The holidays seem to magnify emotions of grief as music, events, even aromas can remind us of the person we are missing. Our family lost two close family members during the holidays, one right before Thanksgiving and the other two years later on December 9th. I remember thinking it would be nice to just pull the covers over my head and wake up in January.
Maybe this year you understand what I’m talking about. I want you to know you don’t have to completely check out for the holidays, even through an intense season of grief.
The first year. My mom’s death was right before Thanksgiving. We were facing not only the shock of losing her, but the first Thanksgiving and Christmas were just weeks away. Our Thanksgiving tradition was to meet at her home with extended family, but we determined another location would be a good diversion. Meeting in a restaurant wasn’t anyone’s idea of a perfect Thanksgiving, but for the first year, it seemed to make sense. I recall being thankful we could still get together, laugh and even tell stories about her.
Whatever holidays your family will be celebrating, a change of location might be something to consider as you look ahead this year.
Keep it Simple. The thought of decorating, entertaining, cooking or even shopping this year might feel overwhelming. For me, entertaining is a stress producer, but decorating is something I enjoy. How about you? If there are parts of the season you love, you may want to keep them on the schedule, but think about letting stressful activities go for now (or forever!). Making a plan including events you enjoy, along with plenty of time with nothing on the schedule can help bring balance at a time life can feel out of control.
Include your loved one’s memory in the holiday. It has been 13 years since we lost our mom; but my family still loves recalling funny memories about her. She was the funny lady on the interstate with loud Christmas music playing, and a wreath on the front of her Honda. Maybe you saw her? Even now the Honda image makes me smile.
When you gather with friends and family, telling the priceless stories is a beautiful way to honor the person you’re missing this year. You may want to write things down to keep memories fresh for years to come.
My prayer is you will find hope and comfort this holiday season.
Beth Marshall, author A Time to Heal, a grief journal