Friday, November 14, 2014

Let It In

I am not sure where it came from.
I am not sure why.
I am not sure what actions or non-actions or grief-work or thoughts led to this way that I feel today.
This week. This moment. This now.
I am not sure of anything, but it happened.

I am back to loving Christmas. 

Monday morning of this week, after 3 years and almost 4 months of living with the death of my husband, it happened. It was nothing overly-dramatic or huge in the way that it happened. I was just sitting there, in my room, when suddenly, I found myself thinking, out of absolutely nowhere: Maybe for Christmas this year it might be nice to have a stocking again and some presents. Maybe we can go to my brother's house and have fried dough and hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallow and each get scratch-off tickets with our breakfast like we used to. I'm kind of excited to go shopping for my family. Maybe Ill run up to the mall in New Hampshire after I get back to mom and dad's this year in Massachusetts for the holidays. Maybe I can sign up to do some Christmas caroling with a local group through or something. Maybe, maybe, maybe ..... 

I felt like The Grinch, toward the end of that classic cartoon, where his heart suddenly grows and expands as he lets in the joy. I have always been willing to let in the joy, which is why it doesn't sit right with me when people say that I will be "happy when I am ready" or that "happiness is a choice." No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. When you have been through a trauma, through the sudden and unexplainable death of the person you thought you would be 90 years old with - nothing is a choice for a very, very long time. Even if you are willing to allow joy, to let it in, you cannot feel it. And there is simply no room for it. There is too much pain and hurt in the way. You have to go through months and years of processing that pain and hurt before the joy even has a tiny corner to rest in. The people that make the choice to not do the hard grief-work, or to stop doing it, because they are getting judged so much from the outside world for "still being sad" - those people might never find the joy again. They may land on numb or indifferent or "this is the best I will ever feel", and they may stay there forever. But something about me knew - I just knew - from day one of this massive hell unleashing on me - that I would have to work really hard to crawl and scream and struggle and FIGHT for my joy. I also knew that this joy would never be the same as my old joy. This joy and that joy are two different things entirely. In my past life, the one where Don was alive and I got to keep him here - joy was simply something I felt when something happy occurred. Now, it is so much more complicated than that. New joy includes deep thoughts about life and death inside of a sunrise, or my heart pounding with sheer sadness and missing and absolute delight and wonder, at the sound of a beautiful piece of live music. New joy is sobbing while looking into my pet's eyes or petting them, because I love them so f**king much, and because I know, one day, they will die. New joy is seeing nature and friends and delicious food and theatre and violins and the crack of a baseball bat - as little, tiny miracles of life. All the things that I loved before, now packaged up in a much more meaningful wrapping paper.

Later on Monday afternoon, I had a phone session scheduled with my grief-therapist. I knew that she, more than anyone, would understand what a huge thing this was, that I was able to let in Christmas again today. She is the one I have spilled my heart to, telling her how I don't think I can ever do Christmas ever again, and how I just loved it too much to go back to it half-heartedly. She was the one who listened as I numbed the pain during my first Christmas without him, and ran away with my parents to Foxwoods casino, where holidays dont really exist - only slot machines. She understood when, the second year, I stayed in NYC and didnt go home to my family at all, because it was too painful to be with them, to be where Don was just 2 years before, opening presents and smiling and laughing and eating fried dough happily. She got it when I went with a friend to see the film version of Les Miserable instead, and then had that friend over for brunch on Christmas morning. She is the one who walked with me to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, where, in 2005, Don got down on one knee in 25 degree weather, in front of hundreds of clapping tourists, and asked me to be his wife. She went there with me so I could face it, so I could see if I was ready for it. The year before, I had gone there too soon, way before I was ready - and I had an epic breakdown. I didn't think I would ever be strong enough to go back there. But there I was, standing with her. Breathing. Doing. Working hard to let the joy back in. Knowing somewhere deep down, that there would be a day when it would enter in slowly. With caution.

"How was your week?", she asked me, as she usually does.

"I think I might be excited about Christmas this year." The words came out one by one, as if I couldn't believe them myself.

"Really? That's great. So you're not dreading it this time?"

"No. But it's more than that. Not only am I not dreading it, but I'm thinking about it. I was sitting here this morning thinking about Christmas. Getting excited about it. I haven't had those kind of thoughts since he died. I think I might be able to love it in the crazy way I used to love it! It might be possible!" My heart was beating fast at the very thought of this being true.

"It is possible because you have made it possible. This is incredible. This is beyond great. And you know, even if you don't continue to feel this way, and your feelings should change some, that is okay. Don't forget the way you feel right now, because now you know it is possible to feel this. I am so happy for you." And she was.. I could tell.

"But why now?" I asked, always wanting specific answers for everything. "Why today do I feel this way?"

"Why not now? NOW is when your heart is ready to let it in again. Now is when there is room for it, and that is s direct result of the hard grief work YOU have done and continue to do, every day. This is no accident. Now is just the time for it."

Yes. Now.

I still have no idea what Im doing for Thanksgiving, and getting through Don's 50th birthday last week was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and our wedding anniversary still puts a knife in my heart every single time. I'm also still nowhere near being ready for the concept of "my next great love", and I still have a long way to go with some of the trauma and PTSD-type stuff and anxiety that I feel on a semi-regular basis.

But now, right now, today, this second ......

I got my love of Christmas back, and my heart beats faster at the thought of that reality.

"Fahoo Fores Dahoo Dores
Welcome Christmas Come this way
Fahoo Fores Dahoo Dores
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day .... " 


  1. I'm so happy for you Kelley!

    I also knew as soon as my Dave died 4 1/2 years ago, that I needed to seek out help if there was any chance of coming out the other end. (I knew that I didn't want to feel like I felt at the time, for the rest of my life.) I did individual grief counselling, group counselling through (, and attended weekly Mindfulness sessions with other widows for a year through our local Hospice.

    I certainly don't feel upbeat all the time by any means, but just as your therapist told you, "Don't forget the way you feel right now, because now you know it is possible to feel this.", I would remind myself of that very fact. When I felt (and still feel) low and depressed, I knew that I could and would feel better again, and just had to wait it out.

    Thank you for the reminder and thanks for sharing.

  2. So happy that you are feeling happy. It is HUGE that you are excited about Christmas. I also wanted to tell you that I just had a "yay, it's Friday and that means Kelley's post" moment. Thank you.

    1. Awww thank you so much for that!!! Im always so afraid that my post will disappoint people or not be good enough lol. So thank you !

    2. Kelley, You have never once disappointed me. I love to read your posts every week. Ruthie

  3. One step at a time and it is huge...enjoy it!

  4. "Even if you are willing to allow joy, to let it in, you cannot feel it." Kelley, you have, as usual, expressed exactly what is in my heart. Two years after my husband's unexpected death, I am no longer 100% miserable every day. But finding room for the joy, letting pleasure or a good time become real joy, is still not happening. I look forward to it, to the surprise you found this week! Thanks for sharing!

    1. You should also realize, Daisy, that "not being miserable 100% every day" is also a huge accomplishment, and is also in itself, healing. Thats how I felt at about 2 years as well. I still couldnt feel the joy, but I also wasnt in horrid pain 24/7 anymore. It will come back. It takes a lot of time, then one day you wake up and realize you feel differently.