Some of the best days of the year have turned into the worst. There is a permanent absence now, a gaping hole that is impossible to ignore and even more impossible to fill. There is an empty chair at the dinner table, a limp stocking, a missing birthday card, one less voice filling the room. There are constant reminders that your holidays will never be as happy as they once were.
Usually the holidays are the time for the whole family to come together. Everyone accumulates at one house, even the ones you haven’t seen all year. Holidays make your family feel whole, complete. But when you’ve lost a close family member, it has the opposite effect. Your family feels painfully smaller, excruciatingly tiny.
You are forced to accept how incomplete it feels, and the fact that it will never, ever feel whole again.
As you are experiencing the holidays without them, all you can focus on are the ones you had with them. The cold reality is that you were expecting so many more than you were given. You never considered that this might be the last birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s with them. You might have ignored them all day, hardly aware of their presence when they were actually there. But when they aren’t, and you know they will never be again, it’s like losing a limb. It’s like having your dominant hand cut off while being forced to watch everyone else in the world celebrate, unaffected.
It is such an acute, overbearing pain that no one can ever recognize from the outside. Every day holds its own amount of inescapable pain and heartbreak, but the holidays twist the knife. Holidays mock what you don’t have. Because even though you might be getting presents and cards and money, you are not getting what you really want, what you really need to make it through another year. Holidays are supposed to be a happy, joyous time. And you fondly remember when they were. But that was before. Most people look back to their youthful holidays with light nostalgia, but you look back with a deep, yearning depression. Now year after year it’ll cut you to the core. It’ll make your family feel meaningless and pitifully small. That bitterness inside of you will continue to grow, even though you’re far too young for it.
Now when I should be excited for holidays, like waking up on Christmas morning, or having cake for my birthday, or sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, I want to cry instead.
I want to stay in bed all day. I don’t want to open presents and celebrate and have fun, because everyone I want to be there is not there. It feels lonely and quiet and solemn without that one specific person. It doesn’t feel like a time of celebration but a time of mourning. The holidays feel forced, like everyone is putting on a happy face and giving gifts against their will – as if they didn’t break down in Macy’s the week before because they saw a sweater they probably would’ve bought him; as if they didn’t feel a stabbing pain when they realized they couldn’t call and ask about combining gifts; as if it wasn’t a horrible few hours when they had to drive to Grandma’s alone because they no longer have their favorite carpool buddy.
Nothing feels right. Nothing is how it was; nothing is how you want it. And you have absolutely no choice but to accept that for the rest of your life, the holidays will never be a happy time of year.