Why the second year is the hardest

After losing a loved one, you experience a lot of firsts. A lot of hard firsts. Especially first holidays. You’re still in shock. You’re adjusting not only to losing them, but to life and special occasions without them.

That first year you try and stick to traditions, but it’s not easy. Plans get adjusted. You don’t put out all of your decorations. You kind of half-ass the holidays.

You always expect and anticipate the firsts to be the hardest. I did. They weren’t easy. At all. Day to day is still an unexpected roller-coaster. You’re still grieving, and let me tell you something, that is okay. Especially leading up to the one year mark. (If you’re new here, I lost my dad basically the day before Thanksgiving last year. So, excellent timing.)

What I’m learning though, is that the second year of holidays is different. It’s surprisingly harder. The shock of the loss isn’t as strong and reality is setting in. The dust is settling a bit and you’re navigating life in the “new normal”. Some people even forget what you are going through and that’s okay. Not only is Dad not coming back, but life is going on. Special, happy times aren’t as happy. But they are happening. I’m realizing that Thanksgiving and Christmas are really happening without him. Somehow.

I am beyond blessed with family and friends. I have an incredible and understanding support system. But, I’m still honestly feeling anxious leading into it. I was am a Christmas fanatic. I love it. Dad raised me that way. Really, not much brings me more joy than some Christmas music and some twinkling lights. The lights just don’t seem to shine the same without Dad.

I’m finding myself holding on to memories and traditions. All of the small things that at one point seemed meaningless, now mean everything. The songs and the movies. The little chachkies that are now invaluable and full of precious memories. That time my sister spilled chocolate milk all over the turkey and no one even got mad. The time my siblings and I all had the chicken pox on Christmas and had to stay home. Peeking down the stairs to see if Santa came. Always burning the Christmas morning cinnamon rolls while the Yule Log played on TV with a Christmas record in the background. Dad always behind the video camera and always making sure all the batteries were in the toys and that all the decals were on Barbie’s Dream House and the Ninja Turtle Van.

But, as hard as it seems at times, life goes on. If there is one thing Tom Donnelly loved, it was the holidays. I know for damn sure he will come down and haunt me if I half-ass Christmas again. As hard as I know it will be, I need to be all in. So, time to channel my inner Buddy the Elf and squash the Scrooge.

I guess what I’m saying is, be gentle. With yourself. And, with others. Don’t just try to “get through” the holidays. But embrace them and celebrate them in memory of those we love.

Happy Holidays!

-J