Family traditions often bring comfort and warmth in the consistency and normalcy they bring to our lives with our most treasured possessions….our family. Content in the knowledge that these customs will continue from year to year, we have no room to even consider the possibility that they will not. No thought is given to how these practices might change, because for some reason, we think our family is invincible to the tragedy that many others have had to bear. We often rest in the fallacy that things will always be as they are….that family members will always be with us…even though we know, in all actuality, this isn’t possible. Still,we continue in the delusion that things will always be the same from year to year. I lived in this world of delusion for quite some time….until October of 2015 and February of 2016.
How quickly can that fallacy come crashing down on your world? In the snap of a finger…in the blink of an eye…the world you once knew and loved, can come to an agonizingly abrupt halt. And you are left trying to make sense of the termination of life as you once knew it. It’s been 10 months…and I’m still trying to make sense of life as I now know it. It’s as if you have to redefine essentially every role in your life….mother, daughter, sibling, wife and where you now fit into the grand scheme of things. Nothing makes sense anymore..it’s like you have to find who you are again…who you are without your loved ones on this earth. You have to reevaluate what it means to love the one who has passed over. I think about this with Aaron often…I can no longer love him in the physical sense as I do his sister. My has been transferred to a new realm of loving and being…and I’m not sure how to do that. I’m going to be honest here….sometimes that makes me mad as hell…sorry for the bluntness….but that explains how I feel about this change in my life, the life of my family, and the life of my son. I can’t help but wonder…does the anger I feel hinder my ability to feel Aaron around me and in me? I wished I could just stop the anger, but I never know when it’s going to surface and how tightly it will grip my soul. Once it has its hold, it takes some time to free yourself from the debilitating bitterness that overcomes you.
I don’t wish these exhaustive emotions on anyone. Grief is the hardest work I have ever done….it leaves you exhausted beyond anything you could have ever imagined before the loss. I have never felt the “tired” that I feel now…and I only know that because I have felt both types do “tired”. I wished that I could find the words that would convey these feelings, but if I could succeed at that, that means that you would know..because you would have experienced the loss of your child. That is something that I don’t want for any of you, but I wished with everything inside of me that I could help others understand the hurt, the pain, the brokenness, the loneliness, the anger and all of the other emotions that accompany child loss. But….it’s not possible to understand until it, unfortunately happens to you.
This is not the road I planned, but it is now the road I travel. And on this road, family traditions take on a whole new meaning and a whole new feel. I’ve read numerous articles, blogs, and posts about how to get through these emotional milestones, anniversaries and events….and some suggest doing something completely new…and some suggest continuing traditions. I don’t think there is one universal answer for anyone…..some find it helpful to indulge in something completely new….and some find it comforting to continue the traditions that are familiar. I don’t know, for me, if I can participate in those ceremonious familial traditions this year. I’ve already broken one of those traditions. Until this year, we have always had a real Christmas tree….but I couldn’t do that this year. It used to be a part of our tradition to pick out our tree as a family. And even though it had been quite some years since we had participated in that tradition all together, the thought of going to pick out a real tree this year was just unbearable. So, I purchased a pre-lit artificial tree and put it together with my husband and my grandson. I’ve avoided the decorations so far, for there are far too many memories inside those boxes….I’m not sure that I could bear to pull out an ornament from Aaron’s childhood without spiraling into a deep, dark hole. It frightens me to think about the raw emotions that might erupt from my inner being and where that might take me. So, I’m not completely sure what my tree will look like this year, but I’m leaning towards tie-dye. Tie-dye perfectly displays the swirl of all the emotions that coincide along side each other, while meshing, ebbing, flowing, and creating conflict all at the same time. And, I think it’s something that Aaron would absolutely love….and honestly, I think he would smile in heaven thinking that his mom had a tie-dye Christmas tree. I think, if he were here, he might even refer to me as a hippie. That makes me smile amid the enveloping sadness that threatens to control this holiday season. So while Christmas might not be merry this year….it will be tie-dyed with Aaron’s memory, the sadness of his loss, and the joy of celebrating with those present….it will truly be a tie-dyed. Christmas.