Sunday, December 7, 2008
The Little Christmas Tree
Tina is my hero when it comes to coping with negative emotions. Yesterday morning, she experienced what we call a "grief burst", an unexpected surge of emotion not tied to any particular memory or trigger and which simply needs to run its course. We've both learned that when that happens, the spouse not so intensely affected just needs to be there. Nothing needs to be said; we've both been there, and these emotional flash floods soon subside. What Tina decided to do afterward, however, is what really impressed me. While the children and me took care of miscellaneous chores and work-related items, Tina went shopping for a special project through which she funneled her grief. When she returned, she had a small artificial Christmas tree and a few dozen miniature ornaments, stickers and other assorted nick-knacks out of which we could make additional tiny ornaments. This little tree, when it was completed, would sit in the vase on Peter's grave, and each ornament represents something he loved in life. For the better part of the afternoon and during a visit to grandma's house this evening, we completed this project of love and found our grief being swallowed up in the wonderful memories of Peter we can readily associate with Christmas. The tree is now finished, decorated with soccer balls, penguins, polar bears, a camp fire complete with roasting marshmallows, presents, Santa, snowflakes, a sled with his name on it, a big heart, and a fat hippo! Peter always loved the song, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas!", and we even have video of him mouthing the words last Christmas while it played in the background. There is even a little star on top of the tree, and we think it looks just like what Peter would want bringing his resting place some Christmas cheer (even though Tina swears up and down that the tree still needs a kangaroo of some kind). We will deliver the tree this afternoon, and I owe this lesson on how to channel the surging emotions related to grieving to my lovely wife. I hope I can learn how to cope with grief with as much constructive creativity as the weeks and months without Peter melt into years.