Time does restore to us our quiet joy in the spiritual presence of those we love, so that we learn
to remember without pain, and to speak without choking up with tears. But all our lives we will be subject to sudden small
reminders which will bring all of the old loss back overwhelmingly. Elizabeth Watson
years ago my mother gave me a little Christmas pin in the shape of a striped candy cane cat with a green bow on its tail.
It wasn’t expensive but I loved it. Every year I wore it on my coat and people frequently commented on its charming
During the second Christmas season after Mom's death, I lost the pin. It fell off my coat while I was
running holiday errands. I retraced my steps, gave my name and number to all the retail lost-and-found departments, and of
course, I never saw it again.
I came home after my frantic search and cried as though Mom had died yesterday.
She was gone and now so was her little candy cane cat. The piece of jewelry had no monetary value but it was priceless to
me. Losing the pin that Mom gave me symbolized the loss of my mother at Christmas. I was caught off guard by the raw force
of grief two years after her death.
Sudden small reminders, and large ones, too, can overwhelm us at this festive
time of year. We thought we were doing better, but here we are, crying as though our loss was yesterday. If our loss was recent,
we almost expect the intensity of new grief. If it was a while ago, we are often surprised by the powerful emotions of grief
We are relieved that the season is almost over because we no longer feel pressured
to make merry. But we are about to enter another year without the physical presence of our loved one and Christmas doesn't
mend a broken heart. What do we do with our grief now?
Piece by piece, I am relearning the world. The razor’s
edge of grief, so sharp at Christmastime, has given way to the dull ache of permanent loss. Despite my sorrow, I have had
moments of unexpected comfort throughout the holiday season: the contented purr of my cat, red cardinals against the backdrop of a gray winter day, the beauty
of twinkling Christmas lights on a clear moonlit night, a book of hope and healing, the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee in the
morning, a heartfelt letter from a dear friend and the gratitude of a widow when I invited her to dinner. I used to take small
comforts for granted. I don’t take anything for granted anymore.
Sometimes, when I am alone and missing her
the most, I stop my activities and call out: Where are you, Mom? What are you doing this very moment? Are you with Dad? I
love you both. Can you hear me? If I am able to quiet myself enough to listen, I sense that the answer is a resounding Yes!
And I feel at peace.
May you, too, find unexpected comfort and loving memories as you relearn the world through
all the seasons of your grief.
Eleven years later...
I wrote this page during the first and second Christmas
seasons after Mom died. I no longer dread Christmas. I still feel some sadness because I will always miss her, but the
horrific images of my mother’s suffering at Christmas have been eased by the warm memories of how much she loved the
season. Maybe Christmas returned for me because there were births in my family and young life makes me smile. Maybe
relearning the world just takes time…
If you find yourself contemplating a new year without your loved one, try Focused Expressive Writing. It is a specific method of writing about the complex emotions of grief for insight and healing.
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Kindred Spirits (Pet Loss)