Like Every Other Parent Grieving For Newtown, I Feel Too Sad For Christmas

shutterstock_22424299Christmas is four days away. My gifts are mostly unwrapped. I have yet to plan dinners or bake cookies with my children to leave out for Santa. Houses strung with Christmas lights haven’t been driven by, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas hasn’t been watched. It’s not just me. Parents all over are finding it difficult to get into the holiday spirt because we are still all too sad and raw over the lives lost one week ago today.

When my kids came home from school yesterday my daughter asked me “Mom, are you still sad?” I explained to them that yeah, I am, and that everything is okay and I love them and listened as they told me of their field trips and class parties. I know they are excited. The enthusiasm they have for the holiday, for the candy and cocoa and bedtime stories and toys should be contagious, but it’s not. I make them popcorn and set them down with a Christmas movie on television and scrub my kitchen counters, that don’t need scrubbing. There is something about the warm water, the force of scouring that comforts me, that momentarily distracts me from thinking of the people of Newtown.

My inner me is getting impatient with me. What the hell is my problem? Don’t I realize how blessed I am? That I have beautiful children who are safe and sound and feeding popcorn to the dog and I am so lucky. I am so so fucking ungodly lucky. I am the luckiest mother on earth and I tell myself to snap out of it, that it wasn’t my children who were hurt, that I’m not the mother collapsing on the floor after finding a tiny stray sock in the laundry room hamper, that I’m not the parent deciding what my child should be buried in. It’s almost repulsive, my grief, the transference of these parents hundreds of miles away whose pain is not mine, that I have stolen and made into my own sadness. How dare I cry when my world is not in shambles?

I grieve for them, I know this, I am not that way, I am not just sad because I’m being selfish. I am sad for them. I am so sad for them. I try and find hope. I plan to give back during this season. I research charities. I find comfort in the actions of strangers. I find comfort in my family. I smile and scrub counters and I want to have fun with my children, to be the happy, laughing, cookie-decorating mom who welcomes warm little bodies into my arms as I read the Christmas stories. But I can’t. It doesn’t feel right.

My children know I am sad but they don’t see me cry. I lock myself in the bathroom and run water. I go into the living room and sit on the sofa between two small people, and find myself inhaling my daughter’s breath into my mouth as she kisses me. I breathe her in and I never exhale.

(photo: HANA /shutterstock)

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  • mk

    i wish i had written this but i cannot bring myself to write. beautiful and haunting. thank you.

  • Paco Garcia Jaen

    That is very powerful. Thank you. Very, very much.

  • LiteBrite

    Eve, I’m so glad you wrote this because I feel the exact same way. I have spent every freaking day this week crying, not all the time, but at least once or twice. My son hasn’t seen me cry, but my husband (and my co-workers) has. At a time when I should be watching Rudolph and Frosty, wrapping presents, reveling in the excitement my child feels at the holiday, I’ve found I can’t. My heart just isn’t in it. And it’s noticeable. The other day my son asked my husband, “Why is Mommy so sad?” Even this morning, my husband asked “Are you really okay?”

    The answer is no, I’m definitely not okay. I know I should be grateful for what I have. I should be happy I have my son, safe at home every night. And I am. Trust me, I AM. But I’m still grieving for the parents who don’t, the ones who instead of baking cookies and watching Rudolph are burying their children and trying to figure out how they are going to go on with their lives. I’m thinking of all the other stuff I’d rather not say here. Even as I’ve typed this out, I’ve been to the bathroom twice, splashing cold water on my face and trying to get myself under control.

    My husband told me this morning, “You HAVE to stop thinking about this. At some point you have to move on.” He’s right. And I know I will because in the end that’s all I can do. But right now, I just can’t, and I’m not even totally sure why.

    (If this a little melodramatic, sorry. It’s been a melodramatic week for me.)

    • Edward

      I… have been struggling so much with this. I think for myself it is that I have not been able to really take some time out of my crazy week to mourn. I work so many hours, and am married, so need to listen to my wife talk about her day, and whatever she needs to talk about. I can’t imagine doing as some of you are, attending to your precious children while grieving for the loss of so many, in such a horrible way….
      I don’t know what else to say.

    • Wendy

      You are not alone.

    • LiteBrite

      Thanks. It actually makes me feel a little better to know I’m not alone. I was beginning to think there was something seriously wrong with me.

