It’s pretty commonplace for people to complain about the hectic nature of the holiday season. Lots of programs to sit through, too many lines to wait in for the most popular gifts to buy, and countless people asking for a little bit of your time and attention. When “fewer obligations” is nearing the top of your Christmas list, you know you’re too busy.
You know better. As someone who is in the unenviable position of grieving a recently departed loved one during the holidays, the festive atmosphere and the natural desire for someone familiar and loved to share it with is like a prolonged slap in the face. It doesn’t help that the Holiday Season starts October 29th and goes until the end of Epiphany these days.
So how do you make it through the holidays? By focusing on the true meaning of the Christmas season; celebration. It’s a strange idea, to celebrate while you’re grieving, but that’s because in America, we’ve decided to focus on giving people ‘room’ and ‘time’ to grieve. We dwell on the fact that our favorite person is no longer with us so ardently, that we think something is wrong with people who have lost loved ones but are not nearing PTSD levels of trauma. We’ve come to believe that they are somehow dishonoring their loved ones’ memory.
Celebrate With and For Them
And yet, at the same time, we ask ourselves: “Is this what they would have wanted for me?”
Assuming that they loved you and weren’t sadists, the answer to the question “would my loved one want me to suffer?” is always an emphatic “no”.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of something fabulous into the world — but it’s also a celebration of the joys of giving to the people we love. The best gift you can give the dearly departed is to appreciate everything they were to you, and to love them for their contributions to your life. You are entirely allowed to be sad that there won’t be any more contributions, but you should also understand that the sadness does not help enhance the meaning of what they did accomplish.
Three Ways to Celebrate Your Loved One
Not sure how to channel your emotions into a celebration? The key word is gratitude. Start with a simple exercise; get a piece of paper and a pen, and leave them somewhere in the middle of your routine — and whenever you come across it, or think of something relevant, write down on the paper something about your loved one that you are grateful for. Something they did, or were, or had that you loved them for. A few times a day — meals are good — read the list, and thank them (and the One who created them) for doing and being all of those things.
More complex: Go through your old photographs, video clips, and other memories of your loved one, and put together a collage or video brief showing them at their best: doing the things they love, hopefully for or with the people they love. The more honor you do for their memory with your efforts, the better you’ll feel.
Most challenging: Call (or visit) their other loved ones, and talk to them. Talk about what he or she loved most, what he or she did best, and why the person on the other end of the phone loved them. Americans are dreadfully afraid of initiating conversations like these, but they are some of the best methods of gaining some perspective on your deceased loved one.
Why Is This Important?
Ask yourself this simple question: when you think of your loved one — which you will do every day for a long time and off and on for the rest of your life — do you want to be sad and filled with regret? Now imagine what your life would be like if, every time you thought of your loved one, you were filled with gladness and joy?
Doesn’t that sound like the kind of thing they would want for you? Gladness and joy? You can control your reaction to their passing — and you can improve both your life and their memory by choosing to celebrate instead mourning their passage. By consciously deciding that you’re going to exert the effort it takes to love them for what they’ve done, you’re giving them the best holiday gift that’s left to give; you’re giving them you. Nothing else could mean more.
Adding the Holidays Back In
Once you’ve made the decision to celebrate your loved one, and you’ve put some effort into finding and organizing that celebration, it’s relatively easy to make it part of the holidays. Get your family together and show them that video or scrapbook. Stand up and give a toast recalling some of their best moments. It’s already a time for connecting with family and celebrating — use the opportunity instead of struggling against it, and show your dearly departed just how dear they are.