Stepping on the Next Stone by Deneen Azzolino

As it comes upon the tenth year anniversary of my son Matthew’s passing, I’ve given myself a challenge. It’s a very hard one but it’s a challenge I had to do.

Matthew’s birthday is right at the end of Thanksgiving on November 30th and then right after that comes the Christmas holidays. When you see me out I’m usually the one standing off to the side with a smile plastered on my face trying so hard to be in the spirit of the holidays but inside, I’m dying and really not wanting to be there or anywhere to be truthfully honest. What I really want is to be alone in my bed, in the mist of a pity party set for one! Most of my friends and family completely understand this. Some other friends and family understand but also have said to me, enough already get over yourself! Some other people just don’t understand it at all. Those people just don’t want to understand and they never will! There is no way to make them. Trust me, I have personally tried! It’s just not worth your time or your effort! It’s just lost cause.

Now back to my personal challenge, Matthew would be turning forty this year, I really can’t believe my baby would be forty!! It just seems like yesterday, I was bringing him home from the hospital and wondering, can I actually be a good mother to this precious little baby boy? It also seems like only a moments ago when I was watching that same baby boy who was now a young man passing away! I just knew deep down inside I had to make this challenge, a step forward on this journey for myself and to be quite honest probably for my whole entire family and to all those around me. I am going to try and move to that next stepping stone. What does that entail you might ask? I am going to try and live in the moment. I am going to try and enjoy the Christmas holiday, I am going to try and be joyful but most importantly, embrace the spirit the holidays!

I honestly think Matthew would not have wanted me to be so glum and so miserable especially during Christmas time. He loved the holidays and the excitement that came with them. Now, I know for a fact this is going to be challenging as most challenges are and I know this will be one of the hardest things I will ever do. I know I might fall back a step or even two but deep down inside I believe this is what I need to do for myself and to be perfectly frank , for everyone around me also. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss him any less and in fact I miss him even more! It doesn’t mean I don’t think of him, I think of him more everyday. In fact that’s what got me to this point.

How this all came about is a little weird. As the holiday time of year rolls around it becomes the months of dread and hurt. I have Matthew’s birthday on November 30 and then we have Christmas and New Years. I also have right after all the holiday hoopla, is the anniversary of his passing which happens to be on  February 26. I always start having a problem sleeping. I start thinking about everything. My mind become a bowl of mush and all I start thinking of all the what ifs. I start to dread him not being here more, where he should be. Knowing he’s not here to enjoy in all the family get togethers in all of our life’s moments. I was up one of those nights and I started doing some deep thinking. I asked myself why was I hurting so much and why was I dreading the holidays so much? I know he’s not here where he should be but would he really want me so miserable? Then I was thinking if I do enjoying the holidays would that mean I was missing him any less? Does that mean I’m not thinking of him any less? I think deep down I actually believed all of this and that is what I’ve been doing to myself all these years, holding on to all this sorrow and grief.  I’ve seriously been worried that if I enjoyed the holidays I would be an awful parent because my child was no longer here! This dawned on me like a big lightbulb!!! I swear, it was like warmth and light just came over my whole body!!! There is no way in all of my being that I could ever stop thinking about him or stop missing him. I loved him and nothing would ever change that!  It was almost like he was saying “ Mom, go and enjoy the holidays for me and mostly for you!”  I seriously wanted to cry!  For the first time in a longtime, I actually  felt good about the Christmas Holidays!

The following day I started looking up things to do around the area for the Christmas season. I have never done any of these things because I was just wallowing in my own grief. For the first time since Matthew left us I finally felt excitement about the holidays! I wanted to embrace Christmas.

The day after Thanksgiving I started putting away all of the Fall decorations and started putting up my Christmas decorations. I was actually invested in getting my house decorated! Usually it was my daughters who would be pulling out all the Christmas decorations and start putting them up. For once I was ahead of them!! It actually feels good!!  I guess this is finally a step forward on my stepping stone journey!

So, this year if you see me out and about and I have a smile on my face, know that it’s a genuine smile! Know that I took that challenge and I’m going to beat it! Know that I AM stepping forward on that next stone! I hope you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Christmas season. Enjoy the season and remember to always embrace this time with your family.

Merry Christmas!