Christmas time is almost upon us. And with that, most people will have their Christmas tree up by now, they’re planning family events for the holidays they’ve booked off, and they’re digging out those gems of recipes that everyone looks forward to. For others, those things are also happening, but with more of an empty space in the mix. Christmas is very much a family-oriented holiday, so for those families that have suffered a loss, have gone through family turmoil, or any other tragic event where a member of their family will no longer be present at gatherings, Christmas can be extremely difficult.
I’m writing this blog post with the intention to try and help those that have maybe experienced one of the things I mentioned, and are dreading this coming Christmas season.
A (very) little backstory. My dad passed away from an aggressive form a cancer, 4 years ago. As a result, I have an all too familiarity with holidays being extremely difficult to go through. He’s not sitting at his normal spot at the table while carving the turkey, we no longer get to sing duets at Christmas, and I don’t get to buy him tacky “dad” ties anymore. It’s hard. Really hard. But through the last 3 Christmases without him being physically with us, I’ve learned to celebrate differently. And I’d like to share some of the things I’ve done over the last couple years in hopes of brightening someone else’s spirits who might not be looking forward to Christmas this year.
1. Allow yourself to be upset.
It’s ok if you cry. It’s not a sign of weakness, but it’s a sign that you’ve tried as hard as you can, and just can’t keep it in any longer. And that’s ok. It’s also healthy. I’m the type of person that finds it very uncomfortable to cry in front of people, so if I feel the need to cry while the hustle and bustle of Christmas is happening, I’ll excuse myself, have a good little cry, and go back out once I’m ready to be with others that have joined us. Going away to hide might seem cowardly, but it’s something I do because I don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable. And I really don’t like pity. So allow yourself the opportunity to cry if you feel you need to. And don’t be ashamed if you need to do it more than once.
2. Tell old stories.
One of my favourite things to do is to share old stories of past Christmases with my friends and family. Laugh at the time one of us hated one of the presents we got, or when the turkey was so dry we couldn’t eat it. Just remembering good times instead of dwelling on the sad really makes a difference. Reliving past memories gives you an excuse to laugh, and it also does a good job at keeping your missed one alive in your heart and spirit.
3. Start a new tradition.
Think of something new you can do as a family to offset the awkwardness that comes with a loss. Dylan and I have this (new) tradition that we’ve started where after dinner and dessert is finished (you know that awkward time that you’re too full to do anything, but there’s still so much time in the night left) and we’ll go to the movie theatre and watch a late movie on Christmas Day. It’s honestly so fun! And there are surprisingly more people at the movie theatre than you’d expect to find on Christmas.
4. Do something that just you and that special person used to do together.
This one could be difficult depending on how your healing process is going. My dad and I used to sing at church together during Christmas Eve services. So whether I’m on my phone with my headphones plugged in, or spending some alone time in my room and have a computer near by, I’ll play songs that we used to sing together. It’s really nice to close my eyes while the songs are playing and imagine his tenor voice and how his face would go red during the high notes. Because it’s something special that we shared together, doing something like this makes it still feel like it’s just the two of us again. And then we go back to #1 all over again. But it’s necessary for my Christmas to be complete.
I hope that the few examples I’ve come up with can help even just one person this Christmas season, if you have a similar circumstance as me. I’ve learned that it doesn’t ever get easier, no matter what people tell you, you just learn to live with it easier. Re-live those memories you shared together and hold tight the family that you are lucky enough to have around you.