By Sarah Wylde
The holiday season brings lots of joy and excitement. Decorating, putting up the tree, putting up the Christmas lights, baking, the sounds of laughter and music. It can be a magical time of the year. But that is not the case for everyone, myself included. Dealing with loss at any time is hard, but dealing with it on special occasions, select dates, and the holidays it can be crippling.
Every year on the weekend before Christmas, on my mom’s side of the family, we all get together and have a pot luck holiday party. This has been going on since the early nineties when I was a kid. As the cousins grew older and now have their own families, it is to the point where we rent a small hall and hold it there. Even though we live near each other, we don’t always see everyone a lot during the year. So, it is nice to have and look forward to this each year to reconnect. This past Sunday, was this year’s holiday party, and a few conversations are what brought up this post.
I have been fortunate enough that on my mom’s side of the family, there hasn’t been a lot of loss. But, six years ago, my father passed away at the end of September. For myself and my mom, this is the first year since my father’s passing that we put up Christmas lights outside. Most years, we have a few things up around the house, but we both do not usually have the full Christmas spirit feeling. Not every year is there even a tree up. We celebrate it together and remember, but it is not the same. We go to my aunts every year for Christmas dinner still, which is nice. At the family party, my great aunt was saying how it was beautiful that we do this every year, that she shops even when our parents are gone that our cousins still do this and remember. Then we laughed when we talked about my dad and his love for one of my aunt’s shortbread cookies. In a card I received from my cousin, she wrote that I shine bright like my dad. That means a lot. So, memories were shared, and a few tears had.
The holidays are difficult for all those who are grieving. Everything becomes more of an effort. All the feelings and emotions come in waves and seem to be heightened this time of year with every decorating and festiveness that we see. Loss comes in many forms. The loss could be the end of a friendship, work, the passing of a family member, friend, someone you know, or a beloved family pet. Grief is universal, except in the way that we experience it, that is individual to the person.
Before I share a few things to help manage the holidays and loss, I want to stress that there is no one way or right way to grieve or experience your holidays during and after any loss.
Firstly, don’t hold your emotions in. If you want to laugh, cry, be around a lot of people, or have some you time, that is okay.
Set boundaries. You do not have to celebrate or change your plans because someone tells you to. Don’t let others force you into things you are not ready for.
Honor their memory by telling stories, toasting their memory at dinner, having a moment of silence for them, and having a particular ornament on the tree that symbolizes them.
Start new traditions. If you find it hard to continue doing traditions, you can alter them or start some new ones.
I hope this helps. I am sending comforting, healing vibes to all those who need them this season.
Until next time, take care of yourselves.