Each year as we prepare for and pass by our Candlelight Service of Remembrance I am confronted with the multitudes of losses experienced in our community in just 1 year. I think of these families and wonder how their holidays are going. I’m sure they didn’t expect to be in grief during the holidays this year, nor do they yet know how that grief can change everything. Yes, Halloween & Thanksgiving have been survived so there may be some sense of, “I can do this” even though they may not want to. But, now Christmas is coming …
But Christmas is on another level for me, it’s the most sentimental and heartfelt of the holidays. There really is something about the “spirit” of Christmas that is fed and filled by our deep and abiding relationships. And so, when one or many of those relationships, perhaps the most significant relationships are missing, the spirit of the holiday can feel foreign and impossible to get back. The way we gather is forever changed and we can begin to just look back and forget to look forward.
In an effort to also help you look forward at this and the other Christmases to come, I want to ask you to think about the Christmas traditions you love the most and consider different ways you could tailor them this year to where your are at. The most important thing to keep in mind is not to overwhelm yourself. Your energy level may be very different and you may not feel like doing anything at all. See if any of these options provide a way to participate in the Christmas traditions that you enjoy but in a more manageable and significant way. Below are a few simple but powerful ways to remember and enjoy the spirit of your loved one.
- Make a Memory Chain: This simple paper chain is a festive and unique way to decorate your home in memories. Take each strip of paper and write down a special memory of your loved one. Invite others in your family to be a part of the chain and add to it throughout December. Having a way of sharing these stories with others and perhaps hearing new ones will bring tears and laughs with just paper and tape.
- Hang their stocking: Put their stocking in it’s usual place and fill it with anything that brings you some peace or a smile. Maybe a small Starbucks card that you use later to treat yourself in their memory, perhaps a favorite candy or a trinket from an inside joke. When you think of them jot down your thoughts and slip the little notes into their stocking, a special place to hold your memories. Keeping their stocking and filling it up creates a special place where you and your loved ones can place your loving thoughts for that person.
- Make a donation or give a gift in memory: Consider donating to a favorite or meaningful charity in memory of your loved one. If there were cookies they always made or if they had a signature gift like funny socks, consider continuing the tradition in their honor. Giving in their name will feel right and good and will be a way of continuing on their special legacy.
- Instead of Christmas Cards … send little thank you’s to the people who have rallied around and truly supported you this year. Make it easier on yourself if you don’t like writing, by just making a simple phone call to thank them and say that you were thinking of them. (click here to see tips on writing these kinds of thank you’s)
- Find a special ornament: Each year my husband and I buy a new ornament commemorating our year. We were in New York City last month and purchased a beautiful glass “Empire State Building” ornament that will forever stand as a signature of this year’s special moments. Think over your loved one’s life and come up with a few ideas that might work and then go hunting for it! You might find joy in the mission of searching for just the right ornament to commemorate them. Whether it’s Mickey & Minnie Mouse, a polar bear, or a gold heart, there is sure to be something special that you can pick out to represent your relationship.
Maybe you pick one of these ideas or create your own variation (please share it in the comments below) – whatever it is, my sincere wish for you is that you begin to feel your way through this difficult road of grief. I hope that you begin to find periods of peace and that the sweetest memories flood you with joy so sweet to remember that it brings the best kind of tears. May you have a meaningful and blessed Christmas.