grieving during the holidays

I have been trying to write this post for weeks. I have a few drafts saved but none of them felt quite right to me, so in the draft folder they’ll stay. I’ve promised myself this morning that this one will be the one I post, regardless of how good I feel about it. So here it goes.
It has been two months and some change since my brother, Quinn, passed away. This whole grief thing has taken me about that long to understand it for what it is – confusing, painful, and inexplicable, though I’m going to attempt that now.
Last weekend I said “Quinn died” out loud for the first time. Then I cried for an hour.
Most days, I felt like I was handling it okay. Then Nick and I had a conversation and he told me I seem like I don’t ever want to do anything when I’m home. Typically, I’m cleaning, doing dishes when they exist, doing laundry every weekend, sweeping, working out, baking. These past two months though – not happening at all. It took him saying something for me to even notice. I have been in a cloud since we got back from Ohio in September. I wake up, I go to work, I work, I leave, I pick up Nick, I come home and lay down, Nick makes dinner, I eat, I take Melatonin to sleep, I sleep – repeat. And I had no clue this is what I was doing. Sweet Nick, he was doing it all – making dinner, cleaning, reminding me to take a shower, picking up all the tissues I left everywhere, etc. Please don’t read this and think I am one of those women who puts pressure on herself to do everything around the house – I’m not, and Nick is very good at doing these things without complaint.
It’s not that I was just slacking at certain things, the fact is – I wasn’t doing anything and I didn’t even notice. I guess grief does that to you. It can take all the things you think are normal routine and make them seem impossible. No, I don’t have the energy to do the laundry in one day like I used to. I don’t want to go hang out with people and smile at them. I’d rather just yell at random people and cry or not go out at all. I stopped working out, which I loved doing. I stopped most of the things I liked doing because they all seemed like way too much effort. Effort I was putting into holding myself together. Also, please don’t read this and think I’m all better now that I’ve realized this – false. I am not “all better” I’m just starting to cope differently, because it’s unfair to my husband to be shut out of my emotions because I think he won’t understand what I’m going through.
This is the one experience in the year of us living in Utah that has made me the saddest about not having family around – understandably so. In the past two months I have seen grief take many forms – some days it is silent and sits on my brain without involving itself in anything. Other days, all I hear is “Why?” “Why?” “WHY?!?!” and it’s all I can do to not cry at work.
I’m the type to hold things in, to believe I have to process alone and not involve anyone else. Funny how I think that because Nick is always involved, regardless of if I know it or not.
Experiencing the grief of losing my big brother has been like nothing else I’ve ever been through. If you’ve lost someone – a grandparent, an aunt, a parent, a sibling like me, a child, or a friend – you know what I’m talking about here. It’s an inexplicable feeling that you don’t want to pressure others with because even though everyone means well – there’s not really anything they can say. Can you bring back my brother? No, so please just hug me. That’s what I need. I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too because I’m literally a robot and you don’t deserve a robot friend.
If you have a friend who is grieving, just hug them and tell them they’re not alone. They know you’re there for them if they need anything, but they probably won’t ask you for anything because they don’t want to bug you. Stop by their house randomly with flowers or food (pizza is always a good choice) or wine (also always promising) and just be with them. Send them random texts – you aren’t bothering them. Just never leave them alone, ever. Being alone with grief is like being suffocated.
Grief is a thief. Yes I know that rhymes, I’m annoyed with myself but let’s move on. It feels private, like if you tell anyone that you feel like your heart has shriveled up and died like the plant you left without watering it then they’ll put you in a mental institution or never speak to you again.
It is uncomfortable because there’s no rulebook for how to grieve. Is it okay to watch Gilmore Girls and cry all day? I don’t know but that’s what I’m doing cause it feels right. Is it okay to grieve by blogging? Maybe. Is it acceptable to say “I’m doing fine” and not bring it up? Maybe not, but that’s what I do. Mostly because crying in public is #1 on the list of things I hate doing. Leave it to my brother to make me do something I hate even now – I type this with a smile, because he always pushed me out of what was comfortable and I hated it.
Grief makes you question everything. There is never enough warning for what is about to hit you like a truck. It really does feel like that. It’s like life hit you with a wrecking ball (thanks Miley for ruining that analogy) and you have to get up afterwards. Some people don’t get up. Other people get up and are completely different forever. I’m pretty sure that’ll be me. I’d like that to be the case. I want to be changed by who my brother was and what he lived his life for and how he did it. I think that would honor him. He was so brave. I want to be brave like him.
Grief can make you believe you are alone. It can make you think crying is stupid and that you look crazy. YOU DON’T. Crying is beautiful – I’m doing it right now.
Grief is suffocating and it can paralyze you. It can make you feel like the whole world is moving and you’re frozen in one spot forever, like in those movies where you only see the one person standing still while the world flies by. Grief can make you think staying in bed forever will fix everything – but it doesn’t.
Being 1,700 miles from the family I want to cling to has forced me to cling to the family I’ve developed here. It has been terrifying for me to do that. I barely talk about my brother because of how much pain I’m in about it. But these people have been healing for my wounds. God knew that when we moved out here. He knew I’d need these people more than I’ve ever needed anyone and how freaking scared that would make me.
He also knew that I would need the Holiday Season. It is not a coincidence that my brother died three months before Christmas. It really, really sucks that that’s the case, but it is not a coincidence. Jesus is so real to people during the holidays. Even if they don’t believe, there’s a different feeling in the air that cannot be ignored.
The holidays are a celebration, they are joy and peace, and they are filled with love. There is snow (in Utah) and garland, happy Christmas music and stockings. Presents come and people put up beautiful lights (some do it way too soon for my taste, but I digress) and Christmas trees that make everyone smile. The smells of Christmas are unmistakeable – we all have our own favorites. People love this time of the year so much it’s unbearable. But God knew I would need this. He knew I would need to be around 30 people from our church for Thanksgiving. He knew I’d want to talk to other women about their lives and hold a giant sleeping baby in my arms until my arms also fell asleep. He knew that and he gave it to me. He filled my heart when I thought I’d spend the whole day crying and feeling empty.
This is the first year I have ever been nervous for Christmas. I am scared everything will make me cry. It is hard for me to not be with my cousins in Chicago because of how connected I feel to them right now. Quinn loved them all so much. I hope they know that. We have all been through a lot – losing our amazing Grandfather in August, Quinn in September. What a painful and difficult couple of months it has been for the Considines. If any of you are reading this – I hope you know how much Quinn adored all of you. He did everything he could to be with you as often as possible and he never ever wanted to leave. This will be the first Christmas without Grandpa Frank and without Quinn, which is painful and so hard, but it refreshes my heart to know they are together all the time now.
God’s timing really is perfect. I do not like what has happened this year; my heart hurts and I am sad. This Christmas, hug your family – even that member of the family you’d rather not hug. I might sound cliché, but you really never know when you won’t be able to hug them anymore – or forgive them or tell them how much you love them and why.
If you’re still reading this, thank you. Thank you for letting me share my heart and for accepting me.
And if you know someone who is grieving right now – even if they hate hugs – hug them. A lot.

