Grieving During the Holidays
I have so much to be thankful for this year, that the past two years seem almost like a fleeting nightmare. Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. The food, the family, the festivities. It was all an endless possibility for joy. I find myself missing the way I felt back then, but I understand that what I have gone through brings me here today.
Grab a comfortable seat, a blanket, and possibly some tissues, because this ride is going to ring you for all you have. Or at least, it did for me.
It all started with my first retail job. I gave up my right to have Thanksgiving with my family so that I could cater to the afternoon shopping rush. I only did it for money. I needed to pay for school at the time.
A couple of years of missed Thanksgivings started to weigh heavily on my relationship with my non-immediate family. This was the only time of year, aside from one day at Christmas time, that I got to see any of them.
Flash forward to 2016. My sister is going to have a baby! She flaunts her bump everywhere she goes, and I’m buying little pink and purple things everywhere I go. Forgive me for loving those colors. Baby Squid would have worn them regardless of being a girl. Oh, yeah, she got her nickname because her ultrasound looked like an adorable baby squid.
Over the Summer my grandmother gets sick. She already had cancer, but it got much worse. By the end of July she was saying her last goodbyes with an occasional word to her future great-grandchild. She passed away quickly.
I quit my job, stopped going to class, and felt like life was fleeting. We had always been so close. It felt like a limb had been removed from my body.
After seeking some help, I turned to the positive things in life. My sister was five months pregnant by the end of August. She would be the first grandchild and niece to a family of five children.
As the months went on, my sister got sick. She battled viscous pancreatitis, causing her to be hospitalized for the remainder of the pregnancy. I stopped going to class again so that I could stay at the hospital with her. The whole family took turns.
The doctors kept feeding us good news about the baby, saying she was healthy and the only one to worry about was Jamie, my sister.
Come November, I wondered how Thanksgiving would feel. My grandmother was gone, and Baby Squid was becoming a high risk pregnancy.
Two days before the holiday, Jamie was released. We planned a large feast with our immediate family and her husband’s. That night, she got sick again.
We rushed her back to the emergency room and waited for several hours to hear anything back from the doctors. Finally, we were told that she would need to stay at the hospital until the baby was born. Three more weeks of hospital time. I was so selfish. I had finals the next week.
One week later, as I was submitting my final assignment for a creative writing class I was in, I got a horrifying phone call. This is where you’ll need those tissues. I’m certainly desperate for some right now.
My sister was dying and so was her baby. Her heartrate had dropped drastically, and Squid’s was nowhere to be found. They rushed her into an emergency c-section without knowing if it would kill them both.
I just wanted a nice Thanksgiving. A nice Christmas. To get finals week over. Yet there I was, sitting in a hospital waiting room, watching my brother-in-law’s parents crying and hugging their son. He kept mumbling something about losing his wife and first child on the same night.
My mom came out from behind a large metal door with red eyes and shaking her head. My niece didn’t make it.
Jamie was still battling the blood loss somewhere in that godforsaken hospital. Would we lose her, too?
Half an hour later a nurse came out to let us know that Jamie was doing fine, but in reality she would be broken for the rest of her life. We walked into her hospital room to see her holding my stillborn niece and babbling incoherently. She was on drugs and could barely comprehend what had happened.
The doctors said it was a freak accident and that nothing could have prevented it. But it still feels like something could have been done.
I am not sharing this story to make you feel sorry for me or for my family. I just want you to know that things can get better. Having grief, especially during the holidays, can be hard. It requires the help of all your loved ones and sometimes professional council.
My sister got pregnant again the next year. With a baby boy. We called him T-rex, because his ultrasound kind of looked like one. I still miss Squid and my grandmother, but it is okay for me to be happy again. And it’s okay to still be sad sometimes.
I have had time to heal. I am back in school full-time. I work retail again, with Thanksgiving off. And I have a beautiful nephew that I love so much.
Try to remember the good things in your life as this holiday of “thanks” nears. I am thankful that my sister is alive. I am thankful for my nephew. I am thankful for all my family. I am thankful for my college education. I am thankful for this in internship so that I can share stories like this one with young girls who may experience similar grief.
Here are some links to grief webpages if things get a little too tough: