Today (January 4th) is my birthday. I’m 52 years old today and this is the 7th birthday that I’ve woken up a widow. I don’t like being a widow. I miss my Larry. I still feel as if he’s been amputated from me. The holidays were difficult again this year. As I get older the holiday season seems to lose more and more of the magic it held when I was younger. I find myself spending more time mind traveling to the ghosts of my own Christmases past than I do dwelling in the present moment.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

I remember the anticipation of Christmas Eve building up inside me feeling certain it would never get here. Now I panic that it will come too soon and I won’t be ready. I remember the smells of my Grandmother’s house with all of my cousins and siblings crowded into her tiny two bedroom house. Now I still find myself struggling to figure out the timing of a meal for three. I remember the noise of a dozen children and 5 adults all speaking at once and yet everyone knew what everyone else said. Now the silence is profoundly deafening.

This holiday melancholia has been occurring with increasing parameters every year since my husband died. I think the reason for this is that I’m looking down a telescope into the future of my empty nest and that future is getting larger and scarier with each passing year. When I was small I never thought about the fact that my grandmother woke up completely alone every Christmas morning, and Easter morning, and Mother’s day morning. She was widowed at a young age as well. The thought of waking up alone with no one but the dogs to keep me company fills me with loneliness already and it hasn’t even happened yet. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her with not even a pet for companionship.

The holiday season for me extends beyond my birthday to the end of January, at least from the aspect of needing to get through it. I have to make it past January 24th. Once I get past that date I can start to breathe again. January 24th is the date that I met my husband 21 years ago. It’s also the date of the night my husband had a seizure driving us home from his parents’ house in 2009, that was the night that we found out the tumor had grown throughout the chemo/radiation combo. January 24, 1995 was the most magical day of my life, love at first sight for both of us. January 24, 2009 was one of the worst days of my life. But more on that wild ride next month…

Shelley Brandon

My bio is rather complex and like most people's starts at birth, or maybe before. I was adopted as an infant by very special and very loving parents. Pretty normal and average childhood with two younger brothers. Married at 22, motherhood at 25, divorced single parent at 29. Blessed at 31 with a new chance at love and the family I'd always wanted. Eight months later two of my sons lost their mother to pneumonia. Our blended family was tossed by the waves of grief from the beginning. The waves became a tsunami when my wonderful husband died 14 years later. Grief has been my shadow for nearly 20 years now, but life is still good when you're standing in the light.