  • Katie L.

    Thank you. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling and I haven’t been able to fully articulate it. My sorrow is a speck compared to the Sandy Hook families and I feel so guilty for being sad. I feel guilty for being home with my daughter when 26 (27 really) families have lost that privilege forever. I teach first grade and I cant stop thinking about my students, whose faces I see in the children of Sandy Hook. I don’t know what I am going to say to their families when school starts in January. I don’t know where to go from here.

  • Wendy

    I feel the EXACT same way!! So happy to hear I am not alone in my unbearable sadness.

  • Lori B.

    This really hit home to me. I usually pride myself on being able to separate my life from the news, but this situation has really affected me. My 3 year old saw me cry over this last weekend while I was hugging her. When she asked why I was sad, I told her that the news made me sad and she gave me such a big hug that made me cry even harder thinking of those parents who will be unable to hug their little ones again. Ughh… just typing that gave me the chills. This morning as I was writing Christmas cards for my staff, I thought about the parents of Sandy Hook and wondered what they would do with the presents they bought for their little ones. What a stupid insignificant thought!! But then I thought at some point, they are going to have to deal with those presents and the pain. I even found myself crying at my daughter’s Christmas show today (where she chose not to participate one bit) not just because of pride about my daughter, but thinking about the winter concert at that school. Was it canceled? Did it happen already? Does that meant some of those parents have one last video of their child smiling and singing? I feel like I am consumed by this, and I haven’t even been watching the news. Anyway, thanks for writing this Eve, it really helped me realize that this event deeply affected many of us who are not even directly impacted.

    • LiteBrite

      If it’s a stupid, insignificant thought, well, then I’ve had it too. As I was wrapping presents this past week all I could think about were the presents bought for these children and how horrible it must be for the parents to see them.

      I too feel like I’m consumed by this, and this morning my husband told me, “I don’t want you watching or reading anything about this anymore. You are internalizing this far too much, and it’s worrying me.” He may be right.

    • Lori B.

      Thanks for the response. I think I also need to take your husband’s advice. I found myself crying with a perfect stranger at the supermarket, and now perfect strangers on the internet. As Peggy wrote above, I guess, in some way, this has connected all of us.

    • Peggy

      I’ve felt the same way, thinking about all the presents that are wrapped and tagged and will never be opened by the intended child. All the stockings and ornaments that were hung with names and dates on them that are daily reminders of who is missing. I don’t think it’s a stupid or insignificant thought. At church today, some of the songs were about how we are all connected as one, and I think this tragedy really brought that to the forefront.

  • satinswan

    It seems to me that instead of allowing your grief to mire you down, you should be throwing yourself into Christmas instead of, and this is harsh, I know, ruining it for your kids. I know it’s hard, but you’re wallowing and being selfish. If you can’t help it, then you should seek some therapy. Soon.

  • Nina

    It’s not just hard on parents. The barren and childless are grieving too.

  • Dids

    I am so directly in line with everything you just wrote. It’s never possible to feel the exact same was as another person…but, right now, I truly do feel the exact same way – right down to the hot water on my hands. You are not alone. I feel the same…

  • Venus Mutee

    I just wonder what Christmas would be like to the parents who lost their loved ones in such a horrific manner. You were looking forward to have good times with your little ones. Since darkness fell on Newtown, I have never stopped thinking about these innocent children taken so suddenly. No day passes by without shedding a tear for these little angels who had so much to live for.

    As a parent I am grieved and my prayers are with you and have faith in God all the time despite what happened. He only takes the best. The Lord is taking care of them.

  • Lauren Brooks

    Thank you for writing this. This mirrors everything I feel! Never been empathetic in my life as I have been to this. Tears and sadness won’t stop coming. Squeezing my 3 & 5 yr old girls and smelling them. I feel you! It’s painful and we are all mourning together since the pain is just too much for all of them to do on their own. Heavy heart.

  • EGM

    I cannot snap out of it. I leave my desk to go cry. We need to, but we won’t. We are feeling something we have not in along time in America because we are so disengaged, love. We love these kids they are ours and we just woke up. It’s okay, the people I see not feeling this are the ones that I wonder “what is wrong with you?” I miss Noah, he is the one that hit home for me.