In our lives there are many holidays or special days but perhaps there is no time when we are more aware of the empty space our loved one has left behind than at Christmas. In our culture and mass media, the pressure to produce warm and wonderful holiday memories for and with our families is enormous. This day more than any other means family together. It becomes a time when we are acutely aware of the void in our lives. For many, the wish is to skip the day and go from December 24th to December 26th. We continually hear Christmas carols, people wishing everyone “Merry Christmas” and we see the perfect gift for the loved one who has passed away. When surrounded by nostalgia and traditions even the happiest memories can hurt.
So, how does one celebrate the holiday when a loved one is so sorely missed?
Alone as you may feel in your grief, one of the most healing things you can do for yourself is to be with other people, especially during the holidays. Caring for and giving to others will nourish and sustain you, and help you to feel better about yourself. Do something for others, like volunteering, or inviting someone else who is alone for the holidays.
Accept your grief in this holiday season, do not try to “pretend” it away. This will not be helpful to you or others. The seasons of grief only pass as we live through them and change and grow in them. Creating new rituals and new traditions that may pay tribute to the memory of the deceased is one way to embrace the season. For the holiday meal, place a lighted candle on the table or include a favourite meal of the deceased. If this is too painful, create new ways to celebrate like taking a trip, or decorating an outdoor tree, instead of putting up one inside.
Above all, grieving is hard work, and it should not be done alone. You need to share your experience with someone who will understand and accept your pain and loss. If your spouse, relative, friend, cannot be a source of that support, you can find it elsewhere.