Grief at The Holidays

I miss my Mother in Law. I think we all miss our dead loves ones at the holidays because, in busy modern times, holidays are some of our few remaining traditions. And traditions honor the dead because their place was marked and their place is missing. She brought the cranberries and rolls, she sat across from me at dinner, she told Indy stories of Thanksgivings past.

Grief, for me, goes deeper still at Holidays because of their family-centric nature. Family is so often my place for meaning in the world. It answers, so kindly, the deeper whys of daily existence. I try and do good work, contribute to society in meaningful ways, but loving and giving back to my family is the low hanging fruit of meaningful existence in an otherwise random world.

When someone in your family vanishes, someone who gave so much to you and vice versa, it can call that dedication into question. After all, so much disappears with them, just as it has disappeared for all who wandered the planet before us — the ghosts of 107 billion dead who loved their own children and parents as deeply as we love ours.

I wish I could put a nice bow on grief and meaning making, but I’m not at that place in life, I guess. More questions than answers. But I keep finding hope in Mary Oliver poems and essays. She found her place — her will, voice and meaning — in the bittersweet depth and beauty on earth.

“And now my old dog is dead, and another I had after him, and my parents are dead, and that first world, that old house, is sold and lost, and the books I gathered there lost, or sold — but more books bought, and in another place, board by board and stone by stone, like a house, a true life built, and all because I was steadfast about one or two things: loving foxes, and poems, the blank piece of paper, and my own energy — and mostly the shimmering shoulders of the world that shrug carelessly over the fate of any individual that they may, the better, keep the Niles and the Amazons flowing. And that I did not give to anyone the responsibility for my life. It is mine. I made it. And can do what I want to with it. Live it. Give it back, someday, without bitterness, to the wild and weedy dunes.”

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