“One of the reasons that loss can feel so overwhelming is that it disrupts many components of your identity all at once. The loss of a loved one hurts because a relationship that formed a cornerstone of your experience of the world is no longer there. It’s as if someone removed all of the familiar landmarks in your neighborhood.”
It is in sections like this, when he is describing the experience of grief, that Sameet M. Kumar is most helpful to me, in his book Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping With Loss.
My current sense of this disorienting loss of familiar landmarks has to do with the Christmas season. From my widow’s perspective, Christmas is frightening. I don’t consciously think that in my mind, but I gather it from my sudden reactions to the displays of decorations in stores, and the way I start to choke up at the thought of buying a tree and taking the ornaments out of their boxes.
The tree was always my husband’s project; had the decision been left to me, our family might never have had a Christmas tree, if my feelings at the beginning of our marriage were any indication. I always felt that his family, because of their Christian focus, knew better how to “do Christmas” than I did. I learned a lot from them over the years, and my husband and I passed on traditions to our children.
In the last fifteen years I’ve also come to know that the heart of Christmas, my own Christmas-heart, is in the Church, and for that many years I have attended Liturgy on Christmas morning, and I keep the Nativity Fast; those practices will be unchanged. I would suppose that after all these years Christmas would have its own richness and momentum supported by the Church and by all the Glad people loving each other, and that I would be carried gently along in the flow.
It’s not like that. In our family’s culture and history, Christmas is mostly about Family. For me, the heart of my family was my husband, and he’s a pretty big landmark to go missing.