The other day I was in Target picking up a few things for stocking stuffers. I was thinking about our dinner guests and considering putting together stockings for each of them if I could find the right size stockings. The stocking couldn't be traditional stocking size because it would take too much to fill up for that many people and the only other size I could find were stockings to fit gift cards which were way too small.
So then I started thinking about maybe just doing stockings for the kids and I was roaming around Target slowly with a basket trying to figure out what would be the best options. I was trying to think of what I knew about each kid specifically so I could put something personal just for them in their stockings.
I stopped at the nail polish section and saw several gift sets of polish and grabbed the Essie Holiday Mini Gift Set and then picked up a few emery boards making my way down the aisle. I saw some other stuff too and kept moving down the store aisles until I got to the stocking stuffer section and my eyes fell on a Slinky. I smiled and grabbed a couple and then, of course, some new Pez dispensers because Christmas stockings are never complete without a Pez dispenser according to my mommy.
And that lump that always starts in my heart started it's slow ascent up to the top of my chest right under my throat and I started trying to swallow it back and swallowing and swallowing and swallowing. I didn't want it to rise in Target because I knew what would happen if it did.
My phone rang and I answered it. It was one of my dearest framily members. She asked me what I was doing and, still swallowing, I told her I was shopping for stocking stuffers. Then she started talking and I was so grateful that she called right at that moment because listening to her and swallowing...pushed that lump back down to where it lives. Constantly.
When she finished talking I thanked for calling when she did and told her she stopped me from completely losing it in Target. She understood because she has the gift of empathy and understanding.
She's a good egg.
We talked about how my mommy loved putting together our stockings and how she always seemed to find just the right little trinkets to put in it no matter what. I'm talking little things no more than $1 or so that just really brought you joy because it was just for you. I try to do the same and take my time picking out things I put in the stockings I make for people I love.
Because it's the way my mommy did it.
My framily and I continued talking until I was well out of the store and, even though my sadness didn't leave, I felt a bit better.
Later that night, The Robinator and I were talking and I told him about it. He then asked me does it ever get "better" and I told him that...no...it never does. The passing of time dulls the ache for extended periods but that sometimes the suddenness of that lump rising is outside of your control.
No matter what.
It's never NOT hit me during the holidays. I suspect that will remain true for a lifetime.
What about you? Those of you who've been left behind by someone you loved with all of you...has it ever NOT hit you during the holidays? Have you learned how to push through it? What are your coping mechanisms?