I admit it. I am one of those crazy Christmas people. It is the second week of November and I just finished decorating my tree. I say “my” tree because mixed up in all that craziness comes possessiveness. In the almost twenty-three years I have been a mother I will admit to only a few times allowing my spawn to decorate said tree. Yes their nicknames are spawn and yes you heard me right, they seldom have decorated our family tree. I have no guilt about it. There were a few times my daughter kicked up a fuss as a young child and I did allow her to “decorate” per say. Once I tucked her neatly into bed I completely rearranged every last ornament and she was none the wiser.
I love every last part that comes with this season. Family, wrapping gifts, huge turkey dinners, the works. My passion for this season started as a young child. My step father would dress me in my winter coat at the first sign of snow and we would head out to find a tree. One of those times may have even included jumping the fence of a closed Christmas tree lot so as to not disappoint me. His heart was in the right place. He wore a Santa hat every Christmas morning and was always the first one awake. He had to be the one to hand out all the gifts and the smile never left his face all day.
I lost the man who was my father in every way almost eight years ago now. Every person who loses a loved one will tell you that the first holiday is the hardest. That is true. It is not that they get easier, they just take a different shape. I had many emotions without my Dad that first Christmas. Empty, alone, sad and a little lost without his lead. As much as I tried to stay festive for him, I truly just missed his presence. All of that is normal and expected. Not only do we lose an actual person from our lives but we miss all that they bring to our traditions and holidays. After that first year I had to ask myself what he would want me to carry on for him. Now here I am in the middle of November decorating my house. I have already placed my order for matching holiday pajamas for the family. My husband will wear that Santa hat while he hands out the presents. Take the time to reflect and heal. Remember to make new traditions and hold on to what works for you.
If you know someone close to you who may be getting ready to dive into this holiday season after just losing a loved one, here are some great ways to be there for them and help.
Don’t Be Afraid To Acknowledge Their Grief
“How are you doing?” and “I miss him too” are completely acceptable. I promise you, they’re thinking about that person and you’re not “sparing them pain” by pretending nothing’s wrong. When you ignore the obvious, you may make them feel more alone and isolated. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to say. Just being there is often enough.
Respect The Grieving Process
Just because one person can make jokes and find a reason to smile doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t need to cry or be angry that someone they loved dearly is gone. Don’t be the person who says, “Shouldn’t you be over it by now?” Just. Don’t. Ever.
Offer Support, Hugs, or Distraction
If they want to talk and share memories, let them. Hugs are great, so is chocolate!! And for those who are willing to be distracted, even better. Play up to your strengths on this one — joke around, find a project to do, or just drag them out for a late movie or some holiday shopping.
Let Them Cling To Or Reject Family Traditions
There’s no right answer here. When my father died, that first Christmas was difficult. I truly didn’t want to participate but I had small children. I changed it up a little and had a spaghetti dinner instead of turkey. Some people prefer to use family traditions to remember loved ones immediately.
The holidays are supposed to be a happy time when families are brought together to give thanks, make memories, and celebrate. After someone dies, those first holidays are tough. The hole left by the missing family member is more obvious than almost any other time of year. You don’t have to do much to help. Simply be a good friend and let them know their pain isn’t forgotten or ignored.
This year, in honour of my dad I will hang his angel ornament on my tree. The first year he passed I found it tucked away in a box neatly wrapped in crisp white paper. Every year since, I unwrap her and she makes me smile and think of him whisking me off to find that perfect tree. It helps me keep just a little piece of him close by every holiday. Find your little piece of holiday happiness, joy and healing, Oh, and if need be EAT SPAGHETTI 🙂
Much love ❤