A Tough Holiday or was it?

Well it’s Christmas season.  I got lots of cards…phone calls and messages suggesting to me how hard Christmas must be for me this year.  It’s so appreciated and nice that people are thinking of me, but I have a bit of surprise.

I can honestly say that I am probably having the best Christmas of my adult life.  Part of me feels terrible saying that.  My husband died in June.  We had a terrible four months before that.  It is expected that people would think I would be having a tough Christmas.  But I’m really not.

Yes, I miss Kramer.  I miss him a lot….but fortunately Kramer wasn’t into Christmas and I don’t associate him with my feelings about Christmas.  Let me explain…

In previous years I was the person who fretted about gifts.  Who should I give them to?  How much to spend?  Were the dollar amounts equal?  Was the number of presents equal?  Did I seem happy enough, or surprise d enough when I opened the present?  I bought Kramer a flannel shirt…AGAIN.  I can never think of something to buy him.  What if someone bought me something and I didn’t buy them anything?

I fretted about clothing.  I’d go to church and see everyone dressed in red.  Darn.  Why didn’t I do that?  Goodness knows I have something red.  I could have at least worn a red scarf.

I was the person who fretted about Christmas cards.  Did I write an okay letter?  Did I have the Christmas stamps for them?  Would the printer work to print the address labels?  Would I run out of ink?

I fretted about the Christmas meal…did we have enough?  Did we have too much?  Did I make everyone’s favorite cookie?  We didn’t get the roll out cookies made.  I wore my home clothes all day and never  put on the outfit I planned on putting on after the cooking was done.  I forgot to make the popcorn balls.

From a week or so before Thanksgiving and right up to the day after Christmas, this was my constant brain….ping ponging everywhere….

On top of that…I hate the majority of the things I mentioned above.  The only thing I really love is going to church and making cookies.  The rest I don’t care about a stitch but have always wanted to “have the nice Christmas for the family”.  I also hate anything that is the “commercial side of Christmas”…you know, the jewelry commercials that say they only care if they give you the best.  UGH.

So what’s changed this year that all of that isn’t bouncing everywhere in my head?

My husband died.

I learned that none of that is something that I will ever stress about again.  I learned what real stress is…
-waiting for a PET scan results
-driving in terrible weather to get to a needed appointment
-driving your husband to ER knowing he likely broke his neck
-the waiting and wondering if “this is the day” when he was a hospice patient
-the wondering if I was babying him and doing to much for him
-the wondering if wasn’t doing enough for him
-the frustration of a failed surgery
-the “playing along” with his thinking this will get better
-the stress of wondering if I could make it without him

I don’t want to downplay the stress of Christmas that I used to feel and that  many do.  I don’t want to trivialize the depression many feel over the holidays.  It’s real and it’s tough.  I know.  I’ve been right there with you….

But.  I’m not there this year.

My husband died and I know all the things I previously stressed about mean nothing to me now.

If I get a gift…I get a gift.  If it’s not perfect, I no longer care.  I tried.
If I don’t make the “right” cookies…I don’t care.  I made some.
If I didn’t wear red to church…at least I’m not wearing black and burying another family member.
If I forgot a Christmas card to someone…hey, I forgot.  They’ll forgive me and if they don’t, I don’t care.

So much in my life got put into perspective with Kramer’s death.  So many of the things I thought were important, I have found are trivial to me now.  I wish I had figured that out while he was still here.  The holidays would have been so much happier for our whole family if I had…but I’m not going to dwell on that because it’s like the other things, not important anymore.

I was feeling good as Christmas approached and was worried about how Christmas would go…then I had to put my beloved dog Ruby to sleep the Sunday before Christmas.  I was a little worried then how I’d do but what happened with Ruby, I didn’t associate with Christmas and even as hard as that was, that still was nowhere near the stress that came with Kramer’s diagnosis and eventual death.

So if you ask how I’m doing this Christmas season, don’t be surprised if I say really good.  I don’t miss the stress and worry I had from previous years that surrounded Christmas.  That can stay away.  I do regret that losing my husband is what it took for me to see what is really important…what is worth stressing over.  That was a tough lesson to learn.  For now, don’t be worrying about me, I really am doing good.  I’ll always miss Kramer.  I’ll always miss Jody.  I’ll always miss Ruby but the stressing over Christmas, I’ll never miss.

Please note that I do completely understand those of you who do and have had trouble with Christmas.  I hope that at some point, you to can let go of the hard part of Christmas and see some JOY!

