Missing and mourning while others celebrate and complain

November 24th, 2010 § 8 comments

I have many friends who have lost family members this year. My own devastating loss, the death of my beloved mother-in law, was only 14 months ago. The death of someone you love is never easy, but I think holidays are particularly painful times. Not only do you miss the physical presence of the person, but there are often so many reminders of special times you have had together, of traditions you shared.

While we grieve for the physical absence of the person at our family gatherings or the telephone calls we share, what we also grieve is the loss of future time together. That is, we not only grieve the person we’ve lost, we mourn the future events that we will not be able to share with them.

I didn’t spend many Thanksgivings with Barbara; Turkey Day is almost always a holiday spent with my side of the family (Christmas is always spent with Clarke’s family). There were a few years my parents and in-laws both lived in Pennsylvania; back then Clarke and I were able to see both sides of the family in the same Thanksgiving weekend.

Barbara loved to set a good table; she always had special items on the table that had been handed down to her — china, silver, serving pieces. But more than any other Thanksgiving tradition, the one that I associate with her is Cranberry Ice.

Cranberry ice is a sort of cranberry sorbet, an icy, tart, frozen taste sensation. Perhaps originally an intermezzo, it evolved to take the place of traditional cranberry sauce at the table and now is eaten along side the turkey and fixings. Barbara always had special small cut-glass footed bowls to hold it; I haven’t yet found some of my own. Last year, in a loving tribute to her, I made my own cranberry ice for the first time using the food mill she’s put in my stocking years ago. The mill sat unopened in my cabinet until last year. I pulled it out and held it then, realizing as I held it that her own hands had held the package. She had shopped for it, paid for it, put it in my stocking. I touched that plastic container and all I felt was cold. Without her, it wouldn’t be the same.

My daughter (pictured above, ten years ago, with Barbara) will be staying home from school today recovering from oral surgery. I think it would be really nice to make the cranberry ice together, just the two of us, while the boys are at school. Traditions carry on, however painful it is.

It’s important to remember that while some will be complaining about their relatives while spending time together this week, some of us would do anything to have our loved ones back with us to share the day. I feel sure a bit of sensitivity to the emotional turmoil some may be experiencing would be welcomed by your friends or family members who grieve this week.

Every day is hard when you miss someone; a holiday is especially so.

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§ 8 Responses to Missing and mourning while others celebrate and complain"

  • You’re statement about grieving not only the past, but also the future resonates with me. I know that’s what makes my losses so difficult to bear, particularly around the holidays. Though I cherish the memories of times together, I can’t help but long for the opportunity to make new memories today and all the days yet to come.

    I will be thinking of you and your family, and holding you close in my heart. May your Thanksgiving be filled with much love and laughter, even as you mourn the loss of Barbara. xoxo

  • Having lost so many in my family at a young age, I used to feel a hole in my holidays. For the most part, I didn’t recognize them at all. Now that I’ve lived more years without them as with them, the holidays are a time to remember my parents, and long ago times with my deceased brother and sister and bring back the old traditions. I’m filling the hole with those things we used to do together and sharing that with others so they can know my family through me. I still miss them but find through sharing my family’s traditions it often helps those around me, who still have living family, to appreciate what they have all the more and not get as bogged down with petty family feuds. At least that is the feedback I get. Through me, those who are gone can still reach out, touch others and continue to give.

    Make the cranberry ice and allow yourself, your daughter and the rest of your family to feel Barbara there. Her body may be gone but her love isn’t. 🙂

  • Joanne Funch says:

    Thanks for sharing that beautiful reflection of your mother in law. You were right on when you said we grieve the future events we will never have. Since losing my mother and husband, the holidays still are difficult and yet I also remember what great times we shared during holiday time. Grief takes time and with time we gain perspective on the gratitude side of loss.

  • Erika Robuck says:

    Thank you for this reminder to embrace the chaos of family and loved ones while we have them. We’ll miss them so dearly once they’re gone. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Linda Woods says:

    My mom died 3 weeks ago. We continue our holiday traditions and rituals this week just as if she were here even if it means complaining about certain relatives and teasing each other (a family tradition! )because we have learned from tragedy and death in the past, that life still goes on. You do what you have to to keep going. Sometimes what one person does is not what other people would do or find acceptable and that is ok. You just never know what people are really going through. Sometimes the complaints about family are really about something else.

  • Linda, I am very sorry for your loss… I did not know your mother died recently. I agree completely that what is right for one family may not be right for another. Also, what feels “right” 3 weeks later may or not feel right a year or two or ten later. Grief is a process, I think.

    Showing consideration for what others are going through is what I am recommending. If someone IS complaining for a reason other than taking loved ones for granted or not having perspective, showing the type of empathy I recommend will give people a way to talk about their emotions. My hope is that those who can be with their loved ones think about it and appreciate it for an extra moment. I so fervently wish I could have Barbara here. Instead, we will remember her through tradition. Again, Linda, my condolences to you and your family. Thank you for reading.

  • Karen Crede Moore says:

    I, too, made cranberry ice today and thought of my dear friend Barbara and out times together.

  • JoAnn Kirk says:

    This photo of Barbara brought tears to my eyes….oh, my, such good memories of the time we were neighbors and friends.

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