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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

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Are you new to this perpetual state of grief? Sit down. Join me. I’ve been here since March 18, 2019. Make sure you read that date right. It may look familiar because of COVID but rewind a year. That’s the day my husband died. I’ve been grieving ever since. Some days are easier than others. Some days simply suck. Hold my Corona. The holidays are here.

Last year when Christmas rolled around it had only been nine months since we lost him, and it was our first Christmas without him. My husband was the kind of guy who would curate a full meal with appetizers, a signature cocktail, and an accompanying playlist. He’d print out AND laminate a menu to be displayed for all the guests to see. Come Christmas Eve, my only job was to set the table and enjoy.

I was in charge of decorations, which included an obnoxious amount of Christmas decorations and multiple trees. Staircase garland, centerpieces, three trees, glitter, and lights. I was the lady at Hobby Lobby once a week, sneaking in bags of new décor, suggesting a fourth and fifth tree because why the hell not. I was THAT lady.

I haven’t been to Hobby Lobby since January 2019 where I was probably buying more obnoxious shit, but on sale! I hated everything. Every single thing about last Christmas – hated it. Come December 26th there were no signs Christmas had even taken place inside my home. I threw shit in tubs without much care, aggressively shoved trees back into their respective boxes which become totally worthless once opened, and hauled everything back to the garage, downstairs Christmas closet or upstairs Christmas room. Yes, I have three dedicated places within my home for the obnoxious collection of Christmas nonsense. And while food was still made, the table set, and copious amounts of decorations strewn about – it wasn’t the same. Nothing will ever be the same. Because I’m not THAT person anymore. Not because all the joy has been sucked from my guts or I’ve turned into a grinch, but simply because he’s not here anymore. It’s just not the same.

Death and grief change you. I have triggers I work hard at to avoid. My biggest trigger – guy stuff. I can take out the trash no problem but pulling out the ladder will make me lose my shit. And oh my gawd when the internet goes down or I have to hang something – step away. When I sell this house one day it will be abundantly clear what Michael hung and what Jamie hung. Nail, anchor, wire, level – Michael. Pushpin, double-sided tape, ticky-tacky – Jamie.

So, this year it looks a little different. The whole of 2020 is different. I only put up one tree. Yes, my tree is already up. I’m a rule breaker. All hail the rule breakers – you are my people. And Santa Claus will still fit his jolly fat ass down our chimney and holy shit will I need Tylenol! And guess what? I was triggered anyway. But unlike last year, I allowed myself to see, feel, understand and be okay with what I am capable of and what I’m not. I think they call that healing. I gave myself permission to do it differently this year because after all, it’s not the same, and neither am I.

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