Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grief Calendar vs. the cynic

Hospice keeps sending me stuff in the mail. Little letters of encouragement. Bereavement tips. Info on their annual quilt (with patches made out of your loved one's favorite shirt, blanket etc.) and Christmas angel tree. Reminders that they are they for us...

It all gets immediately recycled.

Its gotten particularly bad as the holidays have approached. I just went through a pile of mail and found something they sent after Thanksgiving that contained the "December Grief Calendar - Hope for the Holidays." The calendar contains an action for every day in December to help you through "this difficult time" and remember your loved one. The Grief Calendar lists things like "draw a picture of a bird, symbolizing the soaring spirit of your loved one" and "draw a picture of a wreath, symbolizing that there is no beginning or end to love." My personal favorite, for Friday December 11: "Write the word "hero" and the first name of your loved one."

Really? Does anyone actually do this b.s.? Its like Stewart Smalley himself graduated from personal affirmations to bereavement counseling and calendar development. I spent December 11 hauling 50 pound boxes of sustainable wood (giggle) from unsustainable SUV to living room. I found that to be much more therapeutic than writing "Hero Dad" on my refrigerator. Then having to vomit up my lunch.

Its no surprise that a cynical, unsentimental person like myself would be sickened and horrified by the Grief Calendar. I am sure, that there are people out there, somewhere, that would find this useful. And don't get me wrong, the hospice people are just trying to help. But every time I get their mailings, I feel bad about myself. Because I'm really not grieving. Particularly now.

Remember my migraines? Daily, unrelenting, disabling headaches? Gone. Poof. Almost like magic - right after dad passed away. The stress of caring for him went away, and so did the headaches. Granted, I've still got a lot of stress dealing with his house and the estate and money and bills, but I haven't once taken a day off work or canceled social plans because of a headache since we buried him.

And the holidays? So simple this year. And so unstressful. Holidays with my dad were never pleasant. When I was younger, he was prone to fits of rage during the holidays and we were always on edge until the tree came down. In college, he was downright scary during the holidays and for several years in a row, I spent Christmas Eve in tears because of something he said or did. When he was older, and I had moved out of the house, and his mother had passed away, Christmas was just a sad event and we spent time with him mostly out of pity and obligation. He really made an effort in the last years of his life, but the scars of my childhood holidays will never leave.

And so, now that I'm done making fun of it, the December Grief Calendar goes in the recycle bin. And I'm going to Kohl's, because part of the reason that this holiday has been stress free so far is that I had convinced myself I didn't need to buy things for people. Now, the Christmas panic is setting in. Where's my Festivus pole?


Katy said...

1) had the grief calendar shown up at my house I probably would have sent it BACK to hospice with a nasty gram telling them exactly where they could put it

2) The holidays will suck this year whether they're stress free or not. That's what red wine is for.

3) You said "where's my pole". (snicker)

Susan said...

HA! I didn't even realize I said "where's my pole?" When I find my pole, I think I will install it on sustainable wood.


Doesn't matter how old we get. Wood and poles will always be funny. And sausage.

Elena said...

I almost had a breakdown in Acme today over bread....we all seriously need to get together AFTER the holidays and enjoy some red wine together :)

trish said...

yes, let's get together soon. i'll bring a sausage to go with the wine.