Holiday Stepping Stones by Deneen Azzolino

The holidays are such a hard time for anyone who has lost a loved one. For me I have Thanksgiving, Matthew’s Birthday, Christmas, New Years and then the month of February, the month he died. This has always been the worst time of the year for me. I start by saying this year will be different. I will be happy. Go lucky me! I make it to the middle of it and I crash!

The holidays for anyone who has lost anyone is never the same. For me it’s constant four months of pretending to be happy for everyone around me but deep down inside I’m breaking like a piece of China being dropped to the floor. You put on this mask for everyone and it’s just that, a mask!

November 30th was Matt’s 39th Birthday and I went to work even though a big part of me preferred to be home in bed, hiding under the covers. I knew if I stayed home I would be miserable. I thought as like in previous years, I would just go to work and be surrounded by my coworkers and friends who knew why I was gloomy and they as always would help me get through the day. That day that was once a day celebration of Matthew being another year older to another day and year of missing him more!

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year. To be totally honest it’s one of the only reasons I look forward to winter! Actually, the absolute only reason! After Christmas, I’m asking for it to be over and wanting summer and warm weather back!!! The reason I love Christmas is the togetherness of family and friends. We always have our family get togethers throughout the year but there is something special about the Christmas one. I think it’s about it being wintertime and the Christmas tree, the lights and yes, even the snow! After Matt died, that all changed.  A piece of my heart isn’t here. My first born baby isn’t here to enjoy our family togetherness.

When my children were babies they always received their “ Baby’s First Christmas ornament” right before Christmas. I always stored it in their Christmas stocking for safekeeping. On the day we would have our big family Christmas get together, each child would hang their stocking and hang their baby ornament on the tree. Taking Matthew’s baby ornament out of his stocking the Christmas after he died was the hardest thing for me. I cried so hard and it was at that moment I dreaded Christmas. It would never, ever be the same for my family or me again.

Those same questions that will probably never be answered always pop up more times than not during this time of the year.  The why questions, why me, why my family, why did this happen? If someone ever gets the answers to those questions please contact me!

I try so hard each Christmas to get into the spirit of the holidays. I wear my happy mask and keep stepping forward on my stepping stones. The first few years I would wait till mid December to decorate. I think one year it was a week before Christmas!  As my daughters got older, they started to do the decorating for me. I did feel bad but in the beginning but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I almost felt like it was crippling me. If I could of canceled Christmas I would of but still having other children that just was not going to happen. The past year or two I started to help them more and slowly do more and more of the decorating myself and have them help me instead of the other way around. The way it should be! I just try to keep stepping forward.

A little tradition I started to do after Matthew died is after I put Matthew’s baby ornament on the tree and I take a piece of the wrapping paper that we are using this year and write him a small note on it saying, I miss you, I love you or something special that might of happened over the past year. I then fold it up and I then put it in his stocking. A year ago I read a few of them and realized that was last time I’ll do that. It was very hard to get through. It did tell me that I am moving forward with my healing but it also was pretty much like pulling a Band-Aid off a wound that wasn’t healed. 

One thing you have to do during this time of the year, actually any time of the year is self-care. I’ve been invited to gatherings and to be perfectly honest, I just haven’t felt up to being around a lot of people and trying to be festive. I try not to be alone but there are those days where you do just want to be melancholy. That’s really is okay. There will be other days to be festive and jolly!

When we went to get our Christmas tree from our favorite tree farm, I remembered the time we took the whole family and Matthew was with us. It brought back all those wonderful memories but I also felt all the pain that he wasn’t here to enjoy it with us again. I wanted so much to enjoy decorating the tree but just was able to. We put the tree in the stand and decorating the tree will have to wait. My tree did have to wait two days before I even attempted decorating it. Thanks to my husband telling my girls that after dinner that night we were all helping to get it done! We did get the tree decorated but my heart really was not into it but I tried. Every time I think I have my Christmas Spirit back it only stays for little moments here and there. It really does come down to, you can only push yourself so far before you have to stop.

I had my daughter in law and grandson come visit for a bit and it brought back a lot of feelings but they were nice cozy feelings. I see a lot of Matthew in my grandson and it’s good to see. It makes my heart feel full. They made me laugh and smile.

It’s taken awhile for me to write this article. I’ve fallen back as I knew I would during this time of the year. I’ve tried real hard to hold on to the good feelings of the holidays and not feels so sad. As they say you are only human. The only thing you can really do is pick yourself up and brush yourself off and start back on your path and keep walking on your stepping stones.

As I’ve written before, I do think it takes time to learn to live without having your loved one especially during special moments that happen during everyday life. You will never “ just move on” you really just learn to exist with the absence of them not being here. Deep down inside I do believe they are there in spirit…. Always.