“I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you, I’ll be so blue just thinking about you.
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree, won’t be the same dear if you’re not here with me.
And when those blue snowflakes start fallin’, that’s when those blue memories start callin’.
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white, but I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas.” (Lyrics to “Blue Christmas”, sung by Elvis Presley)
The holidays can be hard after the loss of someone close. Nothing feels the same. The lights have lost their twinkle, the night seems even more dark and cold. So what can someone do if they find ourselves in that situation? What are some ways to cope or get through the extra emotion of the holiday season? Here are some insights from a few individuals who have experienced the death of a loved one and were gracious enough to share their thoughts about grief and the holidays.
More than one person shared that they find it comforting to engage in old traditions. It brings back warm memories of time spent together. Others find new ways to spend the holidays. However, if they decide “do” the holidays there is no one right way to cope with the change in the season. What matters most is finding a way to honor lost loved ones in a way that works for those involved, while also making the holidays special.
E.W. wrote: “The first Christmas after my father passed I couldn’t stand the idea of his chair in the family room being empty. I offered to bring my mom a small Christmas tree to put up next to his chair. We called it the ‘dad tree’ and decorated it with things that reminded us of him – lots of plaid and ornaments we had bought for him over the years. It helped a lot and made that empty chair not seem so empty. So that it was low stress as possible for my mom we took care of everything including watering it, decorating it, and taking it down at the end of Christmas.”
Others may choose not to celebrate at all. Erin, a mother who experienced the loss of her son Kreed, shared that one of the things she needed from others was “understanding.” Not only understanding as to why they would not want to celebrate the holidays after such a great loss, but also understanding of the fact that two years later they are still sad. As she wrote, “We still grieve as if it happened yesterday.”
If they do decide to celebrate, but in different or scaled-back fashion, she also hopes that others will respect that, because “We are celebrating in our way and a way we want to.”
However, if someone chooses to not participate in the holidays that does not mean you should ignore them or stop inviting them to events. They may choose to come, but even just receiving the invitation can be comforting. It’s nice to know you are not forgotten. So by all means still invite those who are grieving, let them know you care, and let them decide whether or not they want to attend. Also, it helps if you are understanding if your potential guests say yes but then cancel at the last minute. Sometimes they really do want to come but then at the last minute it can become too hard.
Kimberly’s family lost two beloved members within six months. The holidays were hard that year, but they made it a priority to gather their family together. They prayed, spent time with each other, and talked about their loved ones. She wrote, “My mom really wanted everyone together. It was hard on her but she was glad we did it, and so was everyone else. I guess the tip is to take people where they are at and respect their wishes.”
Remembering those who have passed is so important. It can help a grieving person to know that their loved one is remembered by others. Erin wrote that she hopes others will, “remember our boy at these times. It was his favorite time of year. Talking about him helps us, not hurts us. By not saying his name or his memories, it’s like he was erased. We love talking about him and remembering his antics this time of year.”
Another individual, Donna, wrote that her uncle died from Leukemia on Christmas Day at the young age of 36. He was her mother’s only brother among 5 siblings. She observed, “Christmas was hard for my mom and her family after that. But every year, my mom pulled it together to give her own 5 kids a happy holiday. And we never stopped talking about my uncle, and all the wonderful memories we have of him. We lost him in 1973, and he is still a big part of our family history because we keep the memory of this wonderful, loving man alive. My advice would be, don’t ever stop remembering the ones we lose, and treat each memory as a gift, for which we can always be grateful.”
Each memory truly is a gift. While all our families are different, with different situations, what’s similar is the love. Honoring and remembering that love is crucial, and helps us find strength and comfort. This holiday season may you be able to hold tight to your memories, so that they may they fill your heart and your days with light.
Jennifer Roberts Bittner
Certified Celebrant/ Life Tribute Specialist
Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234