On a busy day, I can feel it beginning. I can feel the stress mounting within the walls of my home. We made it through Thanksgiving, but that’s just the beginning. The kids and I brace ourselves for the holidays. I can almost feel them hunkering down, getting ready to maintain and handle themselves as we watch the world move through the holiday season.
I’m feeling different this year. I’m not as stressed as I remember being in the recent past. Things are going a bit better for me though. I have a job I love, I’m nearly done with my master’s (which translates to no school for me right now), and I’m finding myself looking forward to things more. Heck, I’m actually going to go to the work holiday party and I’m not anxious in the slightest.
The kids don’t seem to be in the same place. I can feel their stress building. Their tempers are short. Their tolerance is nearly non existent. I know we all grieve differently, but some days, I wish we could be on the same page. I know this time of year is so hard for them. They miss their dad. They see all their friends with dads around and they know something is missing in their world. They feel it very deeply and that pain surfaces in anger many days, intolerance other days, and just plain cranky behavior throughout the season.
Holiday season is stressful for any kid. The expectations, the anticipation, the busy schedule all lead to overload. Add to my kids’ days that they miss their dad, their mom is busy nearly all the time, money is still tight and many days, they just don’t know how all this will play out. I do my best to keep expectations in check, make time for some fun, provide low stress days and to be present to them. Some days though they are just so cranky! I become frustrated and am constantly asking myself…is it their grief? Is it normal holiday, kid behavior? When do they need intervention and when do I need to let them work it out? There is always that voice in my head…would it be different if Dave hadn’t died? Would we see the same behaviors? How can I help in the immediate situation and help them build the skills they need to work out these emotions and situations on their own?
I think the family member struggling the most right now is my little one. He’s only seven. He was six months old when Dave died. He never had a birthday with his dad. He was only 3 months old that first Christmas when Dave was still here. He has no memories. This frustrates him. He is discovering what families with a dad around look like as he spends time with friends and is exposed to more at school. He is very angry and it breaks my heart. How much of this is grief? How much of this is his personality? I don’t know. I do know that he is struggling nearly every day. His holiday season isn’t what he hopes for…he wants more, he longs for more and as much as I try, I can’t give him what he wants most…his dad.
So, I do my best to make sure that he has time with other father type guys. My brothers spend time with him. He spends time with his friend’s families who have dads around. I think it hurts him and heals him all at once. I tell him stories about his dad. I tell him how much his daddy loved him and wanted to always be here with him. It hurts and heals all at once…I hope.
There is nothing I want more for Christmas than for my kids to just feel normal again. My holiday wish is that the hole in their hearts can somehow be filled by the people and love around them. I know that their dad loved them. I know that the hardest thing he ever did was leave them. I know that they will be ok, but when the holidays come…it seems like ok is far away.