When you layer the holidays over grieving and healing from trauma, life can seem pretty absurd……
It was a Sunday. January 3rd, 2016, to be precise. Sarah Chamberin, 43, sat in her Long Island living room, gratefully absorbing the post – holiday shift. “Ahh, there, THAT’S better,” Chamberlin, an infertility survivor who had just gotten through her second holiday season without her children, said as she inhaled the open space now free from the holiday bombardment of forced splendor. With all Christmas paraphernalia removed, Chamberlin looks ahead. “You know what I like? Mondays. That’s what.”
Sarah was a mere cog in a collective sigh of relief heaved by planet earth’s bereft population. With the past month spent making comments such as
“Not this shit again….”
“If I decorate, I feel like crap. If I don’t decorate, I feel like crap”
And, “What does all this really have to do with my new life anyway?”
AND not to mention eating up hours of the day trying to compose tall tales to get out of Aunt Mable’s Christmas Eve dinner, because truthful communication such as “I’m still grieving, what I really need right now is….” gets one accused of being “negative” on a good day and ostracized from the human race on a bad one, it’s no wonder all those grieving on the planet actually feel a detectable level of contentment come early January.
“Grief is not something that can be put on pause, and the holiday season’s not exactly built for the grieving. Plus, the world’s got the skill set of a two year old when it comes to accepting life and human emotions actually don’t cease this time of year. So yeah, it can be rough.” one griever commented.
Mall exit polling indicated that approximately 1.37% of the population understands that Christmas does not trump things oh such as death, violent crime, chronic life threatening illness and life altering losses.
Back in her living room, Chamberlin was being met with the usual blank stares and silence to which she has become accustomed from her fellow humans, which are far better than platitudes anyway, as she offers her now routine explanation of her reality to those who don’t get it which is most people.
“You see, unlike the holidays, no one is going to ask me about my Mondays as though they are more important than the loss of my children or my grieving process. I’m not going to be plastered with “Merry Monday” everywhere I go or expected to answer a constant barrage of questions on what I’m doing on Monday, like as if it matters. Because it’s just Monday. My husband for whom I’m so grateful is off on Mondays. Plus, I drink on Mondays so really what’s not to love? Yes, my dear friends, the holidays are over. And tomorrow, I’d like to point out, is Monday.”
Chamberlin’s holidayitis all started on the runway to Thanksgiving when……No, wait. No. Not really. This tepid charade of festivity and Chamberlin’s avoidance of it actually began on the fateful day of October 31. Not yet ready to view the parade up and down her street of children with their parents in the cauldron of breeders in which she lives, Chamberlin carefully planned to get the heck out of Dodge, even pushing her chef/restaurant owner husband to take a Saturday off, of all things.
“Now don’t get me wrong,” Sarah shakes her finger defiantly as she clarifies. “Let’s not go correlating childlessness with an inability to relate to children. I love kids and they happen to love me. Did I go through one surgery and ten failed fertility treatments for the mere fuck of it? No. No I did not. It’s the plethora of children with their parents’ adoring faces shining down upon them in the neighborhood where the house in which I bought to raise my children resides that can really gut a person. It’s hardly rocket science. If I’m able to stomach it one day then I will. But until then I won’t.”
And so, Sarah, her defensiveness and her husband found their way into Manhattan on October 31 where they enjoyed a fine concert, and even finer dinner, found themselves stuck in The Village Halloween parade because Manhattanites are more obsessed with Halloween than LI suburbanites (my miscalculation) and then onto eating wings and drinking Manhattans in a bar (what she lacks in patience Chamberlin makes up for with efficient digestion) while waiting for their train in Penn Station.
All in all a great day, one to be quite happy about. However, the Herculean task of living her life as it is amid the families with children implications of the holidays was well underway.
Chamberlin was only one of a multitude of bereft individuals attempting to funnel her life around the holidays because the two currently have nothing in common. Statistics indicate that rates of assuming false identities, trips to Vegas and digging underground bunkers all skyrocket come November.
Determined to spend Thanksgiving being in the “what now is” in their lives, Sarah and Julio spent it together, knowing full well one must acknowledge their voids before learning how to and how not to fill them.
