Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The holidays and me

Sometimes, even a meme can have good advice. That’s a little condescending to memes, but really, it’s not often that one actually “works”. The meme above is one that does.

A year ago today I shared the meme above after my longtime friend Linda shared it. It struck me as being good, sound advice, and still it still is, though maybe not as relevant for me in the same ways it was last year. The November/December holidays just aren’t that big a deal for me, so I have an emotional buffer that some other grieving people don’t.

Recently, I joined two Facebook groups for gay widowers, and over the past month I’ve seen how much pain the holidays bring for some of them. While I totally get what they feel, I don’t actually understand it. That makes me really, really fortunate.

Thanksgiving stopped having any real meaning for me when I left the USA, mainly because it has nothing to do with this country (duh). While I occasionally tried to make a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal to share some of my original culture with family here, that’s really all it was (the last time I did that was 2016). That’s not true for lots of other Americans, in the USA or overseas, but the fact it hasn’t been a big deal for me in decades means it’s arrival this year didn’t affect me at all (in fact, I was on holiday in Queenstown at the time, and on that Friday, Thanksgiving Day in the USA, my brother-in-law made us all a lovely roast lamb dinner).

Christmas is the same for me: No real emotional attachment to it. As I said last year, Nigel and I didn’t have any Christmas traditions as such. Every year we’d get together with family, but who it was and where we got together varied from year to year. That was it. Most years we didn’t even give each other gifts, and we usually didn’t put up a tree, let alone decorate the entire house. I didn’t put up the Christmas tree last year, and haven’t this year, either, and doubt I will (Nigel and I also didn’t put the tree up for either of the Christmases we shared in our last house together).

Because I have such loose connections to those holidays, they don’t have the emotional hold on me that they do for others. I never knew how lucky I was until now: One less trigger for sadness.

This isn’t to say that I feel nothing at the holidays, though. My dad died on Thanksgiving Day, but because the date of Thanksgiving is different every year, I’ve never focused on that fact (plus, it was 41 years ago this year). I think of of my dad every year, but in the context of happy childhood memories, not his death (this is something I talked about last year). This is where I’m already at with Nigel: I remember him and the love and good times we had together, but the holidays aren’t a trigger for sadness or grief.

The reality is, there are plenty of other days that absolutely can trigger sadness or grief, like anniversaries and our birthdays, for example. However, the biggest reality of all is that I don’t actually need any sort of specific trigger, and I can feel sadness or grief, seemingly for no reason at all. That’s why I can totally get what those widowers are feeling, and what it feels like, even though I don’t specifically understand it.

I miss Nigel every single day, holidays or not, but for me things are no worse on holidays than on any other day. That makes me really fortunate. It may seem to be a strange thing to feel gratitude for, but I’ll take it. I hope none of you ever have to learn why that is.

This post is a revised and expanded version of something I posted on my personal Facebook this morning.


Roger Owen Green said...

My church is doing a Blue Christmas this Sunday evening.

Arthur Schenck said...