I started my day today feeling a bit off, a little sad. After all, it was the first holiday, the first Easter, since my older brother passed. I woke up keenly aware that today there was no Easter basket for him containing white chocolate, a wind-up toy for his collection, and his preferred style of polo shirt. There would be no silly Easter puns, no special requests for dinner, and no traditional family egg-cracking contest. Ironically, so many of the things that used to run me ragged and annoy me, I now miss.
That’s the thing about loss that we all experience. There will always be holidays, events, and moments that are “the first since.” How we handle those “first since” days is a total unknown until they are upon us. We need to be ready that some of them will be downright miserable. We will be sad, mad, anti-social, and will only want the day to be over. But then others will be ok, possibly even good – maybe even happy. We need to believe that wherever we land is ok. It is what it is.
Any of us who have people in our lives who are going through their “first since” days (and I know a few) need to try to be supportive and understanding. Offer to be with her, but don’t be offended if she just wants to be alone. Let’s face it, our moods and coping mechanisms during grief are a crapshoot at best. Grief is like an alien being that tries really hard every day to take control of our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and our energy. Some days we are better at beating back that alien, other days we are just too darn tired and we let the alien take the wheel.
For me today ended up being ok – even good. Sure, there were some tears off and on, but the church service this morning was lovely, and the small kiddos in their Easter dresses and bow ties and suspenders were adorable. The weather cleared enough in the afternoon for me to get in some quiet therapeutic time in my gardens and out on a bike ride. I spent time doing some college planning with my son. Since this was a planned casual at-home holiday, we decided to hold off and have dinner a bit late, so my stepson who flew into town this evening from a work trip could join us. As expected, he regaled us with stories, because he’s just one of those guys who always has tall tales to tell. I decided on the menu myself – ham with baked apples, twice-baked potatoes, green beans, cheddar biscuits, and blueberry cream pie for dessert. Comfort food all the way. My brother would have been ok with the selection, although he would have preferred mashed potatoes and beets.
It was not like any past Easter. And that’s the other thing about “first since” days. They mark the beginning of how things will never be the same, and we have to start navigating through our journey of what to do now. How to feel, how to act, even what to eat. Not an easy task, but we can manage. Because we have to.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter whether it is the First Since, or the 20thSince, our loved ones want us to carry on, want us to be happy. They would want us to celebrate the time we had with them and to share memories of them, but to continue to live our lives. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, and even when we can’t help but have moments when we are focused on their absence. I know for a fact that my brother looked down upon me today and was disappointed that I hadn’t done any colored eggs this year. My heart just wasn’t in it. But I think by next year, I’ll be ok with it, and I will re-introduce his beloved egg cracking contest in his honor.
Because as we wade through the First, Second, or Tenth Since, it’s nice to sprinkle in some traditions to make them feel just a bit closer on the tougher days.