“Basically, we strung outside lights we didn’t really care about, felt weird and lost without our children, ran in and made eggs and Manhattans in response to the prospect of our hood being invaded by minivans and even more of other people’s children, finished stringing our lights before being totally flanked by families with children, closed our blinds early, continued missing our children and then messed around with cooking something new which this time was sushi. Just another typical day, kind of like a Monday….except considerably more painful. And this time I’ll have to answer a million fucking pointless questions about it.”
Footage obtained from hidden cameras indicates Julio and Sarah use food and drink to cope with just about everything.
Sarah and Julio do not recommend combining light stringing and drinking alcohol in general as it is inefficient.
When neighbors passed by and asked what they were doing for the day, Chamberlin experienced a rare moment of successful reign pulling.
“I was actually able to hold back the real answer which is ‘We’re spending it together, trying to re-envision our future with our broken souls while tripping around in the void WHERE OUR CHILDRN ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.’ Not only that, I somehow easefully swapped it for a committed “We’re hanging out. And we’re going to try to make sushi!”
“I so owned it man,” Sarah continues. “I stood there on my stoop and just owned it. My. Life. Owned it like a champ. You should play We Are the Champions by Queen right now cuz I’ve so got it coming. Seriously. And I even got one ‘That’s so great you guys are doing that’ from a neighbor. Sometimes, I love people. It actually does happen.”
Mostly though, conversations with fellow humans, though already strange, had developed into a whole other level of funk. Little did she know it, but Chamberlin’s commitment to be authentic and speak her truth threw her up against holiday social protocol – one of the most incessant avalanches of verbal protocol known to man.
“But, you see, my children don’t get to be here, so it really isn’t a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year,” Chamberlin aptly pointed out. “I have to walk in a world that says Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone’s mother’s dog while in a coma, but yet is absent of any protocol to acknowledge the loss of my children. It feels a little….you know……OFF.”
Chamberlin’s fellow grievers could also be heard round the world, releasing multiple cries of “Make it stop….just make it stop.”
Research indicates that ‘Merry Christmases’ and ‘Happy New Years’ outnumber ‘this must be a tough time of year for you, how are you doings?’ at approximately 70 million to 1.
“When asked how my holidays were going, I stayed true but I have to say, my typical response of ‘This is not a very significant time of year for us, but we’re getting through.’ was not exactly a conversation stimulant.” Chamberlin reported. “Jingle bells, my ass. If people don’t want my truth then they shouldn’t ask me dumb shit.”
Research does indeed indicate that, in the infertile and child free not by choice communities, “getting through” is a grand achievement for those still in the thick of their crisis. Turns out Chamberlin’s personal commentary is right on par with reality.
Statistics show reality is a quaint notion for approximately 98% of the population.
Continuing to be stalked by the space where her children were supposed to be, Chamberlin found herself packing up after yoga class one week after Thanksgiving.
“I felt utterly thrown as my classmates, harmlessly and innocently of course, chatted about their Thanksgivings. I was like, why are they talking about that? I had completely forgotten about it. So I had to wonder, when WAS that freakin thing?? And why are they talking about pie?? After some minutes passed I finally figured out that class is on Thursday, and Thanksgiving had been on the Thursday prior, so, I guess it makes sense to the non – bereft and non – traumatized to chat about such things.”
A little self-compassion was in order, as Chamberlin had just spent the week writing about intense prolonged experiences, figuring out what might facilitate her getting through the rest of the holidays, and practicing moving all of her parts around “the void” the holidays are so adept at magnifying.
Brain model research shows that in order to communicate with normal humans, the grief stricken must access the “stuff that in actuality doesn’t matter much” part of their brains, which takes approximately three minutes and piles and piles of energy.
Lastly, a CT scan of Chamberlin’s entire being showed it to be stuffed with newness, grief, rebuilding, recalibrating, discombobulation, trying to re-envision her future while simultaneously grieving the one she lost, re-channeling her deep love for her children that don’t get to exist into what calls her and getting to know her new self. In addition, transformation and sadness were found to be oozing out of 70% of her pores. Test interpreters confirmed there was absolutely no room in Chamberlin’s person for holidays. Or pie.
