Learning to embrace conflicting emotions in a loved one’s absence

My 1st holiday journey without my mom starts a fresh swell of memories

Jennifer Lynne avatar

by Jennifer Lynne |

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Soon, I’ll leave sunny Florida for the northern tundra of Madison, Wisconsin, and Schaumburg, Illinois, to be with my family for Christmas. As I prepare to spend time with my loved ones, I can’t help but appreciate the significance of this trip: It marks my first Christmas journey without my mom, who passed away unexpectedly this year.

In Christmases past, there was a bit of a gamble involved in travel — a roll of the dice, if you will — as I often left the refrigerated medications crucial for treating my bleeding disorders at home. But this year, I’m not juggling my mom’s walker, our luggage, and a portable oxygen tank, so I have no excuse. I need to focus only on my needs as a person traveling with hemophilia B and von Willebrand disease.

For me, the holidays are synonymous with family, and my mother’s absence is casting a shadow over my preholiday celebrations. I’m finding that grieving during this season is a unique challenge. The contrast between expected jubilation and my deep sorrow can be overwhelming. Even my favorite Christmas carols make me weepy.

I can’t escape the reality that my holiday landscape has been forever altered. I’m enveloped in a mix of emotions as complex as the ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree. For me, this season is no longer just a time of joy and merriment; it’s become a poignant reminder of the absence of the person who made this time of the year special.

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Finding joy amid grief during holidays with chronic illness

Navigating conflicting emotions

I’m reminding myself that it’s OK to acknowledge and embrace these conflicting emotions. Grief doesn’t adhere to a schedule, and the holidays don’t erase the pain of my loss. Instead, they seem to magnify it, like a spotlight on the empty chair at the dinner table or a Christmas card addressed to my mom from someone I forgot to call.

The hospice that cared for my mom in her final days sends me monthly grief tips. This month’s flyer suggested incorporating traditions that celebrate her memory — lighting a candle in her honor, preparing a favorite holiday dish she loved to make, or sharing stories about her with family and friends. The flyer suggests that doing so can help keep her spirit alive during the festivities.

In my quest to embrace gratitude, I actively seek moments to appreciate the time I shared with my mom. Serving as her caregiver was both a privilege and an honor. In reflection, I find profound gratitude for the countless memories we created together — moments laced with laughter, lessons, and unspoken companionship that have become the precious threads woven into the fabric of my life.

As I navigate the holidays without my mother, the lesson becomes clear: Love doesn’t diminish with absence; it transforms. Kindly do me a favor: If your mother is part of your holiday celebrations, please take a moment to hug her extra tight.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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