I am sitting at my desk looking outside at the glorious blue sky and just a tinge of color change in the leaves. The weekend was one of brisk cool air, the smell of bonfires in the neighborhood, and of mums replacing the petunias that are now stringy and overgrown.
I am entering my 16th fall season without my son, Adam. Truthfully I don’t remember much of the first, or the second ones. My mind was numb, my heart hurt and it was enough to make it through each day let alone noticing what was going on in the world around me.
Mark and I had attended a Compassionate Friends meeting in the November after Adam’s death in August, and listened to a speaker, the owner of a local funeral home, talk about “how to get through the holidays.” I remember hearing him say that it was OK to do whatever we needed to get us through the next months — whether it was go to a hotel and shut the world out, or have friends and family over and spend time remembering.
Our choice for the first year was to have our daughter, Katrina, her husband and Adam’s wife for dinner.
We all chose a favorite food of Adam’s and all agreed that it would not be a traditional Thanksgiving meal. It was quite a smorgasbord of food! Did it make us feel better? No, not one bit. But, it gave us something to plan for, to somehow honor the memory of our son, brother and husband, and we even had a few laughs mixed in with the tears.
Another year, we packed a bag and drove to a city a couple of hours away over the Thanksgiving weekend. We stayed in a nice hotel, had dinner in the restaurant there, then went back to the room and watched movies. The next day we traveled to small towns in the area, did some shopping and then went back to the hotel for another night of movies. We removed ourselves from the world and the Thanksgiving holiday. We just weren’t feeling thankful…and it was OK. Not everyone thought it was Ok, but it was for us.
Most know the symbolism of the fall season with life. Frank Sinatra sings, “But now the days grow short in the autumn of our life.” It is a season of dying. Just a short while ago everything was lush, healthy, beautiful. Now the air is crisp and cool, the apple orchards are busy selling cider and pumpkins. But, with all of this comes the end, the death of those beautiful “flowers” in our life, the end of the season.
The second thing is it reminds us of the upcoming season, winter. Cold, barren, lonely winter. Just like our lives feel after the death of our child. It reminds us that all of those wonderful family traditions with the holidays are coming up soon. Sometimes it brings a feeling of shear panic…what do I do? How do I get through this?” Or, a feeling of dread, a feeling of melancholy, a feeling of deep down hurt that our child will not be here for those family times.
Since the beginning of our journey 16 years ago, we have started some new traditions. In the beginning we had a 5X7 picture of Adam that was included in the table settings, whether it was at our home or somewhere else. Stars have a significant meaning for us so each year I find a special star ornament to add to our Christmas tree. There have been years that we have not put a Christmas tree up, and then the ornament waits to be hung until the next year, or whenever we do have one in our home.
Also, Adam was an amazing accomplished trumpet player. We found a theater that has a brass concert the weekend of Thanksgiving to kick off the Christmas season. Hearing those trumpets is so sweet and brings some joy into our hearts. Some of the traditions we had we no longer do, but some are good to continue for now.
So even though others will not understand your grief as the years go by, it is still your own personal journey. It does get better and there are times of laughter remembering and even anticipation of the upcoming season, but there will always be that hole in our heart acknowledging that a very special part of the season is not here to celebrate with us. With summer over and fall arriving, we must make adjustments to fit our needs for this year to honor our beloved child whether continuing with past traditions or creating new ones.