones but now have small, colourful reminders of them hanging on my tree every year.

These former glass globes of grief are now beauteous balls of blessedness.

Need Help With Decking Your Halls?

Do you need help untangling lights, sorting Santa’s and jangling your jingle bells? Contact Kelly and let’s sort it out together. I promise to keep my grinchy, scroogy ways to myself. I’ll even wear an elf hat and break out my pointy shoes!

Yours in All Things Sorted,

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