Holidays. They can be incredibly joyous or leave us in our own messy pool of feeling sorry for ourselves. Especially during a holiday, it can be hard not to compare our lives to others. We’ve all done it. At times we are satisfied with the results of this comparison. At other times, it can leave us restless and sad as we look at photos of family gatherings on social media. We might not even be totally aware of this until it happens. This year, I had an unexpectedly difficult Mother’s Day. The fact that it was cold and rainy didn’t help.
After the sudden loss of my mom, I expected all future holidays to be difficult. Oddly, this turned out not to be the case. If you’ve had a significant loss, you might agree with this. It doesn’t take a holiday to bring back remnants of that loss. It can be something as simple as a smell, a particular piece of music, a dream or a memory. You can be standing on a street corner and something can just hit you out of nowhere for no reason whatsoever, like a giant wave suddenly washing over you. This can happen at any time, in any place.
I’m often fine during the Christmas holidays and even on my mom’s birthday. I often expect myself to feel sad, but thankfully I’m a person with a fairly cheery outlook and this helps. If I’m busy enough with distractions I’m generally better. Distractions have a way of temporarily keeping me away from my real feelings. This is not always a bad thing. You might feel like this is true for you too. Distractions are the gatekeepers of sorrow, of longing, of truly getting into the core of it all and sometimes we don’t want to go there. I’m always happy for distractions, but this past Mother’s Day I had a hard time finding those distractions.
My daughter, who lives nearby, was visiting with her fiance's family during the day. We were to see her later in the evening for a special meal. That was all fine until suddenly, there I was with a big wave of longing to spend the day with her, my mom and everyone else I’ve loved or lost. I wanted to have them all back. But I knew I couldn’t. A loss doesn’t have to be a death. It can be simply missing someone or the loss of a past relationship as we knew it. Collective losses are hard and as we know, thinking about one loss can often bring them all back, whether animal or human.
For example, our last cat Sammy passed away in February. He was almost 21. My husband and I were both young when we adopted him and his sister as kittens. Measuring the span of those years means that those years are gone. Sammy was a sweet distraction as the years whizzed by. He was a loving creature who I felt was my soulmate and would be there for me in times of need. So there I was, no Sammy; shiftless without my favorite people/creatures and painfully longing for one more day with my mom. My husband was understanding as he told me it was okay to “have my feelings.” It must have been a difficult day for him having to deal with me. I am grateful for his love and patience.
Finally I knew my pity party would serve me no good, so I went to my studio to paint. At first it was hard to focus, but I knew that painting has always been therapeutic. As I painted I began to sort things out and the action and focus kept me balanced and present. I wallowed in my own crap for only so long as I began to remember all that I have, and all that I’ve had throughout my life. And thank goodness I began to smile again.