Every day this month, I head into the cold and walk to the mailbox. For a moment I pause; preparing myself for what I’ll open and find. I tuck the small bundle of bright envelopes under my arm and run back inside, the tension within me building. The holiday cards have started arriving, and I feel emptier than usual.
I anticipate them showcasing the smiling, happy families with color-coordinated outfits and vintage filters. They wish us well (they are well, of course). Something tells me these would hurt a bit even without her death only a few weeks before Christmas; but the fact is her birthday is mixed into an already-emotional season.
I spend her 2nd birthday out and about; deciding to honor her life by enjoying mine, because I matter too (you matter too), and whatever your broken heart needs to do it needs to do. I thought healthy thoughts, let a little bit of the pain go, and a little more of the guilt go.
When I arrive home, only holiday cards from friends and family who have shown up again and again for us are waiting. They know her death is ever-more tied up in the holiday season simply by the proximity of it, and their sheer humanness drives them to reach out in some way, in the hustle of the holidays, for which I am so grateful. It gives me a kind of strength. I think about what they’ve meant to me as I put their cards up on the wall. I am happy for their families; complete and contained within a photo, even though it stings it’s not that way for me.
The next day, I'm in a dark place. The mailman came again, but he brought two holiday cards from a different kind of people. They never acknowledged her death at all, and I wonder how I go back to square one so fast: to seething anger and ugly jealousy and tremendous hurt. The first year I got them, a mere few weeks after her death, I felt tricked; as I expected to open a thoughtful sympathy card instead. I think about how I’ll write “return to sender” next year, and not open the envelope at all. I think about how much it still hurts, how I remember so vividly what they did not do, and I wonder what that says about me and my progress. But these were not simply acquaintances; these were family members, longtime friends. They should done better.
I know she matters even if nobody speaks her name. I know I can't keep score. I know.
I tell myself all of this, and then I throw their cards in the trash instead of putting them up on the wall with the others.
How are you this holiday season? Does ritual and the presence of family and friends make you feel your loss or your fortune more keenly?