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Five Reminders for the Holidays (My Survival Guide)

“If the shoe was on the other foot so to speak, you were the one who has passed away and your loved one is here. What would you want them to do? Would you want them to be miserable and depressed over the holidays? No, I don’t think so, you would want them to be happy, begin to put their lives back together, and enjoy this time of the year once again. So be still and listen to your heart, you’ll know what to do from there.” — Richard Kauffman

The quote makes logical sense to me. A good way to start off this post? On a positive note. Teri would definitely want me to have fun. That's why she was always smiling. Just like she was in our 2022 picture ornament she made on the far right:

These ornaments Teri made for us last year got me thinking of Teri's dog, Mustard. When Mustard passed away last May, it was surprising to Teri and I that I had a much more difficult time with the loss than she did. Mustard was her dog for over 11 years. Why was it harder for me to accept the loss? We were both confused.


Two days later, we adopted Mayo from my dad. While we were not in a rush, a friend from work recommended that getting Mayo sooner than later may help us with the grieving process. It just seemed like the right thing to do. And Mayo definitely helped! Then we had a celebration of life for Mustard at our house and some of us had a time of sharing. By the end of the day, I felt a lot better.


I think Mustard's passing was harder for me than it was for Teri because she really made the most of her time with Mustard. He lived a full life with her. I also tend to get really busy and end up feeling regretful, wishing I would have spent more quality time with the people and pets that are no longer with us.


When Teri passed away, I couldn't get another wife two days later. Thankfully I was fine since I had a very busy month. I felt emotionally stable since needed to manage everything for the celebration of life. The busyness kept going for a few months. Then it got really difficult.


Come to think of it, the busyness of the holidays may work to my advantage. There's a lot going on from now until the end of the year. Lots of projects at work to wrap up. I'm hosting Thanksgiving at my house. A few out of town trips coming up. All good stuff that I'm very thankful for.


Last Sunday, I was in a good mood after church, so I did something brave and spent the afternoon setting up Christmas decorations. Not an easy task when no one is telling me exactly what to do like I'm used to. I was quickly overwhelmed with how much stuff Teri bought to decorate the house. Then the emotions came. Feelings of both joy and sadness. Then I thought, would this be the last time I set all this up in this house?? What if I meet someone and then what will happen? Will I still get to use the Terwin ornaments? Thankfully I ended up getting tired so Mayo and I took a nap until it was time to bring him to the groomers. Here's a before and after photo:

Since my last post was about work, I was reminded that I spend a lot of time writing procedures at work on how to do things. I always want to pass "the bus test" meaning that if I get hit by a bus, everything can continue to run without me. I wish the rest of the team felt the same way. I want the team to be ready and business to go on in case I'm not around.


Then it hit me. I need to do the same for the upcoming holidays. What could be more important than spending some time writing a procedure for myself to try to follow now that the holiday season has started? Hopefully this post can be a good reference for me over the next two months and in future years when things get difficult.


Reminder #1: Lots of big feelings is a good thing

Teri sometimes referred to me as a robot, always running on autopilot. I would get triggered when she would insist that I talk about my feelings. Now, I sort of feel the opposite, I get triggered by people that seem like they're too busy, also running on autopilot. I feel sad for them, but understand since there are seasons in life that are exceptionally busy.


I keep reminding myself that its a good thing to embrace the emotions, especially at night, mostly by watching her videos and being so thankful for them. I'll try to do the same during the holiday events and stay in the moment.


Here's an emotionally moving video for me that always made me smile, taken right before her hysterectomy in October 2017:

Sometimes I think, what in the world was I thinking to take these videos in the hospital? Anyways, I'm sure glad I did.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” - Elizabeth Kubler Ross (Found on Teri's facebook Profile)

Reminder #2: Let go of control

Right now, there's lots of things regarding the holidays and with work that I wish I had better control over. I also get discouraged about my inability to diet and how my weight graph reminds me of the emotional roller coaster, always going up and down.


With people's behaviors that annoy me, sometimes I lose patience and just take matters into my own hands without having a conversation so I get to my desired outcomes as soon as possible. This method usually doesn't work. A while ago I got fed up with Teri using the phone too much before bed, so I put a screen lock on her phone:

Yes, another video of what NOT to do in a relationship. Good intentions can still be terrible ideas. Too bad she knows the same pin codes I use for everything and figured it out.


Reminder #3: Give people (and pets) the benefit of the doubt.

Most of my recent hangouts with friends involve sharing about someone in our lives that give us a lot of trouble. Usually its about a supervisor or colleague. Sometimes its a significant other or ex boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. There's usually a lot of stories and eventually one of us says, "Am I the crazy one, or perhaps the other person is crazy?"


