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Archive for December 30th, 2008

There is no getting around it. Losing a loved one during the holidays is completely awful. Of course, a death in the family is never pleasant, but there is an added pain when it happens right at a time when society at large is “jolly.”

It is okay to laugh at this blog even though it might feel morbid. My life over the past couple of weeks has felt like a cosmic black comedy. It is one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” kinds of things.

My father-in-law (FIL) telephoned me early Monday morning to tell me that my mother-in-law (MIL) had passed away that morning. She was not in very good health, but we still did not see this coming. He could barely get the words out to me, so I told him to write me a list of who needed to be notified, and I would take care of it. (Always the child abuse survivor being the strong one.) I then left to tell hub and my brother-in-law (BIL) in person separately.

Of course, that morning, my son and I had distributed Christmas presents to the staff at his school. I had worn my tackiest Christmas sweatshirt for the occasion, with Santa and the presents falling out of his sleigh. So, yes, that is what I was wearing when I delivered the devastating news to hub and to BIL.

Hub took the news hard, so I just sat there with him for a long time. Then, I drove out to tell BIL, dreading how he would react. I turned on the radio to distract myself, only to hear the opening of the song, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” I thought to myself, “Yep. That’s about right in my life.”

I have never had to be the one to call a list of people to deliver the news that someone they loved had passed away. The reactions were all over the map, intermixed with goofy answering machine messages with Santa saying, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” One person took the news calmly. The next went into hysterics. A third said, “Oh, s@#$,” and then apologized. (I assured him that was my first reaction as well.) I was careful to break the news gently, so I was taken aback when another woman yelled to her husband, “XXX died!”

The weirdest part of losing a loved one during the holidays is sorting the mail. Each day, I would pull a large pile of envelopes out of the mailbox and sort them into “Happy Holidays” and “Sympathy” piles. Believe it or not, I even had one that combined the two, writing this on the back of the Christmas card: “You son is growing so big. Our grandchildren are now roommates in college. We were sorry to hear about hub’s mother’s death. Love, XXX”

You gotta laugh to keep from crying.

During a time of year in which I am already struggling even in the best of circumstances, losing a loved one was really hard. It plays with your head to have people all around you singing “Holly, Jolly Christmas” while your family is falling apart emotionally. There is no getting around it – losing a loved one during the holidays is simply awful.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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