32 thoughts on “A Tough Holiday or was it?

  1. Beth

    Hi Jo . . . I am happy to hear that you are in a good place.
    I so enjoy all that you share. The happy and the not so happy – it makes you real and relatable.
    I hope your 2020 is all that you hope for.

    Please give Rosie a pat for me :)

  2. Paula

    Wow! Once again, you’ve hit close to home for me. I love Christmas, but always feel down by the Christmas Eve. I stress so much about who to give what and worrying who will give that I forgot to give to. I also worry about what to say in the Christmas letter. I want to share all the good things and not the down times, but that isn’t realistic. Thanks for putting some things in perspective.

  3. Susan Schlegel

    Thank you, Jo, for your lovely post about Christmas and stress. We will always love those who have died, and treasure the memories; we will always see commercials and displays of “the perfect holiday”. The important thing are today’s faith and love and laughter.

  4. Lori Douglas

    Jo you have peace. It is one of God’s best gifts. It doesn’t mean you might shed a tear now and then. But you do find Joy in living… a new pup, grandkids and your own children, and two new grandkids on the way. Life continues… love continues. You are blessed!

  5. Stearns Carol

    Our gift giving was airline tickets and money this year. My husband and I set a $25 limit for each other and I probably got the best gifts ever. A nice coffee mug that says make time for yourself and a 365 devotional book for women that I will start on Jan 1. Looking forward to a spiritual journey. My husband got a book that I will read even if he doesnt and 3 pairs of striped socks. He always wears brown or black plain socks and I though it was time for him to come out of the sock box and be daring.

  6. Elle

    Bless you Jo. You’ve thoughtfully shared the hardest parts of life that make the hub-bub and expectations nearly meaningless and the most important parts of this life essential and simple. LIke your children, I buried my Dad young. The Blessing out of the darkness was learning exactly what you share here.

    God Bless the Kramer gang and those amazing babies that bring joy to your family and more to come!

  7. Terri in BC

    Thank you for expressing what I’ve been feeling. I’ve had a difficult year this year as well and this year, I had the same attitude you had about Christmas. Surprise, it was the best Christmas ever and I am so less stressed. I highly recommend it!

    May you and yours have a peaceful 2020. Greetings from Canada.

  8. Priscilla

    You have put everything in such great perspective. I haven’t had a tenth of your struggles & have felt badly about not living up to ???? (someone”s) expectations. I truly need to lose those feelings & know what I did, as you, were the best I could do & lighten up!!!
    Wishing you & your family & new puppy(!) a very Happy Healthy New Year.

  9. Janet R

    What great insight. I, too, have stressed over Christmas in the past. Then I developed back issues and chronic pain, so I had to let some things go. Then I had cancer and had to have a hysterectomy the Monday after Christmas (many years ago – all is fine). In 2016, I spent Christmas in the hospital. Now, Christmas is a blessing. If we get to be with family or friends, we are thrilled. I still beat myself up over not getting Christmas cards done, but most of the rest, I can let go.

    I’m happy you are doing well and enjoying the holidays. Happy New Year’s ❣️

  10. Kim LeMere

    I totally get your posting. It was eight years ago that my sister passed away (Dec 21) and how I feel about Christmas has changed. I don’t stress over the things that you stated, cookies, cards or gifts. I’m so glad that you are having a good Christmas and getting the new puppy is going to be fun to watch. I bet the childcare kids will adore her.

  11. Jill Klop

    Jo – you are such a good writer. I never want to miss your blog. You always seem to share something that I need to hear. I’m so grateful that you do share your life and your feelings. I’m glad to know you are doing good this season!

  12. Terri

    Been there done that. My best christmas, the year my husband died and I said no gifts, no visits from anyone just let me do this my way. It fell on Sunday, what did I do, I went and served at the halfway house dinner. No one called no one gifted me. It was wonderful. Enjoy and if no one gets it that’s okay too.

  13. Lisa

    My husband and I got married 3 days after 9/11. I woke up on 9/11 feeling extremely stressed about the long mental list of things I needed to get done. Then I heard the news. I never did accomplish that list of such important things – in fact, after the shock of the news, I couldn’t remember what any of them were. Perspective is an amazing thing. It gives us the ability to count our blessings in real time. Happy New Year! May your new perspective make this year much sweeter!

  14. Ellie

    I’m so happy to hear you are in a good place. You have had an unbelievably tough year. The way you have come though this is is really amazing. Your positive outlook is inspiring and makes reading your blog a pleasure every day. Your joy over small things and your zest for life make you the kind of person I like to call a friend.

