The Family Stone & Pacing Pain

December 13, 2020

It’s been three years since my mother passed. This will be our fourth holiday season without her. When she left us, I tucked away some memorable traditions. They were too painful to experience without her. I refused to watch and relish in some of the things we used to do together. They felt harsh and empty. 

This year I got a little more courageous than the few before. I decorated not one, but two, Christmas trees. I went all out, embracing the joy and beauty of the holiday season. I even started watching Hallmark movies and other Christmas movies we used to enjoy cuddled up together. Things I haven’t done since she passed. Things I haven’t done in years. 

Embracing Christmas seemed to be working, which led to even more bold and brave endeavours. One evening, snuggled up with my husband, I declared I was ready to watch The Family Stone. A movie I used to love and one I used to watch with my mother. A movie that when it came out, didn’t hold the meaning and sentiment it now does. A movie that was locked in a vault the moment my mother passed, for it was too real, too vulnerable, too heartbreaking. 

We hit play. I watched, though in all honesty, it took two days to finish. I cried. I sobbed. I ached in ways that felt so fresh it was as if I was experiencing the first Christmas without my mother all over again. As my husband wrapped his arms around me, embracing me in my messy emotion, I wondered if being able to watch this movie was an achievement or rather the start of a huge downward spiral in grief and loss. 

I knew at that moment I had a choice. Feel accomplished for attempting this small feat or allow the dark parts of grief to unplug the sparkle of the holiday spirit that had found me. I reached for my dictionary. It sits on my bedside. Sometimes, when I need to feel the signs from above, I’ll open this book to a random page and pray it speaks to me. 

I was praying for a sign, seeking guidance from the heavens in this bedside dictionary. I opened up to a random page. Immediately a word popped off the page: pace. At first glance, it meant nothing. Before I could feel defeated by the messages I was hoping to receive I looked to the joining page: pain. The two words that were on those open pages were pace and pain. That couldn’t be a coincidence. 

Tears were flowing heavily by this point, as the meaning of those words became crystal clear. 

Pace yourself. 

Pace your pain. 

Be gentle with your speed and your stride. You can walk gradually into traditions again, there is no need to run. You can take large footsteps into the old memory making or you can tiptoe slowly and gently into them. Either way, it’s ok. 

Pace your pain. 

Some of us will be ready this holiday season to add back pieces of the magic that was lost. Some of us are far from ready, not yet able to observe or embrace the sparkle that still exists. Both are ok. Both are to be respected. Both are acknowledged. Both matter. 

Pace your pain, friends. If it feels too heavy or too hard, pause and try again when it feels right. 

Pace your pain, friends. If it feels wrong or unbecoming, don’t force it. Listen to your heart. 

Pace your pain, friends. One day, you’ll know when to try again. You’ll know how to continue the traditions you once loved. It could be three years, it could be thirty, but there is hope in the return. 

Guard your hearts, they’ve already been shattered, and simply and delicately, pace your pain. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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