The time after Thanksgiving is popularly described as "the most wonderful time of the year." With turkey dinners and leftover sandwiches but a distant memory, December is a time for countdowns (either on an Advent calendar or otherwise) in anticipation of vacation, relaxation, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's and everything else in between.
But behind the twinkling white and blue and red and green holiday lights, between the falling snow and the winter wonderland, the ice skating, the holiday music, the tinkling bells and carols and concertos, lies an issue that needs to be brought to light.
When I look at these holiday decorations, the wreaths and sprigs of holly and mistletoe, the iced sugar cookies and gingerbread houses, I see it not with rose-tinted glasses but rather with gray-tinted glasses.
It's because this is the first holiday I will spend without my grandmother, who passed away this past October.
The holidays don't feel like the holidays this year.
Even saying the word "holiday" sounds off. I don't even want to say it. There should be another word, one that ties in the grief you feel with the happiness surrounding you. These two conflicting emotions fight for precedence of my heart, but the end result is sadness and emptiness. There is a gaping hole that cannot be filled with falling snowflakes and peppermint hot chocolate.
In a way, it's suffocating. I won't be able to escape the choruses of jingle bells or jingle bell rock or any mention of Rudolph's red nose.
I want to rewind and go back to Halloween, since then I can at least dress up in a costume and hide my face behind a mask. Behind a costume, no one will have to see any of my fake smiles when the topic of family comes up. Halloween is great because you're expected to pretend to be someone or something else. For the holidays, you're supposed to expose yourself and your true feelings.
I want to call my grandmother and hear her voice. I want to tell her about my day. I want to hear about her day. I want to wish her a Happy Hanukkah and a happy holidays and I want to tell her about my life in New York.
Unfortunately, during the holidays we don't always get what we want.
Sometimes, I feel embarrassed talking about my grandmother, but not because of who she was or anything like that at all. I'm embarrassed because I'm talking about death when we should all be talking about things that are happy.
No one wants to talk about death. No one wants to talk about sadness. No one wants to talk about being alone.
But to the people who are important to me, they listen and they understand. I'm slowly realizing that it's fine to talk about these things during this time of the year. It's OK and will always be OK to open up to friends and family. In New York City, opening up to complete strangers has strangely been acceptable as well.
Everyone has a skeleton in a closet that cannot be hidden under wreaths and Christmas boxes. No one has a perfect life. I think connectivity is so important and imperative in modern society. The most wonderful time of the year is also the most important time of the year to tell each other how much you mean to each other and to also be available to listen, to understand and to just be there for someone.
Sometimes, it's the hardest things, the things that are buried deep down, that need to be brought to the surface and that need to be said.
It should always be OK to have an open conversation about hard and sad topics around the holidays. The message that it's OK to talk about these things around the Christmas tree or under the falling snowflakes or over hot chocolate needs to be conveyed.
So even though I don't want to talk about my grandmother's death and other sad things, I still do. I say it because it needs to be said, and that's OK.