Sunday, December 25, 2011

Speaking to the Ghost of Christmas Past

The day Phil died, my world was irrevocably changed. No amount of crying, wishing, or begging could switch my new reality back to the reality of what seems like only moments ago. The first Christmas without him, I sat on the coach alone watching the kids open gifts that only I chose, purchased, wrapped, and stowed under the tree...barely able to keep from bawling all over their happiness. I swear I could hear my heart breaking again as reality slapped me in the face on what is touted as the merriest of days. I didn't believe the pain of missing him would ever lessen. I couldn't see how that was possible if Phil was still going to be dead...and unless there was some kind of amazing magic wand under the tree that could reverse my reality, Christmas seemed doomed for ever more.

What I know now is that the pain of missing Phil hasn't lessened. In fact, because the pain is part of my everyday life I have stopped watching it with a wary eye. So on occasion that powerful longing has the ability to sneak up behind me and sucker punch me in the gut...taking my breath for a moment in an unexpected swoop. But I now find this breathlessness bittersweet. Because missing him reminds me of how much I still love him. Temporarily being unable to believe that he really is dead oddly cements his memory over and over again. And each Christmas I find myself briefly visiting in my mind's eye the me that sat alone on the couch that Christmas morning in 2005, and wishing I could tell her that she will never forget the moments she is living.  In fact, she will revisit them time and time again. But not for the reason you may think.

So today, I'd like to share a few things with my Christmas 2005 self in the hope that if you find yourself sitting alone thinking that this will never get better these words may help you, too....

It's okay to cry. You won't drown, though I know you are afraid that you might. Let people love you. It really is the only thing they can do, on Christmas Day or any other day. Life could be worse. I know that is hard to hear right now, but it is true. Hold onto that. You won't forget. Even though the timber of his voice will fade, you will never forget the way he spoke to you or how his voice in your ear made you feel.

Life will keep moving whether you like it or not. And eventually you will move, too. It's okay. Phil did not take the best part of you with him when he died. No, he didn't. Don't argue with me. Forever does not apply to life, but it does apply to love. You will always love him. The holidays aren't the hardest days. Rainy days when he would have called you ten times hurt worse.

Ask for help. I know you hate appearing needy, but you can't do this alone. You need people who care. On that note, when you ask for help you give someone who loves you a gift. They want to help, but don't  know how. Help them help you.

Don't worry about always hating what has always been your favorite time of year. YOU will come back, it   just takes time. I know that patience is not one of your virtues, but this time you will have to wait it out. There is no shortcut.

This is not the end of the road for you. You have so much to do in this life, and so many opportunities to honor your love for Phil by living large. He would want that and deep down you know it. You will never be the same after losing Phil. Someday you will value this fact.

As the tears stream down your face many times today, know this: You can survive Phil's death. And you will.

The funny thing about the above list, is that even if I could have told myself all of these things, I doubt I would have believed them. But that's okay. I believe them now, for me and for you. One day you will value the tears you cry today. They are streams of love.

Merry Christmas, darling. Loved, and never forgotten.


  1. Thank you. I love you Michele XXXX

  2. Thank you. I begin this journey just 2 1/2 weeks ago and your words lifted me up and allowed the tears to flow all at the same time.

  3. Thank you for the hope in the future. Blessings to you and yours. xxx

  4. At one year and almost 5 months, those freight-train painful moments are beginning to recede a little, and now I can actually breathe. There is hope for us all:)

  5. Beautifully said, Michele. My Bruce died the same year, and what you say is true for me, too.

  6. Really good post. I'm at two years and two months, and enjoyed a lovely Christmas this year, with my husband always on my mind and in my heart. The last two were pretty awful. So there is hope. My experience is that things have been starting to happen by default, and I find myself rejoining the world little by little without much effort on my part. This is in large part because I was constantly saying "no" to everything because I didn't have the energy or motivation to say "yes." I find that is changing now, where I am saying "yes" sometimes, and it is a positive thing when I do. Small steps, but steps. Merry Christmas, and keep the faith, everyone.

  7. dearest Michelle,
    thank you for this post. Because i am here on Christmas Day alone. I had my family Christmas last night as is our tradition. It was emotional, beautiful, we cried a bit but we got through it because last Christmas my husband had died November 2nd when Christmas came we were just numb. I hardly remember it. This Christmas has been harder. Because it is not following 14 months of caregiving and his death, I thought it would be easier. It isn't.
    Because this year I have had time to think of him and miss him and feel his absence. Christmas Day was always "our day", the two of us would have a quiet morning and go for a country drive and later to a movie, as all our family would be visiting in-laws.
    Today I lay on the sofa half the day - remembering and feeling lonely and sad. Tonight I went to a movie with my son. Just happy to be with him and family. But when I came in the door - the emptiness feels monumental. I really am alone. Here. In our home without my love. I know I should call someone but . . . i can't. I am afraid I would burst into tears. so I came here.
    When I read your entry - I started to cry (still crying) because I want to believe someday I will not feel like the best part of my life is over because he died. Sometimes I am so tired of feeling broken hearted but I am afraid when it goes what that will mean. So your post has helped me to see these moments as memory of the love we had.
    Thank you for your words of wisdom. I really needed to hear this tonight.

  8. Thanks, I needed this today. Someone told me last week - "YOUR story isn't over". I needed to hear that too, because I certainly have been living as if my story is over. It will be 3 years in 2 weeks, and it is time to start living again, vs. merely surviving. I honestly don't know how to do that, but I believe like everything else on this journey, I will be given what I need when I need it. But I do have to ask for help. Thanks for all you do.

  9. thank you... this brought me to tears. lovely hope you give.

  10. Thank you for all that you do.

  11. Thank you Michele, we all need the reminder that life brings you forward over time. I have just had my second Christmas since my husband died and it is a little better than the last. He died 5 days before Christmas last year, so that Christmas is a blur. This year it was different with the family here and the laughter of children in the house. They missed their Grandad, but brought the joy into the house that was not part of last Christmas.
    The joy of Christmas is muted for me still though, but it won't be for ever - he would not have wanted me to live like that and I will honour him by finding my joy again. This year was easier, next year...... who knows

  12. Thank you thank you. I am at 2 and 1/2 months and experienced everything you just wrote. Thankful to have my wonderful sister here to distract my kids while I stared off into space begging to have my Andrei back. Now I don't feel so alone.