Grief is a strange thing. In some ways it’s totally predictable and in others it can seem to come out of nowhere.

My mom loved the 4th of July. We always decorated our house with flags and my mom would make angel food cake with strawberries, blueberries, and cool whip and decorate it like a flag. When I was younger we would go as a family to our town’s parade and watch the fireworks at night.

The last few years have been a blur of me trying to enjoy the day but always feeling a bit off. This year I am up in the Bay Area with my boyfriend and his family. Two days ago I cried just because I missed being around my family in this way of visiting one another and having a mom around. I thought the grief would be done but today I found myself running out of a 4th of July get together crying because of something else that set me off and then realizing that I really missed my mom.

When I think of grief and the holidays I usually think of Christmas and Thanksgiving. But this year the 4th of July really hit me too. Maybe it’s because I’m finally getting more in touch with my emotions after all this time. Maybe there’s no reason. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I really miss my mom, and she loved the 4th of July. She always made a big deal about it and we had so much fun growing up. I don’t know if I’d even be spending the holiday with her this year if she were still alive. But the fact that I don’t have that choice anymore feels really unfair and upsetting.

Last year for Thanksgiving I went backpacking for 2 nights. It was really fun and got my mind off of things. I can’t decide if it’s better to totally avoid the holiday by doing something like that, to make new traditions (like that), to keep older traditions and stay with my family, or to just go with the flow. I think I’ve learned to manage my grief on a day-to-day basis but the holidays, as uncommon as they are, still get me. I think it’s just totally different for everyone. For some people who have lost a mom, maybe Mother’s Day is the saddest. But my mom didn’t make a big deal out of Mother’s Day, so I’ve learned that it doesn’t hold so many emotions for me. On the other hand, my sadness this 4th of July seemed to come out of nowhere, but now I realize that it made me feel sad because it was always such a great holiday where my family spent the entire day together having fun. Grief is just one giant learning process.

What I’ve learned helps around the holidays is that what’s most important is being around people who you feel comfortable around and supported by. People who love you. People you feel it’s ok to cry around if need be. Because at least for me, I can’t stand having to put on a show and pretend I’m happy when I’m not. I don’t like to make other people feel uncomfortable either so usually I tend to isolate myself. And I think that’s fine too. It’s not ideal but it’s usually the best voice I have. Maybe the holidays will always be hard for me or maybe one day they’ll be happier again. For now, I think I’m gonna just be happy that on a day-to-day basis I’m functioning pretty well, having many more good days than bad, and just look at the holidays as a time I know will likely be hard, to figure it out as I’m going through it, to have the freedom to leave any situations where I feel uncomfortable, but not to be afraid to keep trying to have happy holidays again.