Christmas comes with joyfulness, songs, decorations, and the cheeriness of the Season. But after the summer when my five year old son, Sean, died, Christmas held no joy for me. In fact, listening to Christmas music became problematic so I had to make choices to respect how I was feeling and grieving.
Those first few Christmases, I remember that it felt like joyfulness was everywhere carried by Christmas music and I just couldn’t join in the celebrations. I remember thinking, “How dare the world continue to celebrate when my son has died? Don’t they not know what has happened?” I felt like shaking people, and saying, “This is not a time to celebrate as my son cannot be here.” Of course, they didn’t know and they were going about their business as usual.
When I think back to after Sean’s passing, I remember feeling a disconnection between my heart and Christmas. There was a huge gap between how I felt and how others expectations of the season.
Christmas carols were the one thing that I had control over – I could just shut it down and chose not to listen to it. If Christmas songs were on the radio, I would turn them off. I would boycott stations playing Christmas carols. When it was playing in the malls, I would get in and get out as quick as I could, it was unbearable for me.
I laugh now, because it seems that I was always in a dentist chair in December. And of course, Christmas music would be playing in the headphones that were supposed to supply relaxing music. Instead I would sit in the chair feeling trapped and thinking how the carols were “killing” me.
Why did I feel this way? For me, Christmas carols are what we do with our children particularly when they are in preschool. When grieving, joyfulness is not something most of us feel, at least not easily. My heart did not want to celebrate by singing Christmas songs. How could I sing with joyfulness? It felt like a betrayal to Sean. Sometimes I wondered, “Would I ever sing with joy again?”
To this day, I am still not a fan of Christmas music; although, occasionally I listen to them. It continues to be rare for me to break out in song over the Holiday Season, although I do enjoy singing other types of music at other times of the year. I guess it was something that Sean and I did a lot of and it brings back too many painful memories.
Our youngest son, Jamie, was 2 years old when Sean died. I am sorry to say that he did not get to have Christmas carols at the time, definitely not in the first year or two. Was I a bad mom for doing that? I don’t know.
Once Jamie grew up, he asked me why I hated Christmas music so much? It’s not that I hate it. For me, the music simply created a lot of pressure to be happy and I might not have felt it. My heart is heavy this time of year and it’s a stretch to sing with joy. Not listening to or singing Christmas songs is one thing that I can choose NOT to do, giving me a little control over my experience of the Season.
As grieving parents, there are so many things that we must traverse and navigate. Choose the “must do’s” (and do them if it feels right), but also find the "don’t do’s” (and let them be). Tread the holiday season carefully, conserve your energy, and make decisions that you feel are right for you and your immediate family. Friends and family may not understand and that is okay, they do not have to walk in our shoes, only we can do that. Find what works for you during this time.
Not listening to and singing Christmas songs is something that I have chosen NOT to include in my Christmas season. What will you do, or not do, as Christmas approaches?
If you find you need help in your grief, please visit our Community Resources page to find help that is available in Calgary, AB.
If you would like to receive our blog posts via email, please sign up here.