Surviving The Holidays After Losing A Parent

  I watched the moment when she lost her baby unfold on my television. It was the latest episode of 'This Is Us' and Kate was stuffing her feelings in everyway imaginable, while simultaneously avoiding everyone she loved. A trait I recognized from some of my hardest times. You think that you're the one doing the protecting only to find out that the people who love you the most are literally dying to sheild YOU. There was a knock at the door and like magic during multiple flashbacks of her mom letting her know she would always be there she was, in real time, standing at Kate's door. She opened her arms and a wounded woman fell into her mother, let out a sigh of relief and cried a comforting damaged cry. Like yearly clock work, tears also fell from my eyes. It's the holidays and I've been waiting for this moment. Like the two years before, the moment when something happens that reminds you if only for a second of the pain...of the fact that you're lacking. I'm also recently engaged and have been having heavenly dreams lately of my mom helping me plan my wedding. In those moments, it's like she never left. She remembers everything I've wanted, she responds to my whitty dry humor and as if she's been here all along she stops every so often to look at me and say "omg Dai... I can't believe you're getting married," only to shake off the emotion (she knew how much I hated it), smile and plan some more. It's amazing how much your brain can retain the complete essence of someone even when we don't realize how much we're remembering. I suddenly realized how bad I wished she would show up at my door and release me from the responsibility of it all. How I wanted to fall into her arms...to be her daughter again...to plan my wedding. After she died I got into the act of letting myself feel in moments like these. I learned not to fight it, and as if I was being there for one of my friends, I let myself silently cry and miss her while continuing to watch the screen. This is a new normal. Something I now know is coming every single year at least once. Last year I cried into the cornbread dressing I was making the night before thanksgiving. This year, watching TV. I vowed that I would always take these feelings and put them on paper. For the next someone who has to bear this cross to know that they're not alone. I know that I have many years left of the random short lived holiday blues but here are some things that I'm learning along the way...here are some survival tips for all the rest of the Meredith Greys, Divergents and other fellow heroines big and small...    1. Let yourself feel. Don't fight the madness. If you're having a painful moment let it be a painful moment. I know that everyone deals with pain differently but I really think this is a tip that could help us all... Take your time, find a safe place, privately or with someone you trust and just, feel. You miss them and you should. Give your body time to catch up to your mind.    2. Make New Traditions. This is not an attempt to cover up the memory of your loved ones, but expand them. Create new things, new memories and new vibes. If not for your whole family then just for you. Find new and beautiful ways to honor the people you've lost. Make sure that you're not only feeling the absence and remembering that they are gone, but have a paradigm shift. Do something beautiful to remember that they were here.    3. Take your self love up a notch. If you're anything like me you can easily get lost in making your family happy for the holidays, the food must be perfect, the wine must be chilled and the music must be right. But in all of the ways that you love yourself, make sure that you give yourself just a little more...affirm all of the beautiful things that you are. Acknowledge that you have been broken and also accept that version of yourself. Don't apologize for your "dark and twisty" parts. Cry a little more, do more things that YOU love and care for yourself just a little extra. When friends and family are having hard times in life our first instinct is to give a little extra. You cook and bring wine, you call more, manicures and girls nights start to temporary fill your plans and nothing else matters. Don't forget to that you too are deserving of extra, and who better to give it than you.    4. Make room for their memory. This one I always find a little tricky. Often times when people lose a loved one the people that they are around find it hard to understand, so bringing up their memory often times makes some people uncomfortable. F**k those people. I'm not saying to be the lush that is known for dramatically "take me now, Lord" crying into the mashed potatoes every year. But if moments present themselves around people that knew your loved one to remember a funny story or special memory, do not stuff. Don't be afraid let them live on through you. And most importantly don't surround yourself with "it's been ____ years already, move on" types. There's absoultly nothing wrong with letting their light shine.    5. Don't let the affirmations pass on with them. Your mother and father are mostly responsible for showing you who you are. For affirming you and for giving you the tools to know where you stand in this world. If those are the loved ones we are talking about or someone who was a parental figure in your life, sometimes it can feel as though your light has dimmed some without them. Take time out periodically to remind yourself of the love. Of the ways that they were proud and of the the bigger person that they believed you are. Remember the positive words they spoke into your life and the heavy world stopping ways that they loved you. One of my first tattoos reads "I am because she was". It's a constant reminder that every promise that was on my mother's life resides within me. That every win and every victory and ounce of life that she encompassed is mine also. That in every way that she was proud and every thing that she thought me to be is always within me. Obviously this is different for some, maybe your parent or loved one was a hard ass. My advice is not to romanticize their memory, but to siphon the good from it. Even in the downfalls they gave you everything they had and 9/10 times, they saw you as the greatest version of themselves. Don't be afraid to be that. And know that no matter what happens in your holiday season, they are happy that you are carrying on. Somewhere they are pleased with even the simple fact that you are progressing, smiling and maybe even giving your best try at the Mac and cheese every year. 😉 

If no one has told you lately you are an amazing gift to this Earth. May your holidays be full and your heart's feel loved. Dear survivor, you're a superhero.