  15. Marilyn

    You have said a great deal that really put life in perspective for me. You are such a blessing in so many ways.

  16. Candi

    Thank you Jo for saying it like it is. Often times we stress over things that don’t deserve our time and energy. Thanks for keeping it real. May 2020 be the year of new beginnings and the best is yet to come.love, hugs and prayers coming your way.

  17. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Good lessons to learn, lousy how you had to learn them. I’m glad you had a good Christmas…all your kids, grands and a new puppy just show what a great support system you have, no matter what. Honestly, does anyone remember what gifts they got from whom and what kind of cookies you made last year?? May 2020 bring showers of blessings to the Kramer clan!

  18. Lisa B

    Well said. While some may not understand what you said those that have been through it do. Following the death of a loved one you realize what, and WHO, is really important in life and spend more time focusing on them than trying to please or worry about other people.

  19. Shirley

    Thank you for sharing your insight. Losing loved ones does make one look at the holidays differently. After my husband passed away the last thing I wanted to do was to celebrate Christmas, but I did it for my kids and grandkids. Though I must say I haven’t conquered the stress issue as well as you have. Best wishes for the new year!

  20. Debbie B

    So glad to hear you are in a good place. Your strength is amazing. We all need to learn from you to keep things in perspective. Keep on trucking and hug that new puppy. She’s so cute! I can’t wait to hear about your adventures. Hugs! Take care.

  21. Barbara henry

    You remind us that it’s not the challenges in life that define you, it’s how you cope with those challenges.

  22. Laura

    I’ve also had a great Christmas despite living with stage 4 cancer. I’m not in pain this year, and I feel almost normal. We spent the holidays with family, playing games and enjoying each other’s company. I saw both of my kids, 4 of my brothers and sisters and my mom. It doesn’t get much better than that!

    I’m glad to see you smile with your new puppy! Congratulations!

  23. Carolyn Sullivan

    I know what you mean! I really do. I almost lost my husband this yr, almost.
    He is MR Christmas in our family so he was well enough to get it all together. I let him and tried not to complain about going here and there to see this or that bit of Christmas. I just was happy he was there. Thanks for Reminding us.

  24. mpv61

    I’m so glad your holiday went well!

    Mine was way less stressful this year for a few reasons.

    One, I didn’t bake. We always go to my Mom’s house by noon or 1 and we have a big meal and big dessert there, so breakfast is the only meal we have here. In past years, I’ve made quiche and also ordered some goodies from our local gluten-free cafe that I’ve picked up the day before (Two of my kids and I have to be gluten-free.) Then I have usually made other goodies to take to my Mom’s house. This year, I ordered more from my local cafe to take care of Christmas breakfast and any events I had to take food to. I figured I could make some favorite treats after Christmas if I wanted to, but I didn’t have to spend valuable time right before Christmas baking. The quiche, in particular, needs to be timed just right, and it was always stressful!

    Two, I talked to my husband way earlier about ordering things on Amazon, so we had most of the items actually in-hand to give to the kids, and I could get to wrapping things earlier. Wrapping for me is always just throwing gifts into cloth bags, and I assign colors/types of bags for each person so I don’t even need tags, but in prior years, between procrastinating on buying and baking, I was always “wrapping” into the wee hours of Christmas and I’d spend a sleep-deprived day. :(

    Three, we always give pictures of our kids to my parents and siblings, and for once, we were NOT picking up the pictures on the way to Christmas Eve services, so the pics were already in their envelopes and ready for Christmas a day before usual! My nieces and nephews get money, and I went to the bank a day or so earlier than usual AND I had bought “money envelopes” 3 or 4 days ahead of time while doing another errand. I just planned a lot better this year!

    I feel like I can do even better next year on doing some things ahead of time, and I for sure am going to order the food again! What a difference to just be “in the moment” on Christmas after a decent night’s sleep!

    My task now is to get back to the routine I’ve recently developed (thanks to Dana K. White of the “A Slob Comes Clean” blog) that went a teeny bit by the wayside in the past week!

    Happy New Year, Jo, and thank you for sharing your life with us through your blog. Thank you, also, for all the good you do for the various charities.

  25. Susan

    Jeez, I so understand and am so grateful to see someone else feels as I do. While I haven’t lost my beloved yet, I know it will happen. I feel the same about Christmas, thank you for helping me understand. Hugs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *