The Montfort Group

My Grief Through the Holidays

For the first time in 66 years, I won’t hear my mother’s voice on Christmas day. She died five months ago after a brief illness.

My sister and I spent the last 12 days of her life sleeping on hospital gurneys, in chairs made of cheap plastic and on a failed air mattress, afraid that if we left her side, she would die. After being rushed to the ER with a catastrophic hemorrhage, her health deteriorated rapidly and hung in the balance for several days.

In the end, Mum said she didn’t want to live if she couldn’t maintain her quality of life and decided to end it with MAID (medical assistance in dying) – a legal option in Canada for terminally ill patients. Many said it was a brave decision but honestly, I think Mum was more afraid of living than dying. While she cried about leaving her loved ones, she knew it was the “right decision” and never wavered.

When the time came, she was surrounded by people she loved and trusted.  I held her hand, and reassured her that she’d always be with us, it would just be different.

As I think about Christmas without Mum, my heart is sad but grateful for the gift of time during those 12 days. She said it was the best visit she ever had with us and she was right. Nothing was left unsaid. There were bedside confessions, apologies and expressions of love. Her vulnerability – accompanied with healthy sprinkle of bossiness – made me appreciate the softer side of my mother in a way I didn’t always see.

After she died, I thought “I can’t believe she’s gone.” Her larger-than-life energy and persona had disappeared physically which seemed impossible especially when she was so present in my head. Truthfully the relationship with our loved ones continues long after their passing. We think about them, talk to them out loud or in our heads, longing to share events and news. The void of not being able to pick up the phone or have a FaceTime call on Sunday mornings is palpable.

There is a saying that grief is love with nowhere to put it and I think that’s true. And it’s even more true over the holidays when the ache and loss are amplified amidst the celebrating and social gatherings. What are you supposed to do with it all?

The holidays can be tough when loved ones are no longer seated around the table. So what do you do when your heart aches with loss and grief, when you’re supposed to be joyous and celebratory?

One answer – embrace it. Grief doesn’t melt when you ignore or push it away.  And for many, grief just changes form and becomes more of acceptance, understanding and sometimes, a bit of melancholy.

But wherever you are in your journey of grief and loss, be sure you turn to those you love and trust to help you through the holidays. Also please reach out to us and let us know how we can help. We are ready to listen!

Picture of Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with her Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is also a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. She received advanced practical training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and families at UT Southwestern, where she spent five years in the Department of Psychiatry’s Family Studies Clinic working with diverse clients of all ages. In addition, she has completed training in Collaborative Law for couples seeking divorce to find solutions in a more amicable way.

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