Not Ready Yet for the Holidays

We should know better by now.  It shouldn’t keep surprising us, but it does.  No matter how hard we try, no matter what we do to prepare ourselves, it still happens.  Year after year, generation after generation, it arrives without hesitation or delay.  It stays too long and never lasts long enough.  It is filled with anticipation and dread and we never learn enough and we know far too much…

It is greeted with great joy and heavy despair.  And it is always announced by the universal cry of “I’M NOT READY YET…”  The HOLIDAYS are coming and I haven’t even cleaned up the fireworks from the 4th of July.  I’m still unpacking boxes (we’ve moved…. again!) and the calendar says its TIME for the annual migration of memories and the “Great Stuff The TURKEY” contest (the turkey won last year).  Because we’re in another new place, there will be the dilemma of where to put the tree and how do we explain to the company about that one empty stocking?

Nothing fits this year!  I can’t find the ornaments.  I haven’t memorized my address and the grocery store is in the wrong place.  We’ll have to figure out where to hang a wreath and should we go electric this year in the yard?

I keep forgetting where I’ve hidden gifts I bought during the summer and nothing seems to fit in this place like it did in the last one!

We were comfortable in the last place … but then I forget that is what we said when we first moved there, too.  We always seem to be more comfortable in the last place — at least we knew where the memories were and where to put them and how to handle them.  Here, in this NEW PLACE, no one knows our “story”.  No one knows our history.  It is as if we have no past. It’s easy to blend in, but not so easy to settle in.  And THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING and I’M NOT READY YET!

“I’M NOT READY YET” is the universal cry of all living beings.  I’m not ready yet for first grade, for crossing the street by myself, for sleep-away camp, for junior high, for getting married, for getting a job, for having children, for burying someone I love.  I’m NOT READY YET   for grieving, for handling the holidays, for stuffing a turkey, for finding a place for everything, for living where no one knows my story.

I’M NOT READY YET for Thanksgiving, for Hanukkah, for Christmas, for New Year’s, for Three King’s Day or for anything!

I’M NOT READY for the annual flood of memories that always spill out as we unpack the stockings from their tissue wrapped nest.  I’M NOT READY yet for the clutch of pain that still wraps my heart in grief as we place the ornaments on the tree. I’M NOT READY YET for opening the door to greet strangers who are fast becoming friends but who may never know the effort it has taken to be who I am now.

I’M NOT READY YET to be “normal” and take my place among the normal people of the world.  We look normal, and for the most part we act normal.  We are normal…except for OUR STORY and for the tears in our family fabric.  But no one knows those tears any more and I don’t think I’m ready not to have a past just yet.  I don’t think I’m ready for no one to remember our hurt, let alone the joy our loved ones gave to us.

I unpacked the silver today, intending to polish it and place it in the dining room so it would add its shimmer to the festive decorations.  I wasn’t ready for the flood of memories that came back as I traced my fingers over the delicately carved designs in the coffee pot, remembering my mother patiently teaching me how to polish good silver.  I wasn’t ready for the loneliness that swept over me as I placed the teapot on the tray and suddenly wanted to call MOM and tell her I was, at last and again, home.  She had taught me that silver always spoke of a comforting home, and now that I had found it and set it out, I wanted someone to remember with me..

I’M NOT READY YET to live only on the surface of life.  I want to share my history with my new friends, yet it seems unfair of me to spoil their holiday season.  It’s not the same for me.  There is still a lot of empty in my heart.  Not as much as BEFORE, but now the emptiness comes from being too new somewhere to really belong.

So, I’ll just have to figure out how to handle the holidays I’m never going to be ready for in places I may never be settled in.  As long as we have the stockings up and the silver is polished and ready, then let the holidays come!  We’ll figure out how to tell enough of our history so we won’t be lonely and so people will understand about the empty chair and the joy that lights up our life when we clasp hands together in the family circle.

We’ll decorate our new house (our new life?) with the treasures that speak of our history, finding joy in the memories they spark.  We’ll bring some of the old, add a few pieces of new and practice the art of blending yesterday with today in hopes of creating another memory for tomorrow.

I guess it doesn’t matter whether you have moved or have never left the same place for generations, it is still an unsettled feeling that for the first time no one remembers the journey you’ve been on.  The first time no one mentions THE NAME starts a hollowness in our being that leaves us empty and feeling alone.  It is as if the world has made its move again and everything that once was so awkward and out of place has now assumed a “normal” atmosphere and most of the world “forgets” the price we paid for this “new normal.”

I’ll hang the special ornaments, enjoy the silver teapot and cherish the warmth of the love these gifts of remembrance bring.  No one else has to know the story for me to acknowledge it and remember it.  No one else has to know the pain for me to share the joy of having these things be a part of my now.

We’ll gather together and count our blessings, not only naming the ones around the table, but also including those whose lives have touched ours in countless ways. One does not have to be present to be alive in the hearts of those who shared a few moments of the journey together.  The heart never forgets, even when the world does.

No, nothing fits this year, just like nothing fit last year or the year before. But it’s getting better, improving either with age or experience or patience.  Or maybe it is because it is simply becoming a thread in the continuing fabric of our lives.  We will probably always be a bit unsettled, unnerved when the roll call finds a name missing or a chair empty.  But, then why shouldn’t we be a little sad when a light goes out in our world?

So, this holiday season, gather in your blessings and count them ALL.  Count the blessings of the people in your story and find the peace that comes with counting a holiday of joy remembered and love shared.

Peace to us all — wherever we may be.

Darcie Sims

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Dr. Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CHT, CT, GMS is a bereaved parent and child, a grief management specialist, a nationally certified thanatologist, a certified pastoral bereavement specialist, and a licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist. She is the author of Why Are the Casseroles Always Tuna?, Footsteps Through the Valley, Touchstones and If I Could Just See Hope. She co-authored A Place For Me: A Healing Journey for Grieving Kids, Footsteps Through Grief, The Other Side of Grief and Finding Your Way Through Grief with her daughter, Alicia Sims Franklin. She also wrote and produced the videos Handling the Holidays and What Color is Dead: Death From A Child’s View as well as authored numerous chapters in professional books and textbooks. Darcie is featured in the award-winning video series “Good Grief” produced by Iowa Public Television and has been featured in several other videos as well. She is an internationally recognized speaker and was Coping Editor for Bereavement magazine for 15 years. She is now an editor for Grief Digest. She served on the national board of directors for The Compassionate Friends, the national board of directors for the Association of Death Education and Counseling and the board of trustees for the National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved. Darcie received The Compassionate Friends Professional Award in 1999. She co-chaired the 1991,1996 and 2005 World Gathering on Bereavement, and keynoted at all 4 World Gatherings. Darcie is president and co-founder of GRIEF, Inc. a grief consulting business and the Director of the American Grief Academy in Seattle, Washington. She is a Diplomate in the American Psychotherapy Association, a Certified Diplomate in Clinical Hypnotherapy and is listed in Who’s Who in America, The World Who’s Who of Women and The International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women. She can be contacted at darcie@griefinc.com. Visit her website at www.GriefInc.com. To Listen to Darcie on Open to Hope Radio Dr. Darcie Sims appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “How to Have a Good Bad Day.” To hear Darcie being interviewed on this show, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley090805.mp3

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