3 Comments

  1. Yes, grief is hard… I lost my mom Nov. 23rd 2002 and my dad Aug 16th 2015. So allow me to tell you that you are grieving in a perfectly natural way. You probably already know that. Just take your time. Allow yourself plenty of time, tears and blogging. Day by day, little by little, things get a tiny bit easier. But it takes a long time. Even to this day, I can still cry about my mom. You don’t get over it, you don’t get through it – you learn to live without. The only advice I will give you is to ask the Lord to “give you His portion for this day”… Praying for His peace and strength in your life.

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  2. God’s timing is so perfect and I am blessed to have a daughter that led me to this blog.
    My sister, Theresa, also passed away this past September. Our family is very close and this has been like part of our body and been taken. Like learning to live with one leg because the other has been taken from you. It’s traumatic, crippling and terrifying.
    My struggle and fear has been trying to get through the holidays, especially Christmas, learning to walk with one leg.
    It never occurred to me how perfect this timing is because I can now look at this as being with my loved ones even more than I would any other time of the year and it is exactly what I need. I don’t need “both legs” to get through this, just someone’s shoulder to lean on.
    It will be difficult enough but I will not have to go through this alone.
    Thank you for helping me see this. I will be praying your you and your family, please pray for mine

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    1. Wow. Thank you for sharing that with me. I am so glad you got some peace from me processing today. I am so grateful for how God moves and works in all of us and I feel blessed to have been a part of that for you. I will be praying for you. My heart hurts for your loss, I know it is unbearable at times, but I hope you know you are never alone. People you don’t even know understand what you are going through and are praying for you! I really hope you have an amazing Christmas.

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