Here we are in the holiday season being bombarded with messages of Be Jolly! Be Joyous!  Be Happy! Get that Holiday Spirit! Yet, do you find yourself suddenly feeling sad or with a lump rising in your throat? Do you find the simplest song, phrase, or even a smell has you welling up with tears and, while not outright sobbing, with a deep desire to do so?

If your recent history has included the loss of a loved one or relationship, once innocuous items suddenly turn into powerful symbols wrought with meaning as they conjure up memories both heart wrenching and heartwarming at the same time. Joy and sorrow collide and the result is a cacophony of jumbled feelings.

For me it is Dooney and Bourke purses. Sounds crazy, huh? This year, “The Twelve Days of Dooney and Bourke Sales” have shown up in my daily e-mail. Even before I open each days offering, my eyes fill with tears and the screen blurs.

Long before I could tell a Dooney from a Dachshund, these classic purses were imprinted on my brain. A lifelong friend (well, since our first year of college) always had a Dooney and Bourke purse slung over her shoulder. While I was carrying a suede fringed hobo bag purchased at an outdoor market, she was never without her high end D&B. I really didn’t pay much attention; they were simple “a part” of her and not my “thing”.  Now, I realize that over the years she owned and used D&B exclusively. It never occurred to me to ask about her unwavering commitment to D&B.

And now I can’t ask, as she died in June 2012. In December of that year, without even realizing any possible connection, I bought my first (and only) Dooney and Bourke purse. I still carry it every day. I never connected my purchase of that purse with her; I found it on e-bay. It was on sale. I liked it. It fit my needs. I also liked the name of this style.

Now as I open and scroll through an e-mail filled with endless D&B designs, I see her in each photo; the drawstring bag from college, the flapped shoulder bag from her first working years, the mail pouch she carried as a young mom, and the satchel she sported in her forties. All had the iconic D&B pattern and those signature clasps, the straps, the snaps, and colors. As life changed us and we grew up, two things remained the same; her allegiance to those purses and our friendship. With this sudden barrage of D&B e-mails, I cry again for the loss of my friend and for how much more living she had to do. And I shake my head in wonder as a light bulb goes off in my head: it is three years later and I just realize my D&B is not just a way to carry my junk around; it is also a tribute and remembrance of her.

I think grief is like that. It comes in waves and suddenly seems to attach and reattach itself to different moments and sometimes, items, in our life. In this particular holiday season, joy seems a stretch- Paris, San Bernardino and the acrimonious political climate all impact us and make us even more vulnerable and nostalgic as we deal with our personal losses. The world has changed; our lives have changed; loved ones are gone, and we resist what is and long for what was.

As you struggle with your own grief, you may find even the simplest symbol of holiday cheer is now associated with sadness. Whatever your loss and your experience, be gentle with yourself. The greatest gifts are not wrapped in pretty paper nor do they come with a hefty price tag. In my Dooney and Bourke moments, I recognize my loss is also mixed with the deep joy of having had such a good friend. As I cry for the loss, I also have enormous gratitude. What a gift she was!

Oh, and that Dooney and Bourke purse I bought? It is called “The Happy Bag.”

 

Wishing you the gift of love and friendship through this holiday season and throughout the year.

May your memories, though at times painful, serve to comfort you.

And may we all live in Peace.

 

© 2015 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She has a special interest in working with people dealing with life transitions. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce  is available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

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