Enjoying the Holidays … Differently

By Chris Mulligan —

It’s time to party! the television advertisements say this time of year. Party? How could I party when some days I did not even want to get out of bed?

I did not want to go to work. I did not want to confront my day. How could I party when I could not even look at my face to put on a happy one? Getting through one’s days are difficult at best after the death of a child, but enduring the holiday season seems almost impossible to surmount. Depending upon the length of time in grief, some of us cannot or are not able to recognize that the holiday season is upon us, let alone enjoy it.

In our early grief, some of us are oblivious to the presence of time in terms of days, weeks, months, and seasons. While most of us do not want to acknowledge the rest of the world’s observance of the holiday season and its celebrations, some of us are unable to recognize any of the events happening outside of their own pain.  Grieving is all-encompassing. It renders us incapable of viewing life beyond our own fog, our own pain, our own devastation.  Life is occurring on the inside. In early grief, experiencing life beyond our pain appears physically impossible as we focus on an internal world that has been irrevocably transformed. Is Halloween a scary event to envision with trepidation or is it a time to revisit yesterday’s joys created by the memories of past Halloween celebrations with your loved one?

Thirty days after my son Zac’s October 1st death, my first holiday without him, it was frightening to recognize how frozen my feelings had become. The next month and my “first” Thanksgiving, I could only be grateful for the numbness that allowed autopilot to control my behaviors and move me through that day and its preparations.

But it was the first Christmas, which was previously the most anticipated time of the holiday season, that became the most dreaded and most difficult to experience. Ultimately, in my grief process, I had to make a decision about my life. I had to choose to continue living, and this included living through and celebrating the holidays.

Getting through the holidays continues to be one of the most difficult hurdles for me. Nevertheless, the passing of each year allows for an accumulated history of experiencing feelings and recognizing the changes in your heart. Each person must find and incorporate what works for him or her. There are blogs, websites, books and newsletters that contain many helpful ideas. Support groups like Compassionate Friends are wonderful resources for sharing and discovering new ideas.

Time will assist with one’s ability to move beyond the debilitating fog of early grief in relation to surviving the holidays. Acceptance supports us in “living what is.” I know when I eat a Rice Krispie treat in his honor and when I hang “The Judge” ornament on the Christmas tree, that Zac smiles. I can hear him laughing when Lynyrd Skynyrd sings, “Santa’s Messin’ with the Kid.” And, although I still have days in which I miss him terribly, I am now enjoying the holidays…differently.

Chris Mulligan has written about her first year of grief in Afterlife Agreements: A Gift From Beyond and continues to work with adoptive families. She can be reached through her website at http://Afterlifebooks,com.

Chris Mulligan

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Chris Mulligan received her BS in Psychology and MS in Clinical, Child, Youth, and Family Work from Western Oregon University. Twenty-five years of adoption/social work and mental health experience didn’t prepare Chris for the devastation after the death of her son, Zac, in 2000. The journey through grief changed her, her views of life, death and the afterlife forever. Since Zac’s death, she has documented over eight years of signs and communication with Zac, her spirit guide, Samuel and others on the other side. She lives in Newberg, Oregon, with her husband, Jim and their dogs, Chiquita and Joe. Chris can be reached at [email protected] or through her website, http://Afterlifebooks.com/. Chris appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Afterlife Agreements.” To hear Chris being interviewed on this show, click on the following link:


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  • Shelia Still says:

    WOW does this hit home, Chris passed this last October 15, 2018 at the age of 24. He had moved back home to finish his engineering degree with graduation set for Spring 2020. I am thankful he was at home when he left us and that we were here at home. He would self medicate himself with Xanax as his stress level would go through the roof when it was time for a test. He would tell us he didn’t have a problem but I knew he did, he would slip up every 4 weeks or so and go down that path. I would get so upset with him wanting him to go to treatment, you can’t force a 24 year old to do anything and my husband didn’t see things the way I saw them.. I had him going to AA meetings and he would attend sometimes, but I was the bad guy having kicked him out of the house just 6 weeks prior. He came back begging to come back and he would be better and no more drugs. That didn’t last as I went to wake him up and he wouldn’t wake up. They say he mixed Xanax with pain killers and it caused his heart to stop and I felt the blood drain from his heart. He was a great kid, had so much going for him and I miss him so much. Now he is gone and I am so broken. I am always so sick to my stomach and I want to blame my husband for not being on my side for the last 2 years.