I love the Christmas Season! The music, the smells, the decorations, the way most people seem to be more upbeat and positive. I also love the mystery of the Holiday Season. I love the Story of Christmas! I love the fact that God sent his Son as an infant to grow up and become our Savior, our Deliverer, our Comforter, and our Healer.
I am grateful for parents who understood this time of year and made sure it was a season filled with joy and anticipation as well as a focus on the real meaning of the Christmas Season.
And I miss them.
Mom died in December of 2015 and Dad followed her just a few weeks later in January. Ever since then Christmas has been different.
Now let me clarify, I don’t mean that this time of year is sad, they lived a full life, stayed faithful to the Lord and each other and imparted so many wonderful things to our family and our community.
Having said that, I know that the Holiday Season can be particularly severe if you have experienced a death in your family and I want to offer some things you might do to that have helped me the past couple of years.
The holidays can be a tough time for those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one. While others look forward to the parties and other gatherings, the potential feelings of loss can be magnified as we become aware of the fact that our loved ones are no longer present.
While the grief process is not some neatly packaged five or six-step process, it is uniquely personal. Every one of us will deal with grief in our own way. However, in my personal and professional life, I have learned a few things that might help you cope, remember, and celebrate the holidays.
Be sure to take time to take care of yourself. Family and other social and church gatherings can be tough, so consider your stress and energy level when you are looking at your holiday calendar. Do not try to be Superman or Wonder Woman; grief can be spiritual, physically, emotionally, and psychologically taxing. Make sure you get plenty of rest, eat healthy, exercise, and adjust your pace accordingly.
Coordinate with family members. Talk with family members about how to meet each other’s needs. It is important to remember that the holidays will not be the same. Share your memories, talk about your feelings, respect each other’s choices, and allow each other the personal and spiritual space to deal with their losses. Remember, grief is a unique and deeply personal process.
Give yourself permission to do things differently.
Don’t forget the kids! So many times, while processing loss in our lives we tend to forget the little ones. They may have tough questions or feel confused about looking forward to Christmas. “Will we still be able to have Christmas this year? “ Because kids pick up on so much more than we give them credit for, they may think they should be sad also.
Share your stories, your memories…even if you become emotional. Let them know that grief is normal and that is fine to talk about your deceased family member/s. Make sure you involve the kids in your holiday plans. Helping with baking, decorating, making crafts, and joining in will provide them a sense of control and stability.
Remember, celebrate, recognize, and acknowledge your loved one’s presence in your family. Engage your memories and find comfort in them. Shared stories are one way to process the loss while keeping their memory and legacy alive. Sharing particular stories, traditions, and even certain rituals can create special memories and help you and your loved one celebrate the individual and their place in your family.
Give yourself and your loved one’s permission to involve the holidays. Being able to engage, laugh, and smile is not being disloyal to your loved one. Avoid all feelings of guilt if you find yourself enjoying the holidays, they would. Take plenty of time to give and receive gifts of joy and love.
Remember, there is no unique formula to make the Christmas season easier for those who are grieving. Self-compassion, self-care, planning ahead, and deciding what is most comfortable and appropriate for you and your family will help manage expectations and offer hope for the Holidays.
And finally, remember the reason for the season.
This ancient creed, repeated by millions of believers over the centuries helps me stay centered.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic* Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.
I hope you have a Blessed Holiday and a Merry Christmas!!!