(Image via Pinterest)
Christmas can be such an amazing time, particularly if you have small children who are still living the beautiful fantasy that comes with it. But it can also be a wretched time. If you’ve lost someone important to you, Christmas magnifies their absence, and the pain of their loss is acute.
This will be our second Christmas without our Mum. Last year, she’d only been gone six months and none of us really knew what to do. So we went out for lunch, which is something we never, ever did with her. Feelings between siblings were still a bit prickly last Christmas, as the grief was still very raw and it was causing splinters between us. So going out was a good option, there was no pressure to attend if you didn’t feel like it. We could just do what we wanted to do.
But last Christmas for me, was really just about getting it over with. I guess like all the ‘firsts’ after you lose someone. So this year we are doing what we used to do when Mum was alive. Coming together, all bringing a dish to contribute to the meal, and spending the day sharing food and exchanging gifts. It’s a nice way to honour her. She loved Christmas, and thanks to her, so do I.
I hate the thought of struggling through Christmas every year because she’s not here. It’s only right that we should put in the effort to make it happy, when she made it so special for us, for so many years. This year we will pick up where she left off, and carry on the traditions that she embedded in our lives over the years. But, of course, it will be different.
If the thought of Christmas without your lost one fills you with anxiety and sadness, here are some suggestions to help you through.
If your old traditions are too painful, start some new ones. Reshape them, so there is life after your loss. It can be as small as exchanging presents in a different room, eating different food or doing something completely new. Going for a beach walk, or a bush walk with a picnic. The idea is that you are still able to celebrate the day, but by celebrating in a different way you are acknowledging that things have changed. Eventually, this new way will will become your tradition if you want it to.
Find ways to keep their spirit alive. My Mum made the Christmas pudding every year. She would soak the fruit in brandy in October and the pudding was cooked by November most years. It was her tradition to make the pudding, then she’d pour brandy on it and light it, just prior to serving it with custard and brandy cream. So this year, we’ve made the pudding, using her recipe, made in her pudding basin. It wont be the same as having her pour the brandy over it, but it will still make me happy. Because I know it would make her happy to carry on something that was really important to her.
Be ok with feeling sad, and feeling their absence. When someone was a big presence in your life, you’re going to miss around Christmas time, it’s only natural. Remind yourself that it’s ok to feel sad and feel the pain of loss. It is a reflection of the love that you shared, and still share, but in a different way. Reshaping your relationship with someone you have lost is part of the grieving process and big days like Christmas are part of that.
Talk about them, remember happy times. It’s possible that it will make you feel better. There are seven children in our family so we all have a litany of hilarious stories that we remember from when we were growing up, and of course, Mum features in most of those stories. The endorphins created from a good belly laugh will help usher you though a tough day.
Remind yourself that you are still living. And whoever you share the day with, they are still living. The day need not be finished because your special person is not with you. It’s likely that the people you spend Christmas with love you, as much as you loved your lost one. But life continues on, as hard as it is. To shut the day down does not honour their passing, it just makes those left behind feel sadder.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Don’t expect too much from yourself or from close family or friends who are also feeling your their absence. Don’t force happiness if it isn’t there, take time to recalibrate. Sadness and pain are energy zappers, so rest if you need to. Take some time to reflect on the past, but also on the future. Try to think about what they would want for you. If you recognise that you need some quiet time in order to get through the day, plan it so you get what you need.
There’s no pretending, when a key person in your life is longer around it’s tough going, but hopefully focussing on the happier memories, being mindful about the present, but also mindful about the past, will help you get though and hopefully start building new meaning into your Christmas.