Last year was our year of “firsts”; the first birthday, first wedding anniversary, and then the “first” holidays without my husband. Since I was in survival mode, I had no desire to decorate or celebrate the holidays. I just wanted to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas. What I learned then and want to share is how does one get “through” the holidays while grieving.
One of the first steps I took was to decide not to do certain things. I gave myself permission to not decorate, not shop, not get stressed out, and not attend every event. It felt weird at first, but I discovered that I couldn’t fully embrace the “most wonderful time of the year”. There was a sense of recognition that I was grieving, but it gave validity that I didn’t have to do it all, especially with such a void in my life.
I also found myself remembering past Christmases that held meaningful traditions, while creating some different traditions. When my daughter came to me and requested that we do a Christmas card and letter (something we had done since my children were born) to send out, I cringed. My first thought was, “this is going to be too painful”. During the summer a dear friend offered to take some pictures of my children and I, giving a redefinition of what our family looked like. With that, we made a Christmas card with the three of us and a letter to send out to friends and family. What I heard from others who received it was surprising. People appreciated it. They needed to grieve with us. Our Christmas picture became a reminder to pray for us. A few weeks ago I was with a friend who had left our Christmas picture up on her refrigerator. It was a gift that gave me validation that it was a good thing for me and for others.
When you lose a loved one, the holidays are hard. Give yourself grace, space and permission to grieve and remember your loved one. Whatever you decide to keep as a tradition, you can also choose to make a different tradition as you navigate the journey of grief during the first year of “firsts”.
In The First Year of Loss?
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Used with permission from Pam Luschei.