Currently: The December Sads
categories: unquiet things
I have been sleeping a lot lately. This is strange for me. Although I appreciate a good night’s rest, I typically don’t want to spend more time in bed than I absolutely need to. I’ve also noticed a waning interest in cooking and baking, and my inspiration and enthusiasm for culinary adventures seems to have disappeared entirely. These inclinations and lack of, I suppose, started earlier in November and have steadily been growing more intense. I’ve been blaming it on the changing season, the days growing darker, the ending of the year. I’ve been trying to power through.
Yesterday I realized I was just…sad. And missing my mother and my grandparents terribly. I realize it’s not uncommon to be in your mid-40s and have lost all of your elders, but I have been finding myself so resentful of people my age lately (and, well everyone else if I am being honest) who are able to spend time with their mother, or grandmother during the holidays. It makes me so mad! I want that, too! And then I feel awful begrudging people time spent with their loved ones and end up just feeling like a shitty person.
But if I am really being honest, I also felt this way when my mother was alive. I’d see people going to a mimosa brunch with their mothers or road trips or I don’t know, cheesy spa days or whatever, and I’d be resentful then, too. We didn’t have that kind of relationship; she was an animal hoarding hermit-bordering-on-agoraphobe who was a recovering addict and who didn’t drive and who also refused to fly and who canceled more plans than she made (and yes I realize many of those descriptors are traits that I may have inherited or developed myself.) She just…didn’t make it easy. In life, or in death.
But I miss her, anyway.
I admitted this to a friend last night and came to terms that what I have been feeling was less seasonal depression–though I am sure there’s some of that in there, too–and more just…waves and waves of grief. I miss my family. I miss my grandfather’s calm, placid demeanor and his unwavering support. I miss my grandmother’s nosy, gossipy streak and how she remembered the name of every friend I ever had, and would still ask about them, years and years later. I miss telling my mother about some way I screwed something up for someone and how she would predictably remark, “fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke!”
This morning I watched an absolutely benign but very sweet video on TikTok and surprised myself by bursting into tears. It’s not even that this lady reminds me of my grandma or mother. More like…she just reminds me that I don’t have either. And typically if this were to happen, I’d screw up my eyes, clench my jaw, and generally tighten up my face like I was trying to forcefully draw the tears back up into their ducts. Will myself toward composure, force it if I had to.
But I had a passing thought…wouldn’t it be better for me…if I didn’t do this to myself? Does shoring myself up like that do more harm than good? Does it hurt longer in the long run? So. I just cried.
And it hurt A LOT.
And then it hurt less.
My grandparents would have been 100 and 103 last month. Their birthdays usually book-ended Thanksgiving. My mother died on December 16, and I can never remember the year. I eventually have to refer back to a bit of writing I did when it happened so that I can figure it out, but I always forget it as soon as I find it. December 16th, as it happens was yesterday. I had forgotten, or at least intellectually I had forgotten.
But my heart knew. My body remembered. I realized the date as I was messaging my sisters about all of these things earlier this morning. I acknowledged that what I was feeling was a bone-deep sadness and that by recognizing what it is, maybe I can better address it.
But I don’t know what that means, really. To sit with something. I am guilty of taking things literally, but for some reason, that doesn’t apply for me here. It doesn’t make sense. Like, just literally SIT there? And then do what? Think about them? Cry about them? Write about them, maybe? And how I am feeling? I mean… I am sitting while I am writing about this, but it feels like I am cheating. Like, somehow, this is not me sitting with my grief. I just don’t know how to do it or even how to figure it out. Especially since these aren’t fresh losses. My grandmother, the last among them to go, was almost five years ago now.
Or…maybe it is just as simple as sitting there and thinking about things. I don’t know why, but I don’t like the simple answers. I want complicated steps and instructions (that I can summarily ignore because I have a weird contrarian streak.) Maybe I do need to add something else, a little touch, a bit of flair, just so it feels like I am DOING something.
Maybe tonight I will light a candle. Maybe three candles. And just sit in the dark and look into those little flickering flames. And think about those people I love who are gone and how now I just don’t know what to do with that love anymore.
This is my favorite post of the season.
I relate to this so very much (in a different way), and sending all the love to you. I'm the type of person who tosses out the little feelings until one day there's a mountain of feelings in my backyard and it's like...welp, guess I gotta deal with this mountain now. And you have to climb it, all breathless and exhausted, or it won't go away, like a video game's final boss level. And logically you know there's no correct way to grieve or sit with sadness, but you feel whatever you do is wrong. It's difficult to sit with feelings and not try to will them away, or make yourself feel better. We're a "fix-it" culture and that shit is conditioned into us from the get-go. All of this is to say: Just acknowledging and sitting with feelings and memories is enough and correct. And I see and acknowledge and honor your particular sadness. Sending love from the desert.