Sarah and Julio did get to experience a temporary moment of resonance while out grudgingly shopping for their Christmas tree.
“How much room do we need to leave for Santa?” the man cutting the branches off the bottom inquired as Chamberlin stared at him in an utmost “Who in the FUCK is Santa?” like bewilderment.
Chamberlin continues: “’Oh, like practically none, actually’ I said to him in my usual matter of fact tone once I realized what he was saying.
‘Santa doesn’t stop at our house’ my husband offered facetiously.
‘So…..now that we’ve got THAT figured out…….,’ I continued. I had a good giggle over the whole thing, and even better, so did the man, and he was for some reason extra friendly to us for the rest of our exchange which let’s be honest, we’re not used to. Either that or all of my infertile holiday stress created a spontaneous lobotomy. Either way it’s laughter, so, I’ll take it.”
Other grievers report that, except for the occasional stroke of good luck, there is very little room for their reality in holiday conversations. “This time of year we’re constantly exposed to triggers, assessing what we can and can’t handle, questioning old rituals, feeling immense emptiness, reminders of what we lost, and how much we’ve changed” one griever shared. “Expressing this reality to my fellow humans who are occupied with god damn cut out cookies and powdered sugar, sparkly bows, nonstop holiday music that has been laced with either manic cheer or crack – you can’t tell which, and reindeer – fucking reindeer – is not exactly an opportunity to feel heard.”
“And don’t forget Christmas stockings in the face of my children that don’t get to exist, MoFo’s!!!” Chamberlin hollered to her fellow grievers.
There was one saving grace that made Chamberlin’s holiday season a bit brighter, although it really had nothing to do with the holidays. And no, it wasn’t Mondays. It was Nerf Wars.
“So here I am in this cesspool of lights, good tidings and stupid tinsel and I was offered the opportunity to essentially run around with ten year old boys and fire toy guns and I’m like shit, yeah! I may not be raising a kid but damn it I can sure play like one. I ended up in four, yes count them, four battles over the course of six weeks because my nephew kept inviting me back. That may very well be a world record in the 43 year old female category. Christmas schmismass. And as usual, the youngster got it right (I quote my nephew who was coming up from Maryland to visit on Dec. 28th) ‘I’m looking forward to Christmas, but I’m waaay more excited about coming to your house after!!!’ Damn straight.”
Chamberlin didn’t fare so poorly on Christmas, either. “It was 68 degrees and I had a horrible cold. It didn’t feel like Christmas. Score!! And, I was too preoccupied with my horrible cold to be missing my children much. Double score!! I thought it worked out well. I really don’t know why people say I’m not positive.”
Sarah decided that the last hurdle of this marathon, New Year’s Eve, would be spent
in a validating place appreciative of her struggles and progress alone.
“I’m still going through a lot, perhaps more than ever,” Chamberlin informs us. “I’m in the process of grieving the loss of my children, recovering from perpetual trauma and re-envisioning my life. Bearing witness to “I’m going to be more disciplined at the gym, organize my sock drawer and be a better person” resolutions is so NOT what the doctor ordered. Screw that shit. I’m so not ready for that drivel. Maybe next year.”
So Chamberlin, for herself and probably for the good of all humans, stayed in and indulged in her own reflection on New Year’s Eve. And in the distance, the far distance, she thought she saw a light. “That can’t be,” Sarah checked herself as her soul squinted to try and make sense of that which she saw on the horizon. What IS that? Can it be, can it possibly be?????
Yes America, for the first time in over five years, Chamberlin was able to not only envision a few goals for the New Year, but felt confident she would be able to complete them.
“It was a beautiful thing. For the first time since probably 2010 my vision for the new year went beyond ‘Oh, shit.’”
Though hopeful for the future, for now the world’s grief stricken are resigned to out of hand, emotionally unrealistic holidays. Chamberlin continues to choose her truth over social protocol while appreciating those rare birds who are willing to roll with it. She plans to build a shrine to Mondays with her husband Julio as one of their new found goals for 2016.