The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing other’s loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas.
-W. C. Jones
He is not alone in his feelings. It is difficult to celebrate what once were beautiful, happy days. I remember how my husband dreaded Christmas day, the first without our son. He didn’t like to see the Christmas tree but I placed it anyway because I had two girls looking forward to Christmas day which has always been a joyful day to celebrate. I am thankful I opened my heart to my children and allowed them to help me embrace Christmas that year. In doing so, we renewed our strength and spirit together and we found the courage we needed to go on and enjoy life. It wasn’t the same reaction with my husband. It took him five more years to let Christmas come back to his life. And that was the year he learned that life can become good and whole and complete once again.
Why does Christmas or the holidays just make it difficult?
While most of the world seems to be addressing holiday greeting cards and planning holiday menus, the bereaved are struggling with other concerns: HOW LONG DOES GRIEF LAST? WILL THE HOLIDAYS ALWAYS BE THIS AWFUL? WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE EMPTY PLACE AT THE TABLE? WHAT IS THERE TO BE THANKFUL FOR THIS YEAR?
For many, Christmas is a special time of year. Although pretty packages and twinkling lights are the window dressing for this exciting festivity, it is the warmth and love of family and friends that make the holiday season so memorable. It can be a painful time for those experiencing the recent loss of a loved one.
I know there are others out there feeling similar losses.
If you are facing Christmas alone for the first time, I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust and share your feelings with them. Devote a place and time before Christmas Day in which you can openly honor your loved one and acknowledge your feelings. On Christmas Day, intentionally set your focus on family and friends who not only share in your loss, but who bring precious gifts of love and support to aid in your healing journey.
How To Help Yourself Through The Holidays
At this time you will be acutely aware of the voids in your life. You may find yourself wishing to go straight from December 24 to December 26; it is hard to continually hear Christmas carols playing and people saying ““Merry Christmas”, or to see the perfect gift and realize the person is no longer alive to enjoy it.
Here are some suggestions that may help to make your holiday season a little easier.
1. Family gatherings may be extremely difficult. Be honest with each other about your feelings; sit down and decide what you all want to do for the holiday season. Don’t set expectations too high for yourself or other family members on that day.
2. There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. Some people prefer to follow family traditions, while others decide to change them . It may help to do things just a little differently. Remember, what you choose to do this time can always be changed next year.
3. Be careful of “shoulds” it is better to do what feels best for you and your family, not what you or others think you should do. Give yourself permission to not do things. Once you have decided how your family will handle the holidays, let others know.
4. Do the Christmas preparations that you enjoy and look for alternatives for those you don’t. For example, this year you could buy baked goods, let others bake for you or do without.
5. Holidays are tiring; get lots of rest. You will need every bit of your strength.
6. If you decide to decorate your home, let children, other family members or friends help you. It’s okay to do something different, or to do no decorating at all.
7. How do you respond to “Merry Christmas”? You could say ““best wishes to you” or ““thank you”. Think of how you might answer ahead of time.
8. For Christmas dinner, you may decide to visit relatives or friends this year. If you have dinner at home, try changing the menu, the time or the room. You may want to be involved in preparing the meal, or not.
9. Be gentle with yourself and don’t expect too much. If you cry, don’t let that ruin the day for you. It may allow others to grieve and feel sad on a “happy” day.
10. Consider cutting back or not sending Christmas cards this year. It is not essential to send cards, especially to those people you will see over the holidays.
11. As the holiday approaches, share you concerns, feelings and apprehensions with someone. Let them know what is difficult for you; accept their offers of help. Holidays often magnify feelings of loss; allow yourself to experience the sadness that comes.
12. Christmas shopping can be upsetting and it may help you to shop early, to shop by telephone and catalogue, or to take along an understanding friend. Family may be willing to shop for you if they realize how difficult this is for you.
Often, after the first year of bereavement, people expect you to be ““over it”…..you will never be ““over it”. However, most people do find that eventually they are able to enjoy holidays
I wish I can tell those who have lost a loved one this message, “May you find hope and peace and ways to remember the life of your loved one, not just the death. May Love be what you remember most”.
Source for “How To Help Yourself Through The Holidays”
From Victoria Hospice, British Columbia