I would share with these same people that there were many times that I thought Teri was the crazy one in the relationship. I would remind myself that it can't be me because most people don't get that upset me. The lie I kept telling myself and others was that I do a great job materialistically providing for her, and I wish she would be more appreciative of me. Then I've learned that what I was doing was not what she really wanted. She wanted quality time, not more stuff.


I'm sure she did the same with me. I felt judged at times. I also felt misunderstood, like I do now during this season of grief and rediscovery. I'm not sure what she said to others about me, nor does it matter.


Now when I hear stories of people being hurt by others, I try to give the person who's hurting my friend the benefit of the doubt. Everyone has their own story, and most of us don't know the whole story so we shouldn't ever be in a place to judge. Most likely these people need therapy or professional help. Just like I am getting.


This also applies to dogs... it is easy to get upset at ridiculous behavior like Mayo standing on the table. I'm sure he feels misunderstood as well, he was just trying to act cute and protect us:

This reminds me of the time I got very upset I was when we first brought home Mayo and how he kept barking and I was going crazy because I thought Teri was crazy for bringing Mayo home in the first place. Another time I was humbled. I'll do it another time.


Reminder #4: Embrace New Holiday Traditions

I'm one of those that likes to do the same things over and over. The holidays are no exception. Recently, I've had this random obsession to prove to my family that I can compete with Teri in the kitchen during events like Thanksgiving, even though most of my family doesn't even like turkey. It seemed at first to "honor Teri" in this way. I've asked a lot of people about what to do. So my biggest first world problem of the week was deciding if I would make my own Turkey or just concede.


Most of my family knows that Teri took a lot of pride in Thanksgiving. Here's how the spread looked like in 2017 when we celebrated it in Atlanta:

When Teri was doing things she enjoyed, she really didn't care much about what I was up to. I remember during her famous Korea trip with Emilyn and friends, she rarely checked in with me. Then she got home and wouldn't stop talking about it. In some ways, I was jealous since we rarely had that much fun on our own vacations. Teri also said it wouldn't have been the same if I came along.


This makes me think that this how things are with Teri, right now, in heaven. She has a lot of other fun stuff to do. She still watches over me and Mayo. Maybe she will read the blog. I don't think she's that interested if I use all the Christmas decorations or decide to just leave some in the plastic bins, or even give some away. She won't be offended if I don't cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. She just wants me to know God, be happy, take more deep breaths, put my phone away, and not work so much. That's probably what everyone else wants for me too.


Conclusion: It is OK if I don't make a Turkey. Maybe next year.


Reminder #5: Count your blessings

I sincerely told Teri that I really hope she outlived me. At least a dozen times. Seriously. I was a really big fan of Teri and would also say to her, "I can't believe you married me." Thankfully I have a lot of photos and videos to show for it. A little too much. I also can't believe I've been posting some of the content here on this blog.


As painful as its been this whole year, it still is a privilege to experience this unique season of life. I get to:

  • Meet with my therapist once a week

  • Serve at my local church

  • Wake up early to read and exercise

  • Write on this blog

  • Go on walks around the lake with Mayo

Most people don't even get the opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one because they're still too busy working or taking care of lots of other people. I really am very blessed. And I need to remind myself of all the blessings I have. Every day.


And it's time to sleep! Extra sleep during this season should help as well. Thanks for reading and watching, have a great Friday and weekend!


Blessings,

Erwin



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5 Comments


Gretchen Lai
Gretchen Lai
Nov 11, 2023

Now I know how Mayo got a hold of that soup when you had to take Teri to the ER! :D

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MAYOOOOOOOOO 😻😻😻 These are good reminders, not only for the holidays, but for every day. The Lord is good!!

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Jaclyn Wong
Jaclyn Wong
Nov 10, 2023

I love reading your posts and the fact that you took so many videos to capture moments like these. But that phone screen lock...hahaha I am amazed at how well she took that!

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Mayo on the table + Teri figuring out the phone passcode 😂😍 Great post, Erwin! And good job on setting up Christmas decor. Do you like dark turkey meat? If yes, you could buy and roast just the turkey legs. Prayers for your holiday season... I pray that you will know God's presence and nearness and grace and love even more deeply as you lean into the good and the hard of the season, miss Teri, and continue at the same time to count your blessings.

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Jenny Scott
Jenny Scott
Nov 10, 2023

Erwin, this post is hilarious. I love your outlook on this season to be happy and have fun. I love Teri’s ornaments and I am proud of you putting up your decorations. That must have been hard. That was so funny when Teri said, “you’re being a jerk!” Hilarious. I love that you noticed that Teri wanted quality time with you over anything else. Mayo on the table, so funny! I love how you want to count your blessings. Great job, Erwin. You are so loved

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