It’s already the middle of December. Christmas music is everywhere, Santa Claus is in the mall and I am trying to use every ounce of energy to be strong this holiday season.
A couple of years ago, I would have been the one buying presents and skipping around Toronto at the sight of snow. But, after losing someone very important to me, the whole concept of the holidays has changed.
What once was a time of family and togetherness is now a time when emotions run high and the feeling of loss is more prominent than ever.
In April of 2012, my brother passed away in a motorcycle accident. I remember getting the phone call from my dad when it happened. Immediately, my world came crashing down.
All I remember is, in that moment, I felt paralyzed. I just sat still for a very long time, trying to comprehend how I could ever move forward without my best friend.
Since having lost my brother, I dread the holidays. I feel anxious knowing that at any moment, I could burst into tears. I look around and see so many happy families and think about the way things should be.
I sometimes find my mind drifting and thinking about what I will get him for Christmas, but then, I snap back to reality and remember he is no longer here.
During my brother’s last few years, he and I were in college in different countries. We spoke often; he talked to me about his golf team and asked me for relationship advice.
He always told me how much I meant to him. I always admired how loving he was.
Though for many years we lived apart, one thing remained the same: Every Christmas, we came home. We came back to the home in which we grew up, and it was like we never left.
My brother, sister and I laughed about our Christmas memories; how every year, we managed to find my mom’s not-so-clever hiding spot for our gifts and how she threatened to return everything. We listened to Christmas music, watched "Elf" and spent as much time together as possible.
My brother loved Christmas. Ever since he was little, he had the best Christmas spirit. Every year on Christmas Day, he woke us up early in the morning so we could open presents. As he got older, he became the ultimate gift giver and put so much time and energy into his gifts, just so he could see our reactions.
As my family and I approached our first Christmas without him, we all sat down and discussed how we wanted to spend the holidays. It just didn’t feel right for us to celebrate Christmas without him, so that year, we didn’t. We spent it like any other day in the comfort of each other’s company.
Our second Christmas without him wasn’t any easier, but we got stronger, individually and as a family. I added back a few traditions, like the annual secret Santa gift exchange with my best friends and a Christmas Eve yoga class.
It doesn’t seem like much, but in my mind, it is. I even bought a gift for my boyfriend at the time and put the same amount of love and effort into it as my brother would put into mine.
After spending two Christmases without him, I have learned a few things that help me cope and that I will take forward with me this year.
I’ve learned it is important to put myself first and that what helps me may not help other members of my family. I find peace in writing about my brother; whereas, my mom likes to talk about him. I sometimes listen, but am not ready to openly talk about my memories with him yet.
I’ve learned to be aware of my limits and to not put too much pressure on myself.
I’ve learned it’s okay for me not to be okay; this is isn’t something with which I was meant to be prepared to deal. I’ve learned I don’t need to fake a brave face, and even though I feel very alone, there are many people there for me if I need them.
The best way I’ve gotten through the holidays is thinking about how my brother would want me to be strong. I often think about if was reversed, if it was my accident; I would need him to be okay.
I keep his voice in the back of my mind, telling me to keep my head high, to lighten up and that it’s okay to be happy.
So, as I approach my third Christmas without my brother, though I miss him more than ever, I know I have to be strong. Although this is the hardest time of the year, I feel him all around me. And that is enough to get me through.
Here’s to all of our lost loved ones this holiday season.