Grief & Honoring My Mother's Memory During Christmas

Holidays are typically the hardest time of the year when you've lost someone you hold dear to your heart. I have gone twelve Christmases without my mother, and the first time my family had to do it without her was a bit depressing to say the least. It's always the obstacles you face after, that are the hardest to overcome.

The family dynamic I had was my Dad, my Mom, my brother Stephen, and myself. Without my mom to decorate the tree, stocking up on gifts, invite everyone over, and cook our dinner, there was really no holiday. Traditions had been tarnished, the holiday spirit had died, and no one but me really seemed to care about picking up those broken pieces and reviving what used to be. There were a few years where my family didn’t even have a tree… Presents never get wrapped by my dad or my brother. The entire day is completely mediocre when I compare how we celebrate to everyone else. Everything that is supposed to be, isn’t; unless I* decorate the house unless I* push my father and my brother to wrap their presents unless I* cook dinner unless I* … unless I* … unless I*. it's never-ending. 

I know what you’re all thinking, why doesn’t anyone help you? Why doesn’t anyone try? Why doesn't anyone care?

Honestly, my father is the equivalent of Scrooge. He’s spent a good amount of holidays alone, both Thanksgiving and Christmas while my brother and I went over to our aunts to have dinner and enjoy time with our family. He hates the holidays, always… especially after we lost his mom after we lost his uncle, and after we lost his wife - all to cancer in the span of five years. Realistically my mother would roll over in her grave if she could see how he handles this time of year. He and I have had our fair share of fights throughout the holidays, more so because I care that he doesn't care, and I know my mom would too.

Do you ever feel like it's exhausting being the person to constantly hold everything together and pick up the pieces too? 

I do. 

I always cry a bit, shake my head, have my moment. Then I lift myself up over and over again, because it's just what you do. 

It was a lot for a ten-year-old girl to piece everything together, and for a few years I gave up trying because I was so angry with the way that my childhood was torn to shreds. But then, I started living with my aunt when I was 12… I’d spend Christmas with her family, and I remembered what that beautiful holiday feeling felt like again. I acknowledged what an important role my aunt played in orchestrating the entire day in a different way than anyone else could imagine or understand. Although I am annoyed and frustrated, and I can scream and kick and shout about how unfair it is for my mother to be taken from me, I realized that life is what you make of it. If I wanted that beautiful holiday feeling and those traditions, I would have to do it myself, for my mom, and for my family; because “it is what it is”, and that's the way she would've wanted it. 

Christmas was my mom’s favorite holiday, and it had nothing to do with the gifts… that woman loved the fact that our humongous family would get together for the entire day and drink, laugh, cry, and yell at each other. She understood that those would become the moments everyone had to cherish. The time that we got to spend all together was so important… because she knew she was dying. Her last Thanksgiving, we had about 30 family members travel from New York to North Carolina and stay in our house. To this day it was the best holiday I’ve ever experienced, and I think everyone else could agree; one of my cousins even wrote his college essay about the event. It's important to be the glue, it's important to bring people together - to laugh - to cry - to feel all the emotions because that's life. It took me a while to realize that even though it's annoying to do it all myself, I have fortunately adapted the quality of bringing people together. Not just with family but in my friendships as well. People with this quality of “the glue” are so irreplaceable. If you also have this quality, and you're exhausted of being that person, I feel you, but keep it going. You put shit in motion, you are what caused those cherished moments and memories, you are EVERYTHING, and life wouldn't be as amazing as it is without you being you. 

My dad, brother, and I for the past few years have been living all together (this is new); and when we all moved in, my aunt and I stole my dad's credit card to go buy a fake tree & some ornaments. This way, there was never an excuse to not have the house decorated for the holidays. I’ve made the pact with my aunts (aka the women that literally do everything) that I will host Christmas at our house so there's never an excuse for my dad to spend the day alone… Instead of taking on so much pressure to cook for everyone, I instead go and cook with my grandmother to spend some time with her. She’ll teach me how to make traditional Greek dishes for the family, so there's never an excuse to not have a home cooked meal to serve. I pulled it together, I made the necessary changes, I got over my anger, and just started trying to make life what I could out of it. It's not ideal, but it's my new normal; people who lose their loved ones need to find their new normal too… It's hard, it's unfair, but it's a beautiful thing to be able to pick yourself up, especially at this time of year, and make the best of life. We only have one, do what you gotta do… you'll only love yourself more for it at the end of the day.