We’ve all been there. My fellow club members know what I’m talking about.
(For those of you wondering what club this is-don’t worry-it’s not one you voluntarily join. It’s for us poor sods who have lost a loved one or more.)
Shout out to all my grief warriors–I’ve had one of those holidays–the type where you not only scare the family members, but also yourself.
Holidays can be an intense trigger for those of us burnt by the fire of grief. We try our best to move forward, but grief throws the worst surprise parties. It’s tricky and clever knowing just when to jump out and yell, “Hey! I never left!”
This Thanksgiving was one for the books (but a book I would like to misplace on purpose). This one included anger in the kitchen that could rival Gordon Ramsay, a throwback to closet crying and plans being changed in my honor.
My M.O. is to carry out the holidays in the same Martha Stewart fashion like my mother did. Only I will always fall short of her perfection–which makes me feel like I failed. Then I miss her more: her expertise, her advice and her love. I feel the pressure to prepare, carryout and cook all the holiday meals and festivities, just as she did to carry on the traditions and recipes long past down.
This holiday season brought with it a sprinkle of anxiety over this year’s current cancer scare, a dollop of fatigue due to low hemoglobin from having pints of blood drawn twice a month thanks to my new blood disorder, a pinch of sadness over my late aunt’s birthday and one year anniversary of her death and a dash of holiday blues from my parent’s absence. Sing it with me, “ Fa la la la la, la la la la!”
My emotions have been erratic: happy, sad, frustrated, angry, and numb. All of these at drop of a hat. When I ponder what’s wrong with me, I think, “Maybe it’s hormonal. Yea, I’m not crazy– maybe my hormones are off.” Then I think, “If my hormones are off maybe it’s the cancer brewing in my ovaries?” Which inevitably leads to “Oh my God, I have cancer.” And ends with, “I miss my mom.”
It takes very little to spark a mood change lately. And when my emotions take flight, flying this way and that, my husband is usually the landing strip. Luckily for me (and our family), he is experienced in taming the feral animal I become when stress-induced grief takes over. He is there to soothe the savage beast raging inside me with a smothering hug of love (think thunder jacket for dogs), a box of tissues for the copious tears and snot, or to take over as chef before pots and pans go soaring through the kitchen.
I’ve been told by several people in the past two months, that they are surprised at how well I remember things like their MD appointments, to bring chocolate to co-workers who I know are having a hard day or to call or send a card when a difficult anniversary is coming up–when I have so much going on myself. I think it’s because– I get it. I get the fear at an upcoming doctor’s appointment or procedure. I get the sadness creeping up before a holiday and anniversary. I get the frustration in trying to deny grief any headspace only to lose and feel more out of control.
Well, it felt selfish to do so, but I turned away all my usual friends and family phone calls on Thanksgiving. It was my way of telling myself, “It’s okay to not be okay.” Instead of faking happy on the phone, I just didn’t pick up. Though I did call one person back– my Aunt Jeanne. She got the flat affect holiday Cara, who barely held in the tears at the sound of her voice. AJ has always given good advice in her loving, blunt Jersey way. She told me there was too much going on medically and emotionally to expect an easy turkey day. She said, “Today may just be a drinkin day, Cara-Kins!” she said jokingly. Oh, and that my repeated blood draws were turning me in a psycho. She made me laugh. She also knows how to handle me.
A cousin of mine sent me a text to let me know my emotions were understandable. “Holidays are complicated without medical concerns; so full of expectations and nostalgia.” She said I reminded her Nessie from The Ballad of Nessie. I had never seen this Disney short, so I looked it up online. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a great five-minute video on how important it is to not be afraid to cry. Sometimes tears can form a bridge to healing or a better path. Also, too, how much a kind word or offering of support can mean to someone during a difficult time. Moral of the story—Be a Nessie!
I debated whether to post this. To admit to having an imperfect holiday caused by yours truly. But after reading Nora McInerny Purmort’s memoir, It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too), I learned the power and purpose to writing in the heat of grief. My first memoir was written, mostly, in hindsight with the help of my trusty journals. She began writing her memoirs right after losing her husband, father and unborn child, creating a memoir that was intensely raw, honest and sincere. She harnessed her raging emotions and put them into words for others battling grief to know—it’s okay to not be okay. Grief is messy and can’t be scheduled to appear when it’s most convenient for us. So in honor of Nora’s courage, I decided to also write, in the post-apocalyptic thanksgiving aftermath my anger and tears caused.~~~ Because We Find Strength in Each Other ~~~
Any of you grief warriors out there have a similar holiday meltdown??
I’ve included these poignant, yet contrasting quotes on grief.
The first one I identified with.
The second one, my friend sent me, and though it is beautiful, it is hard for me, yet, to see grief this way on my bad days.