The Emotional Dangers Of Decorating: Grief & Holidays

I walked into her room and asked if I could talk to her. It was one of my [many] humbled-mother moments.

Earlier, I had been getting the Christmas decorations out and situated, and in her excitement, she wanted to hand-make, and display, her own decorations throughout the house.

I drew the line firmly – maybe a little too firmly – when she brought out a string with pink, purple, and white ribbons stranded across it.

In her room, I sat down in her little desk chair and as she worked on creating a paper purse to keep her decorations in, I explained myself.

Mama gets grumpy during this time of year. Every year I try not to. But as this conversation was evidence of, trying wasn’t changing anything.

When I pull the decorations out from the storage bins, there are usually memories tied to each one. Some people have passed away, some have moved on with their lives, and some are still the same.

Yet, these items I pull from the storage totes awaken a lot of feelings, memories, and nostalgia.

This year, when I pulled Harlynn’s stocking out of the tote, I got grumpy. Really grumpy.

When these feelings and memories are stirred within, I don’t always know what to do with them. I can’t figure out how to act or what to think.

I’m not necessarily angry so much as I’m sad. And I’m certainly not angry at my little girl for wanting to decorate with her own flair around the house.

I don’t know what I am, though, and I snap. I never mean to. I never want to. But I snap.

She looked up at me and told me she knew I wasn’t mad at her, she forgave me, then she hugged me. She broke up our hug to go get me a kleenex, and hugged me again.

My kids… they’re so sweet. And Little Miss has been through so much – not just in losing her sister, but in losing a bit of her mommy in the process, too.

It’s a rotten deal to have a baby sister die and have your mom snap over Christmas decorations nearly five years later.


How long am I going to hang that little pink stocking? In my mind this year, as I hung it on the mantle, I resolved I would only do it until what would have been Harlynn’s 18th Christmas. But that’s 13 years from now yet.

I try to decorate my house for Christmas, but instead I get upset, because I’m calculating how long I’m going to hang my dead daughter’s stocking on the mantle.

Do you understand how much of a mess that is? And if you do, help me out, because I don’t fully understand it myself.

I love the holidays, but oh how I hate them. I love the memories, but they wreck me. Every time I think I finally have it held together, I crack.

I wanted to decorate our new home my way, on my terms, with my stuff. Because really, I wanted to protect my hurting heart, on my terms, in my own space. Sometimes protection takes the form of decorating in a super-particular fashion for Christmas.

Sometimes it takes the form of crying in the car in a random parking lot.

Sometimes it takes the form of getting lost in Angry Birds.

And sometimes it takes the form of a spoonful of Nutella.

But protection isn’t protecting anything so much as it’s ruining the people on the other side of the walls I’m building.

I made a decision. This Christmas, I’ll give my family the gift of letting my guard down. Things don’t have to be perfect. They can’t be.

The only thing that might make this holiday season perfect is a green twine string with purple, pink, and white ribbons hanging off the mantle in the living room.

And a sweet, forgiving hug from a Little Miss who’s more of a woman on the inside than she is expected to be.

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