Grief is a Grinch

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, helps bake cookies for the holidays.“And I’m invited too?” I demanded of my friend when I learned that she and my other best friend were going to bake cookies together on Saturday. Not usually this bold, I was following three of the Holiday Tips for Grievers I’d found online: “Take breaks from your grief,” and “Don’t isolate yourself,” and “Tell people what YOU want to do for the holidays….” So I invited myself.

All over the Internet, bereaved and depressed people can find advice on how to deal with the holiday season. “Take care of yourself.” “Be honest. Listen to your heart and be mindful of your own needs.” “Do what feels right for YOU.” “Protect your physical and psychological energies.” During this time, online publications from Huffington Post to whatsyourgrief.com essentially grant sufferers permission to turn into self-centered, entitled grinches.

I don’t even like cookies. But I do like being in the kitchen when my friends are cooking. I will wash a million dishes in order to watch friends make extraordinary food. Also, my daughter who died liked to bake. So on Saturday, I helped stir and pour batter, and cleaned dishes. All afternoon we sampled fresh warm cookies as they came out of the oven. And we talked, sipping on scotch and wine.

I listened to various complaints about daughters doing things or not doing things, and thought, My Marika used to mess the kitchen up miserably when she baked cookies. There was also proud praising of the same daughters. Marika made the best cream cheese-frosted carrot cake. If Marika were still alive … I thought to myself. I tried not to mention my own daughter out loud. Because these were my old beloved, “regular” friends, not the newer friends who are other bereaved mothers who understand the need to talk about my daughter, to hear her name. A holiday tip for grievers suggests you find ways to include your loved ones. I ate another cookie, silently toasting Marika.

Then the discussion turned to someone else’s daughter who was recovering from physical problems and wouldn’t be able to play sports for a whole year. That’s when, no longer able to contain my physical and psychological energies, being honest with myself and mindful of my own needs, and doing what felt right for ME – I said, “Well at least she’s still alive,” – and effectively ended all conversation.

 

How have you grinched-out during the holiday season? Did you decorate? Or did you decide it was time to let dirty dishes hang out on the counter-tops?

 

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12 thoughts on “Grief is a Grinch

  1. Sandy

    Very good, Robin. I am glad that you spoke your mind and even with a cookie in your mouth. No, don’t hold back. I am sure that your friends totally slid into reality when you said that…and wish they had something better to say. It must be hard. And so, my friend, carry on in your sea of friends – old and new…and say what you feel and feel what you say. You do such a fine job of it in your writings…thank you.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      So good to hear from you, Sandy. This coming from one who seems to speak her mind easily, I’m so flattered to add you to my “sea of friends.” Wishing you well, wishing you big changes in the new year. Cheers!

      Reply
  2. SusanB

    One of my favorite Christmas movies is the Grinch. It was a broken heart that made him a Grinch and then a little girl’s love helped him decide that he could love again. He was afraid of being hurt. That’s the thing about the holidays. Just by being the holidays they hurt us. For most who have suffered love and loss, and it doesn’t have to be death, there is a little Grinch living inside us. When they’re your friends they’ll love you anyway – even your Grinch.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I love all the movies with Grinches. Maybe because all these Grinches feel like family members. I need to admit however that MY Grinch is especially nasty and really challenging to the ones who care about me. And luckily, those ones do still love me anyway. I hope you have a bunch of those friends around too. Cheers!

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I can’t add much to that, Elaine. Except that I need to work on learning to stuff my mouth with cookies when I feel I can’t hold back words that could distress the people I’m with. And I have to think twice before blogging about friends. Cheers!

      Reply
  3. Lucy Bergström

    It’s great that you barged in on your friends’ cookie-baking day. Must have smelled great in that kitchen. Your friends could have showed more understanding of you by not bringing up all those daughters with this problem or that, knowing how you’d feel. Or – they could bring up whomever they wanted, as long as they brought Marika into the mix. All of us with grieving friends know that we can’t possibly make them sad by talking about their dead parent, spouse or child – but will definitely make them sad if we avoid mentioning them at all. As they say, “You can’t make me sadder than I already am. But you can cheer me up by talking about my dear daughter/ husband/parent. It helps to keep them alive for me.”
    Big hugs and great food, presents and eggnog!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      You’ve said it exactly, Lucy. Thanks so much. I hope you had lots of great food and presents and hugs. I’m still working on the quart of eggnog. I only took 4 cookies home with me because I knew I’d quickly scarf down whatever I took. Cheers to you and yours in the new year.

      Reply
  4. Ruth

    Hugs, Robin. Well, all conversations need to end sometime. I am very grateful that my best friends knew my daughter, Tori as well. I have had to tell them that I want to include her in memories & never be afraid to mention her. I told them that it makes me angry if they act like she wasn’t part of our lives for 20 years. But even with these open & candid requests I’m always aware & careful to not be the Debbie Downer by talking about the dead daughter. Christmas has always been a favorite with both kids & Morgan refuses to let this holiday be ruined for him since he lost his sister. I do the best I can, there are more decorations this year, just a bit more cheer but always a heavy heart knowing that her death day is soon to be upon us. Be strong, wear your red coat & know that you were loved & always will be. Be well.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hugs to you, Ruth. You know yourself and your needs so well. And you’re strong enough to let your friends know. I am so in awe of how you manage to set and keep your boundaries. I’m keeping you in my heart as Tori’s death day approaches. You be strong in your beautiful blue and silver. Cobalt blue. That sweater you wear. Amazing how you have the power to make even blue broil.

      Reply
  5. Wendy Bennett

    BIG hug Robin. Your life is so beautiful as u share your vulnerability & strength w/all who r watching. Grinch u aren’t. Real u are…

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank YOU, Wendy, my bunny. We both are strong and have beautiful lives, for sure. Hope to catch up in the same place again someday. But meanwhile, enjoy yours and keep warm. Cheers!

      Reply

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