This year I will be experiencing my 7th Christmas without my wife, Robyn. Every year our house would transform into a continuous theme of the current or upcoming holiday. Now, most of those decorations remain in the basement, and my annual complaint of having to haul the countless crates from the basement is no more. But while different, the holidays are here. Never the same, but nonetheless, the holidays have returned. So, as I do each year, I thought I would share my annual article on what I call “Home for the Holidays.”
I enjoy writing this article every year, as this was the first article I was asked to write by any organization after Robyn died. The Heartland Hospice Association invited me to share my thoughts back in 2015, my first Christmas without Robyn. Over the years, many things have changed, but one thing is for sure, it has been and never will be the same without her. So here it is, the 2021 edition of “Home for the Holidays.”
“During this article, I want to share five things I have personally come to understand about these still unsettled days called the holidays.
The first thought is that it is “seldom the same.” Some of us have been able to continue when surrounded by family and friends with little impact on our lives. I, for one, am not that fortunate. My house seems particularly vast at this time of year. The sounds of the never-ending Hallmark Christmas movies, the seemingly endless packages arriving, and the calls to remove packages from the car no longer exist. The anxiousness of finding the right gift is a faded memory. The holidays are not the same. I even miss our annual biggest fight of the year, the day after Thanksgiving trip to the Christmas tree lot to pick out the year’s tree. I lost that fight every year, by the way. My dear, it
My second thought is to encourage you to keep the things that bring you joy. It could be returning to the tree lot; it could be finding the holiday concert somewhere, or how about fixing their favorite dish during the holiday meal. Whatever brings you joy, do it!
While continuing with the tried-and-true traditions, don’t forget to make a new memory. For several years, I have bought a new mini-Christmas tree to continue a tradition Robyn started. I am at the point now that I must rotate the trees most years as there are too many to display at once. This year, I may not even purchase one, but it makes me smile every time I pull them out.
As I have stated many times, “what we don’t talk out, we act out.” If you find your thoughts turning toward the negative, if your 24-hour days turn into 26 hours of sadness, find someone with whom you can share your thoughts. For me, I had my grief counselor along with my journal and finally my book “The First 365”. I encourage you to find a place to express your feelings, tell a happy story, or safely express your frustration. You will be glad you did.
Finally, if the tears flow, find a way to follow them with a smile. I promise you, while I am experiencing my 7th Christmas without Robyn, the tears will come. Those tears are not only those of sorrow but tears of gratitude as well. I have a new relationship in my life; while emerging, it has given my life a new focus and a new feeling in an area that I thought was over in my life. It has been a great gift so far. So, follow the tears with a smile, give thanks, and press on. You are not done yet!
Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. You can contact Terrell at his newly redesigned thedebriefgroup365.com, where you will find all of his social media contacts or through the Widow Support Network.