When your heart is broken in grief, you’re not sure how you are going to get through the next day, much less the holidays. Holidays should be spent with the ones we love. It’s a time of celebration, of giving to those we care about. So, if your loved one has died, please don’t think I am in any way making light of the hole you must feel in the center of your being. I only wish to offer ways to honor and remember the one who is gone from your life.
My brother committed suicide when I was in my mid-twenties (he was thirty-two). His birthday is October 4th, so that was the first “special day” that Rod wasn’t on earth for. Mostly, we cried and just made it through the day.
Thanksgiving and Christmas came, and we tried as hard as we could to think of him and honor his memory. Mostly, we did our best to be positive and walked on eggshells to try and make my mom feel better. Though we had the best of intensions, I often think that we just stumbled around with nothing to draw from but our own loss. We just did the best we could.
It wasn’t until I met my husband (who lost his entire family when a boulder fell onto his car and killed his wife instantly and then later his two boys died in the hospital) that I began to understand how to really grieve and honor and remember those we loved during the holidays and every day.
Art’s family died in February. When their birthdays came around first, he spent the day weeping and aching.
He also spent the day doing something they loved. He went places that were special between them all, took hikes he had taken with them. He purposely found ways to find joy in their short life with him, even while curled in a ball crying. He refused to stop finding ways to honor them with his love. He found a way to experience joy and love for them amidst his intense missing.
When Thanksgiving and Christmas came around, I watched as he took careful time in decorating the house in their honor, in hanging their stockings with tears streaming down his face. He decided to find any way he could to honor and remember them despite the intense ache in his heart. It took every ounce of his being to find joy in that time, but he did it for them.
From that time on, we made birthday cakes for their birthdays, we bought ornaments and things for our house that reminded him of them. We brought out paintings his wife, Kathy, had painted, and hung them in new places. We made his home a safe place where he could love and honor them.
During the holidays, what I think will be most helpful is for you to make time and space to grieve.
Give yourself the opportunity to feel sad and angry and whatever else you need to feel. Be alone when you need to. Make time for joy and honoring as well. As sad as it may be, create time to remember the one you love.
Talk about them. Talk about the good times and the hard ones. Do something they loved to do. Or do something they would have loved knowing you did…in honor of them.
Most of all, give yourself and the others around compassion. Realize that everyone has a different way of feeling and dealing with their grief. Don’t judge (or wonder) why others aren’t feeling the same way you are. Just let go. Let go of everything but your own journey into the pain, sadness and healing.
Please know that while you may feel alone, you aren’t. There are others around this world who have that same hole in their lives. Let others give to you and reach out to for help if you can. Find ways to give and love others in honor of the one you lost.
Know, above all, that healing and grief take time. There are no rules to grief. There is only hope…and hope can sometimes be hidden very deep in our soul…sometimes so deep we have to look long and hard to find it. But hope can come if we let it. Sometimes it comes when we let ourselves honor and remember the one we lost.
Allison Daily co-authored the book Out of the Canyon: A True Story of Loss and Love (Random House), with her husband Art Daily.Tags: belongings, funerals, money, signs and connections