The following are my reflections on the holiday’s last year and how instead of the searing pain of trauma and loss, I let my life be governed by hope and not fear. I wanted to go into the new year with a reflection on the previous year and how it shaped me. Going through the holidays were hard, but I learned so many things and I am so grateful that I did. I had my family, my boyfriend, and my friends to help me get through and even learn more about myself.
My musings of the holidays begin because you see, most people are excited for Thanksgiving and Christmas. How can you not? The stores already have tons of Christmas and fall decorations. The holidays are hard to ignore, even if you tried. Thanksgiving is a time for family and food, spending time with one another and being thankful for what the year has brought. Christmas, for many and for my family, is about celebrating Christ’s birth and spending time with those we love and showing our appreciation for them by giving them gifts. For those who are excited and happy about the holidays I am so happy for you and may your holidays be blessed. I am one who, even though the holidays are fun and I can enjoy them to the best of my ability, I know there is something missing that can’t be replaced.
When you have lost as much of your family as I have, holidays change. There is no more endless loud laughter and overwhelming joy and peace. There is joy, but it comes with an icy chill at the end. Now with Thanksgiving I haven’t had quite as hard of a time with as Christmas. I know many love Christmas, but I on the other hand, don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. For me, that’s my new reality. A sad reality, but a reality nonetheless. Instead of a fun, bubbly family of six, we are and have been for almost eight years, a family of four. Even though there are four of us, my sister is out of the house, so it can feel lonelier during December than the rest of the months of the year. It can sometimes feel as if all of my sisters died and I’m the only one left. This isn’t to say that my sister has abandoned me, or she doesn’t care about me, or anything like that. She has and will continue to be one of my best friends and sister until we die and I am constantly proud of all the accomplishments she’s made to get where she is today. The fact is she hasn’t abandoned me. She is all grown up now and I would never expect her to live with our parents for the rest of her life and nor would I ask her too. That being said, I am allowed to miss her presence in the house because sometimes it gets dull and boring. Not that my parents are boring, it’s just not the same as having your sisters around to talk to and get sisterly advice. The fact is they don’t know what it’s like to lose a sibling and they can’t understand me as much as my sister does.
It also now has become a struggle for me help to put up Christmas decorations, mainly because we have less help now that it’s just three people living in our house now and partly because it would have been so much more fun to have ALL of my sisters together to help decorate, bake cookies, listen to our favorite Christmas songs and laugh and be our merry wonderful, weird, crazy and adorable selves. Oddly enough, it’s not just the fact that they are gone that makes the holidays even harder. Almost every year since the shooting, around December we have lost either friends or family members. The year after the losing the girls it was my grandpa on my mom’s side who passed away. The second year it was my great uncle. The third year it was a close family friend of ours husband. What made it worse was that several years before we lost the girls, we had lost my grandpa and step grandma on my dad’s side. My grandpa on my dad’s side I was extremely close with and his death hit me really hard. We were always laughing and joking together and those memories I will always cherish.
Our family must seem to many as very fragile and depressing. Yes we had two very precious lives taken away from us and there are many traditions that we did that can’t happen anymore, but the thing I have taken away as of recently is not the sadness of all the traditions lost, but the joy at the new possible traditions that our family can have. All of those traditions I will always look back on and smile, but they are also past traditions. If I get stuck there and constantly wish for things to go back where they were, I would be chasing after the wind, and it won’t propel me forward.
We somewhat have a sense of normalcy now, with new traditions and all of that, which has been helpful to lessen the pain and grief. We go and chop down our own tree, which has been one of my favorite new traditions. We go to a fancy hotel in our town, drink hot chocolate and walk around and look at all their Christmas lights and decorations. We still have New England Clam chowder, which I am very grateful for, because it’s delicious. One new thing was that for Thanksgiving this year I am went to Oklahoma with my boyfriend to spend it with his family. That experience is one I will never forget and will cherish always. Our new traditions don’t make the pain and grief disappear, as I would wish it would, but at least they help to create a somewhat semblance of being a normal family. What I can do and have been striving to do to help ease the pain and grief is to accept and be extremely thankful for the family I do have and embrace the new traditions even more. There may be times or days where I trigger and feel a spiral of emotions come down, but I can’t control that. All I can do is be aware that it may happen, but not solely focus on it. Fear can be crippling and eat away at us. The thing to focus on is hope. Hope that things will get better and let that thought and the brightness that hope brings to fight the fear in the darkness. If we can hold onto hope and not grief, life can go on with less of an icy chill and our life can burst forth like the first flowers of spring.