The Holidays aren't just about the Holidays

The Holidays aren't just about the Holidays
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

I entered the room with my arms hanging heavily at my side and my lips pressed tightly together.

"Hey CJ, I'll be right back, okay?"

"Mmhm," I replied, lifting one side of my face and slightly tilting my head.

A few more steps into the room, I let myself fall backward onto the couch. I kicked off my shoes, and I crossed my legs. I put my left arm over my face and let my right arm hang off the side of the couch. Why am I even here? I just want to go back to bed.

She walked back into the room and closed the door behind her. "So, how was your week?" she asked. I didn't move. She allowed the silence to fill the room and waited. Patiently. I still didn't move. She continued to wait. I remained still.

"I'm... not... okay," I muttered, breaking the silence. Within moments, the sleeve of my hoodie was soaked in tears. She waited. "I'm not okay," I repeated. Cries turned into sobs. "I'm not okay," I said again.

It had been three days since I could get out of bed, and that was only to make it to my appointment, from the bed to the couch.

"I'm not okay. I'm worse than I have ever been since Ariana died. I don't want to celebrate the holidays. I can't decorate. I can't listen to the music or watch the movies. I can't buy gifts. I can't eat. I can't work. I can't sleep. I can't move. I am failing my kids. I am failing my businesses. And how the fuck am I supposed to help others in their grief when I am consumed by my own? After all the growth, after all I have overcome and endured, here I lay, a broken fucking man. I am shattered. I am gutted. I don't know how to move forward. I don't know how to press on. I'm so fucking tired. I'm tired. I am so fucking tired. Look, I'm not trying to play the victim here, I'm just so tired, and I need a moment of peace."

She listened for the next hour as I wept on her couch and expressed all the things that had broken me down. Then, she found her moment to speak.

"I understand that these are some of the same themes, and while the grief may be acute right now, I would argue that you are still in a different place than you were last time. We may have the same themes emerge repeatedly, but with work and effort, each time we go through them, we are different from the person we were before," she explained.

I listened but could not internalize it.

I looked at the clock and saw that our time was up. I sat up from the couch, put on my shoes and coat, and headed for the door. "Thanks. See you next week."

I cannot fully explain what the fuck is going on with me right now, but I am a shattered shell of a man. Unlike other experiences I have had before. The contrast between who I see in the mirror now versus who I saw this summer is too startling for me. I experienced growth and joy this year like nothing else, only to find myself now in abject pain, fear, and brokenness.

For what feels like the first time, I don't feel equipped to handle my grief. I want to run away and hide under the covers. To weep and pray for the holidays to end. The color has faded from my world, and I feel like a fake. My mission in life is never to let a griever go through their journey alone, and here I am, consumed by my grief. I keep asking myself, how am I supposed to help others when I feel like I have taken a massive step back in my recovery and healing? The question taunts me.

So, I default to doing the only thing I know how: being fucking honest about it. It's what I have always done and the only thing I can think of doing now.

I wake up, exhausted from the fits and starts of sleep I had the night before, to a reality that I don't want, but one that is mine and mine alone. And I spend my day just being fucking honest. I go to therapy, and I'm honest. I reach out to a friend or family member, and I'm honest. I look in the mirror, and I'm honest.

Because if I don't do this, I will isolate myself and let my pain consume me. So, perhaps, despite how I feel, this is the evidence of all I endured to achieve the healing I have experienced this year.

The journey of healing is not a straight line, and it's not bound by time. The only way to make progress is through effort. Unfortunately, there will be many ups and downs along the way, with some valleys reaching near the bottom. So when you think you're feeling better, you might fall back into despair.

But with consistent effort and a willingness to face your pain, accept it, and deal with it, you will see the overall trend moving in the right direction.

We cannot be afraid to acknowledge our flaws and mistakes. It's painful to admit the negative aspects of ourselves, or how we have hurt others, or how we have hurt ourselves, but it's the only way to bring about change in our lives. It's where we learn to love more deeply, heal more quickly, and grow stronger.

I'm a deeply flawed man with a bottomless well of insecurities, fears, and regrets. I tend to dwell on them more than I recognize the love surrounding me. I'm not the hero in my story, but the villain, and it hurts. Yet, the sooner I reach out and tap into the love in my life, the sooner my story can be set right.

Today, at 3 PM, while sleeping on the couch, I was awakened by the commotion of my family entering my home. I watched them gather around my kids and me, putting up the Christmas trees, which I could not do. It's painful to see the tree filling my living room, and I wish I didn't have to see it, but it serves as a reminder that no matter what, there are people in my life who will always have my back. The friends and family who will support me, hold me, and tell me the hard truths. They won’t let me hurt alone and never shy away from telling me the hard truths.

And I love every one of them for it, even if I run away from them as often as I can.

Life is hard, really fucking hard. I don’t see it letting up anytime soon, but if tonight is any indication, I know I don’t have to be entirely alone.

With love,