Nothing feels “right”. It is like a twilight zone for me as I walk around stores and public places, experiencing all the Christmas lights, decorations, festive shoppers and music, and as I try to help make our home look and feel like it normally would at this time of year. Sometimes I feel as though I’m walking around in a cloud of sorts, seeing and hearing things, knowing that the Christmas season is here, going through the motions but not really present in any of it because it’s happening outside of me. Other times it hits me in the most unexpected moment and I am thrown right into the reality of Christmas without my husband, life without my husband.
The feeling of Christmas spirit in our house only came about little by little as we prepared ahead of time because Pat worked in retail and it was the busiest and most stressful time of year. He wasn’t really able to feel festive himself until his last shift was over – usually on Christmas Eve – when he would come home happy, relieved, excited and ready for the celebrations to begin. That was a marking point for us that it was finally time to let loose because Christmas was here. That annual “event” is as distinct in my mind as the reality of it never happening again.
It isn’t that I can’t buy gifts myself – I usually did most of the time – or continue to bake or cook or plan special things as we always did. It is the hole; it’s the fact that he’s not here to share the fun with with me when I come home with a special gift for one of the kids, to help stuff stockings, to make us laugh with his unique humour. It’s the fact that as I’m shopping and starting to enjoy myself, feeling festive, I see things that I would have bought for him, ideas that pop out and serve as sharp reminders that I no longer have a husband to shop for, leaving sadness where the spark of joy was. It’s the absence of the fun in conversations leading up to Christmas when he would be trying to figure out what to buy for me, wanting to make sure it was something special and that it cost enough, because I was always practical and he wanted to spend more – he never wanted me to spend on him and never asked for anything, but always wanted to spend on me.
It’s the reminder that on the day of his accident we were just finishing taking down the Christmas decorations and putting things away before he left for work. And just as all of Christmas was being packed away, so our life as we knew it was going to come to a close; a door would be shut that we would never be able to open again. For me, everything about Christmas in my mind relates to “before”, and as each year goes by I am further and further away from “before”, from the door that shut. I can still pull out the Christmas boxes and hang up the usual decorations collected over many years in our family. I can make the house look bright and cheery and make it smell like gingerbread. But the door is still shut. Thus, the twilight zone.
Yes, there are happy moments. Yes, we still laugh and yes, we will still play games, watch movies and make memories – and we will share memories from “before” and there will be tears, sorrow, and pain. It will be a different kind of Christmas, but we’ll make it through.
Here is a video performance of a song I wanted to share, for us and for all who will be missing a loved one at Christmas this year.