One of my friends reached out to me this week and confided in me that they lost a sibling to suicide last year. This year will be the first Christmas without them, and no one anticipates it going well. They were looking for advice, or maybe just a, I fucking get you. In any case, I wrote an email to them detailing many personal tidbits I thought might make the holiday relatable for them, and I thought to share it here for anyone else angry or sad or depressed as fuck over the holidays. For those of us that aren’t always mistletoe, ho ho ho and all that jazz, this one is for you….
There are few times a year that are detrimental to my sanity regarding my dad’s suicide but Christmas is a huge one. The worst is death day in August because fuck death day. I do not remember my father that day. I do not celebrate him that day. I do not speak to humans that day. I take the day off, wear sweats, get black out drunk and try to give myself lung cancer. I FaceTime my sister and we basically love him, hate him and drink until one of us gets near a hospital visit, usually during daylight, still so that’s fun. Then our spouses shame us and counsel us on appropriate grief and then we drink more and wake up on a floor, hopefully in our own house, and then we’re glad the sun of a new day has saved us from self destructing for one more year. I’m a super support system for others but a fucking shit show in my own life. Shocking, I know.
Second worst day is his birthday, which he loved so much. The third is my birthday, which he loved to celebrate with me.
The last is Christmas. I don’t even know if it’s 4th on the list of misery, but it’s shit all the same. Jesus and the whole holiday can fuck itself. I try to be happy, but it was his favorite holiday, he was like a child in his celebrations, and without him, I wish everyone would choke and die and get to New Years and then die via firework. Very festive, I’m aware.
Every year around this time, he used to tell me the story about the time he was five and opened all the presents before his family came down and he opened his big breasted sister Carol’s bra and put it on his head and went up to wake his siblings and then his sisters hated him and his father hit him and it’s a story he used to tell me for 20 years and I always thought it got old until he was never able to tell it to me again.
I used to hate him for waking us up before the sun on Christmas morning when I grew to be older than the age of 15, because I just wanted to be one of those families that when you have adult kids, you get to sleep in and then wake up at 11 to food and coffee and then booze but he woke me and my sister up at 6am, just like when I was 5 or 8 or 11 or any age, and I hated it until the year I didn’t have anyone to wake me up to check my stocking.
He used to take us to dinner every other year on Christmas eve, a tradition that spanned over a decade. It was always somewhere fancy, it was one of my favorite traditions–it was a restaurant we normally probably couldn’t afford during the regular year, and I know he saved for it and looked forward to it, and I know now he only did it for us, not him. He didnt care about those places. But that night, every other year, he was so proud and he wore a suit or a sweater and tie and I wore a fancy dress and lip gloss and we could order whatever we wanted. We felt so fancy. We were magic, especially that one night. I walked by one of the restaurants this summer on my trip home, it used to be called The Firehouse, an old fire department building that is no longer, not even a shell exists, and as I walked by I looked sadly at the sidewalk. Many of my memories have become just that. Even the buildings don’t exist.
Carrying on, though, one year, we became adults and even we realized that big nights out should be replaced by quiet times at home. Chinese takeout night at home was far better than any stupid night out with a tab bigger than what he spent on any other meal in the year and so we had Chinese and game night on Christmas eve for years, but when he died, it stopped, and we haven’t had Chinese or games the night before Jesus’ birth since 2006. Even my sister and I never tried to do game night. It will just never be the same, and we don’t want it to be, so we pretend like game night on Christmas Eve was never a thing.
The year after he died, I was home alone and I had two gallons of wine and intentions for nothing good and I started drinking and baking cookies, but of the pre-made kind because I am truly awful at life, and I drank and “baked” and drank some more and listened to Christmas carols, which is a terrible idea while suffering an immense amount of grief. O Holy Night has always been a sanity ruiner for me and the year after he died, I spent a lot of time at Christmas laying on my stomach, face down, sobbing into the floor and hitting repeat with my mouth on a bottle of anything. Well, one particularly successful night, I I had it on repeat about 90 times and thought to go get his tiny urn and open it, because I wanted to be close to him, or see him, or actually, I don’t know, I was just hammered, and I tried to open it and forgot it was jam packed full and when I unscrewed it fast, a huge cloud exploded and it all fell on me like a rain shower except it was dry ash and tiny bones and I couldn’t rub it into the rug fast enough and then I sneezed and all of the ash covering my hands went straight into my mouth and down my throat and I oddly, in a moment of black out, felt comforted that I just ate my father and he would always be a part of me.
The lesson is don’t drink and do grief over the holidays.
The real lesson is we all will. I will. I’ll end up hammered and on a cold floor crying at some point. I’ll plead to the clouds to bring him back. I’ll be angry he’s gone and I’ll blame myself and I’ll be sad and depressed and at least once in the next two weeks, I’ll find it hard to not hate myself, because I’ll always hate myself. But, 26 December always comes, people always take down the lights, Santa disappears and I can go back to being my miserable, bitter, indifferent self until the next holiday.
We can’t all do it alone. I am part of a tribe of fucked up people, and newsflash, you are now a member, and we don’t deal with shit well and we have been faced with the worst of the absolute worst. But, good news, we’re still here and we’re still surviving and no one is going to give us a trophy but we’re bad ass all the same.
Be easy, friend, because the holidays shouldn’t swallow us alive. We’ll make it out and we’ll be ok. Tomorrow is another day.