The holidays can be a very difficult time for those who are grieving. Many bereaved have difficulty understanding and managing their grieving process. This may be because the holidays are a reminder of the people who should be at the holiday table, but are not. Their absence remains, even as the years pass. This rings true particularly if your loved one died during this season, or if this is the first season you’ll spend without them.
It is possible to find your way to peace during the Holiday season, even if your loss still feels fresh. Of course, it is always a tough no matter who you’ve lost or how long it’s been since they have passed away. It’s important to realize that you don’t have to do things the way you’ve always done them. It may be a good time to start some new traditions, this doesn’t mean you’re going to lose the old traditions; Address the “elephant in the room” by acknowledging your child or loved one and including him or her in your gathering. Try creating new traditions when the old ones are too painful.
- Light a candle on Christmas Eve or before a Christmas dinner begins. Leave it burning throughout the gathering and appoint one person to blow it out after the event or gathering ends. You might want to appoint someone different each year in order to bring a special memory and honor for that particular person each year.
- Making a toast in his or her honor before the Christmas festivities begin and ask a different person each year to do the honors.
- Cooking their favorite dish or sharing favorite memories and funny stories about them. It may be difficult to start these conversations but it will benefit everyone around you and help each of you heal a little bit at a time.
- Remember to give “thanks” for what you had and what you still have… memories, love and feelings in our hearts can never be taken from us unless we allow it.
- Create a memorial ornament and bring it to the family gathering and place it on their tree or your tree if you’re hosting dinner or the festivities. You may want to bring attention to it and toast in their honor around the tree.
- Hang a stocking in their memory if this was always a cherished tradition. Continue to celebrate that tradition by hanging their stocking. Ask the mourners to write short memory, story, or cherished moment on small pieces of paper or holiday cards and place them in the stocking. Take them out again and add to them every Holiday season. Your family may want to read them on birthdays, anniversaries, important holidays or other dates that were important to the deceased in order to preserve and celebrate.
- Write a table cloth tradition. Place a white cloth over the Christmas table where family and friends will gather to eat. Place markers on the table and before dinner begins ask everyone to write a special message, memory or quote of the loved one. After dinner fold it up and store away. Next Christmas spread the cloth and have each person read the memory in front of them and then ask everyone to write another special message, memory or quote and continue the tradition as long as you feel it brings joy and healing to those around you. Make sure it brings you joy as well. So many times we do what makes others feel good while hurting ourselves.
I found myself the first few Christmas’s after losing my sweet Bryant looking for gifts for him when I was shopping for others. For a split second I would see something and think, “Bryant would love that.’’ My tradition is to add a red bird to my Christmas tree each year. I have been so blessed to have a family or friend gift me with a special red bird every year. The healing they feel by giving joy to me also shows me his memory is alive and well. I still have moments of heart-felt sadness during the holidays. Sometimes, the days leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas or worse than the actual holiday itself because the planning seems to linger on, everywhere you look you see joy, family gatherings and parties but someone is missing so how can I have joy or a party? How do I enjoy Mother’s Day ever again when one of my children is gone? The anniversary of Bryant’s death is always a reflection day of what could’ve been different and what he would be today. Why did the accident happen? How did the accident happen? Why Bryant? What did I do to deserve losing my son? After all these years, it’s still not easy for me to relate what happened. My “New Normal Life” is, in fact that dealing with these days and occasions will be with me until the day I die and learning to grow and go through them is pertinent in my grief journey. I didn’t want to be a member of this exclusive club of suffering mothers, who buried their child, but this is what I have to deal with, and I have realized I needed to transform my pain into power and live my purpose. Living a life where I can share and help others heal gives me peace and honors my son.
My first book Wake-Up Call…A Mother’s Grief Journey was written to help me heal and in turn serves a purpose bigger than myself and that was to help others like you. Available on Greiftoolbox.com, Amazon, Kindle & Nook.