As the holiday season approaches, we look for those perfect presents for our loved ones. Parents cannot wait to capture the never ending smiles on their children’s faces as they come into the living room to open their gifts. People decorate their homes to create a winter wonderland.
Unfortunately, not everyone’s holiday season is so cheery.
With the assembling of families for the holiday parties and gatherings, come the memories of our family and friends who have gone before us. For some, this will be the first holiday without mom, dad, a child, grandparent, brother, sister, cousin, or a friend. For others, their family member or friend has been gone for years. The pain is all too real, and they feel like it was only yesterday that their loved one was with us. They will try to keep it together, for fear of “ruining the holidays.” Their feelings can be triggered by a number of things – wrapping presents, making the annual “Merry Christmas” phone call only to be reminded of their absence, preparing dinner for everyone, and a million other things. “Dad would have loved this gift,” “you got the potatoes to taste just like grandma’s” or “it’s just not the same without them here” are littered throughout the day, a constant reminder of one’s loss. Some are afraid to make these statements, while others try their hardest not to bring up the departed at all, in fear of upsetting their family or friends.
Our initial instinct may be to protect our loved ones’ feelings and avoidance seems like the best option. And your intentions are 100% well-intended, but…
Just let it happen. When someone passes away, we’re told to not be sad, but rather celebrate their life and to remember the good times. So celebrate that life during a celebratory season because whether you mention the deceased or not, their family or group of friends thinks about that person every day. Let those memories and thoughts come out. There will be tears of sadness and joy, smiles, and hugs. Don’t keep your emotions pushed down – remember that person fondly, however it may come out.
And let that be a reminder that every day is truly a gift and we should live life to the fullest. My grandmother loved Christmas, seeing our eyes light up with the decorations and gifts. Our family tries to recreate that magic every year, in honor of Grandma Peggy.
Before my wife’s mother unexpectedly passed away, she saw our youngest’s first Christmas. Now, my wife’s biggest fear is that our kids won’t remember their grandma because they were so young when she died. It is our job to carry on her love, her holiday spirit, her traditions, and remember her by sharing our memories.
So while the holidays can be hard, it reminds us of how much we loved that person. Their memories are so great and plentiful; they should be recalled by us. May we remember our loved ones in many ways. It won’t be easy; what feels like never ending tears will hopefully turn into happiness and fond memories. And that’s okay.
Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones, near and far!
Learn more about the author of this post: Jim Peltzer, LCPC