With Christmas fast approaching, the excitement and rituals of the season are coming along with it whether we are ready or not. As grieving parents, it can be such a bittersweet time of year where happy memories clash with our loss. It can be fraught with triggers and wishes unfulfilled. We can do nothing to stop the Holidays from coming, but we can choose how we will handle ourselves and what we will do (or not do). Some things will be a struggle because the memories and loss are so deep.
For me, I struggle with baking.
I love to bake, and I especially loved to bake with my son, Jacob. As Christmas approaches, I have noticed that I no longer bake anywhere near as much as I used to. In fact, I think my youngest son bakes cookies more often with my friend than with me at the moment. (I’m glad they do because they both enjoy it so much.)
My realization made me look back and question: Have I have been avoiding my grief by avoiding baking? And if I am honest with myself, to some degree I have to answer yes.
How did I get here? I used to have a freezer full of baking set to give away over the holidays. These days I am lucky if I make a few dozen of our favourites for Christmas Day.
I didn’t notice my slow drift away from the thing I love to do. Changes in my lifestyle partly explain the shift away from producing so many goodies, but grief plays a role as well. Sometimes it just plain hurts to do it. It’s a bittersweet kind of hurt; I relish the memories, but it hurts just the same.
Today, just thinking about all the times Jacob and I baked together causes my stomach to churn and my eyes to leak. I miss the interaction and fun we used to have. I miss how he would surprise me with his talent for icing our toy train sugar cookies we loved to make (and devour). I miss our conversations while baking and how he’d sneak cookie dough. Oh, how I miss him when I bake.
Jacob was my helper from the time he could stand at the counter. We bonded over baking, and he even created “Jacob’s Peanut Butter Cookies” by adding semi-sweet chocolate chips and mini marshmallows to the Kraft Super-Easy Peanut Butter Cookies recipe. I can’t make shortbread or gingersnaps or train shaped sugar cookies without thinking of him.
I haven’t given up on Christmas baking, I have just slowed down. I do what I can. I take care of me.
When I bake for the Holidays this year, it will be with my youngest son’s help. I just need to create the opportunity and ask him to join me. We will have fun and enjoy our time. Together we will make “Jacob’s Cookies,” and I will once again share the story of how Jacob came up with the idea. I may cry, and that’s okay. We will create new memories and remember the one who came before him.
Baking will always be bittersweet now. While it helps me remember, the loss still hurts. I will still do it because for me it’s an eternal connection to my Jacob that I am unwilling to let go.
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