Sky Bray says
I lost both my Dads last year.. and this post speaks to that odd existential feeling we get around death. None of it ever makes any sense.
A bit of what I do in case it inspires you - I keep an altar. Just a space on top of my piano with pictures of them. Each morning I look in their eyes and say hi and give them coffee - and then do whatever feels right in that moment - whether it's a cry, or just a good morning, or sometimes I just talk to them. It helps a lot with processing that feeling you were speaking of, where there's a missing space where they used to be.
Feeling the feels with you. I really appreciate your candid sharing with us. Thanks for the cry today.
The Indy Grrl says
Look. I don't have all the answers. But I do have some of them. Maybe some of them are even the right answers. In no particular order:
1. Grief is...something else. No two people grieve alike. Grief and loss present in so many different ways, and so I think it makes sense that we process these griefs and losses in equally myriad ways. So...I guess what I am saying is that what you are doing now IS grieving, and processing it, and sitting with it, and expressing it. I'll talk more about what that looks like for me in a little bit. But the important thing is: you are acknowledging it. You aren't ignoring it, or willing yourself into composure, or whatever. Which brings me to point 2:
2.) "If you can mention it, you can manage it." It's a bit trite, but there is truth in it. My point is this: no one is well served by us NOT acknowledging that shit.
3.) Grief does not go away. Ever. It evolves, changes shape, presents differently in your life at different times, depending on what you yourself are going through. Yeah, Mom died 8 years ago and Boppa 6.5 years ago and Mawga, almost 5 years ago, but that grief you have for their loss? It's still here. It's kind of...almost like it has taken the place of their presence. It will never leave. It is part of you. Because THEY were part of you, and that grief is the strongest, most potent thing of them that remains. Except for Mawga's cookbook. My point is, don't be surprised when that grief pops up. It will continue to do so, whether it's one month or 5 years or forty. It will take you less by surprise, though, the more you mention it, acknowledge it, feel it.
4. Going back to how you are letting yourself grieve and process...well. Let me just say, within certain limitations, there's not really a wrong way to grieve. I mean, don't throw yourself on a funeral pyre or kill kittens or sleep with lots of rando strangers or rely too heavily on addictive things as a way to process and/or numb yourself, but...let yourself do what you need to do. Example: what I've gone through this fall, and to a certain point, am still going through. My way of processing it has been pretty straightforward: first, I let myself feel what I needed to feel, and I didn't fucking apologize for it. I cried. I cried a lot. I talked to people. I texted people. I journaled. Then I kept busy to the point when I wasn't feeling, and that's bad. So I would go home and drink a bit and listen to some sad music and then I would *really* feel, and get to the point where I could write and talk and reflect and process it. I bounced back and forth in the stages of grief--I still do--but I try to identify them as I am in them. And gradually, the grief evolves. So, anyway, my point is this: you writing about this IS sitting with it. It's listening to it and processing it and putting into perspective and honoring it. You're not doing it wrong. You're doing it so very, very right.
I always find myself missing my grandmother extra hard around the holidays. Having an extremely dysfunctional family, she was the only one who was always full of warmth, and...normal, so to speak. I miss her so much. I woke up Christmas morning and found myself just full of grief, I sat on my couch and cried by myself for a little bit, and similar to your experience, it felt really good to just let it out.
I don't speak with my mother and I have never had a good relationship with my father. They're both alcoholics, addicts, and just..miserable human beings. I didn't spend Christmas with my dad due to the pandemic...but he's alone, and I'm all he has, so I called him. He was shit faced, as I expected. His birthday is today, so I'll be calling earlier and hoping he's still sober.
All of this is to say that, I completely relate to missing your family who might not be all that ideal, and seeing people with their mothers going to brunch and feeling fucking sad.
I never really was around my mom, I grew up with my dad, but we never went to the movies, never went out to dinner, never went shopping, or did any of the things I see other kids doing with their fathers. They're still alive of course, but the older I get (mid thirties here), the more I find myself wishing for...something else. I've tried to accept I'll never have that kind of relationship with either parent, and that's okay, but sometimes it really gets to me and I let myself wallow in that hole for a little bit.
Happy holidays to you, I hope you have been able to find some peace and joy of your own despite the difficult feelings. <3
S. Elizabeth says
Many hugs to you, friend. I think wallowing every once in a while is good and necessary, especially when your family sucks and you're sad about it. Especially-especially when you see other families acting so magically normal! I try and remind myself that there's always more to these people and these families and stories that we don't see, and we can't really know what secrets and tragedies and suckiness those brunches and mother-daughter shopping trips are hiding. BUT STILL. Sometimes I don't care and I want it all, anyway! So I get it, and I am sorry.