Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Changes

It's hard to believe, but another Christmas has come and gone.  This was the third one without Eddie, and each has been different.  I expected the first one to be hard, hoped the second one would be a little easier, and didn't know what to expect this year.  Of course I was right about the first year - it was a very difficult, emotional time.  I didn't want to decorate, shop, bake, or do any of the things I had done in the past.  I managed a scaled back version of all of these things because of Trey and Emily.  If it hadn't been for them I probably would have skipped Christmas altogether.  We had a lot of company on Christmas Eve that year which helped.  Then Trey, Emily, Mama, and Daddy all spent the night.   Emily had her Santa Claus Christmas morning, and that kept us all busy.  As the day went on though everyone gradually left, and I spent Christmas night alone for the first time in my life.  It was then that I gave in to a little period of self pity, which I think is okay as long as you don't do it too often or for too long.

I had read and heard from others that the second year after a loss is sometimes harder than the first, so I tried to prepare for that.  I wouldn't say the second Christmas was any harder, but it wasn't easier either - it was just different.  This time we were having Emily's Santa Claus and all of our company on Christmas day, so no one spent the night on Christmas Eve (though Mama did offer).  Again I did something for the first time in my life - I woke up alone on Christmas morning.  I know there are plenty of people who do that every year, but when it happens for the first time in 49 years it's a very lonely, empty feeling.  Of course, once everyone arrived the rest of the day was very busy so there wasn't time for self pity, which was a good thing.

No one ever says anything about the third year after a loss, so I was on my own to find out what this Christmas would be like.  I took it as a good sign that I wanted to decorate more than in the past two years, and I certainly didn't scale back my shopping this year!  I also made a decision to do something special for Trey, which ended up helping me a great deal in the process.  I put together a photo album of Eddie starting with our wedding day.  I spent hours going through old pictures deciding which ones to include.  This was the first time since his death that I had really looked at pictures of him (other than the ones around the house), and I actually found myself smiling and even laughing at some of the memories.  I didn't want the album to be depressing for Trey, so I wrote a lot of funny captions and added some silly stickers to the pictures.  Once I finished, I looked at the album from beginning to end several times before I wrapped it.  The memories brought tears to my eyes but made me feel good at the same time.  I gave the album to Trey on Christmas Eve while Eddie's dad was here so they could look at it together.  Of course it made them cry, but they also shared some laughter, which I think was good for both of them.

The big difference in this Christmas was that we spent Christmas morning at Trey's house.  Another first for me since we'd had Christmas at our house from the time Trey was born 27 years ago.  It was a good change though because it gave us the chance to start making new memories in a new place.  Sometimes traditions need to be changed after a loss, and I think it made Trey proud to have us in his home Christmas morning.  There was a lot to be thankful for with my 96 year old grandmother, my mother, my father, Trey, and Emily all there - five generations together at the same time isn't something that many people get to experience.  I know these are new, happy Christmas memories that we will all cherish for the rest of our lives.

"Every day we live is a priceless gift of God, loaded with possibilities to learn something new, to gain fresh insights."  Dale Evans Rogers

"This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 112:24

"Today is unique.  It has never occurred before and it will never be repeated.  At midnight it will end, quietly, suddenly, totally.  Forever.  But the hours between now and then are opportunities with eternal possibilities." Charles Swindoll

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Moving Forward

I went back last night and for the first time read what I've written from the beginning.  There's been so much else going on lately that I couldn't remember where I left off in telling my original story.  I was surprised to find that reading it all wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  I cried a few times.  I even laughed a couple of times.  But mostly I just remembered, and as I read I realized how far I've come since "that night".  I know that I'm still not over what happened, and I probably never will be.  I really don't think you ever get over losing someone you love.  Actually I'm not even sure what being "over" it means.  It's not like reading a book or watching a movie.  When those are over you're finished with them.  You don't dwell on them, and they don't stay with you for the rest of your life.  But life isn't a book or a movie - when a loved one dies, we're not finished with them.  They do stay with us for the rest of our life.  They become a part of who and what we are, and that's a good thing.  So getting over what happened isn't a goal of mine anymore. 

My two goals when I started writing were to help myself move forward with my life and to possibly help others who might be going through something similar in their lives.  I think I've made a great deal of progress toward the first goal.  Writing about what happened, what it did to me, what I did and said, how I felt and still feel has truly helped me.  I've written things that I never shared with anyone before - not my family, not my closest friends, not even the counselor or pastor I was seeing.  Sharing these things has lightened some of the burden I was carrying and has allowed me to start moving on with my life - not my life as it was before but a new life.  I know I can benefit from continuing to write though because I'm not where I want to be yet.  Hopefully I'll know when I get there!   

Sometime in the near future I would like to focus more on the second goal.  I've heard from people over the past few months who have read what I've written.  Some of them have told me that something I said inspired them or gave them strength.  Some said they were just relieved to find out someone else thought or felt the same as they did.  Others have shared similar experiences they had in their life.  I'm thankful for any little bit of good my story has done for someone else, and I would like to find a way to do more.  I don't have a counseling degree, so I can't professionally counsel others (and at this point I don't have any plans of going back to school for another degree!).  But I would like to speak to individuals or groups about alcoholism, suicide, or both.  I want to continue to share my story in the hope that my experience will help someone else.  The thought that something good can possibly come out of something so bad helps me keep moving forward.

The Lord says, "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now shall it spring forth; shall you not know it?" Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV

I'm eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other. Romans 1:12 NLT