Celebrating That First Christmas After The Loss of A LOVED ONE

To be honest, my sentiments towards this festive season have been rather grim. Since the passing of Dad last October, the hole in my heart feels even bigger, and the grief more painful this festive season. My father, who’s birthday falls on the 25th of December, won’t be with us this Christmas…

The highlight of the festive for most is being around parents, siblings and extended family – eating together, laughing, dancing – cheer cheer!!! However, the Christmas holidays can never be the same when there’s a member missing. Whether it be the first year without them or the 10th, Christmas Day can be a tough milestone for many.

After a loved one has passed away (or is missing), there’s an empty seat at the table; a spot under the Christmas tree where his gifts would usually be; one less person to make us smile/laugh. In my grieving process, I thought I’d share some tips to help you celebrate this season in the midst of pain…

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1. Let go. Do not try to control how you should feel or behave. Don’t bottle up your feelings either. Lean into the pain when you need to; laugh like you’re the happiest person in the world when the moment arises.

2. Keep it simple. Chances are you’re physically and mentally drained. If there are family traditions too difficult to do this year, defer them for another time.

3. Stick together as a family. Every sibling, daughter, son, spouse etc. carries a piece of that person with them. Share treasured memories about the person with a loved one. This can be a source of comfort.

4. Make their favourite food/dish and share it together as a family. Alternatively, serve their favourite festive snacks. Dad was crazy about rich creamy vanilla-choc-caramel ice-cream!

5. Raise a glass to the loved one(s) during Christmas lunch.

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6. If possible, take some fresh flowers to their grave.

7. If and when you’re ready, write a song, poem, blog or a book about your bereavement journey.

8. While what I had hoped for was more holiday seasons with daddy, what I now have is the opportunity to keep his memory alive – remembering that he would want us to be happy. So I’m trying to find a good balance between remembering him, acknowledging the loss, spending time alone and also spending it with people I love.

9. It’s inevitable for raw emotions to resurface as you reminisce happier times. Even though things will never be the same again, focus on the good things in your life, the love you share, and the treasured memories of your loved one.

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You don’t have to figure it all out now, but do have faith that you will find new traditions and new ways to enjoy Christmas while also remembering that special person.

…I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
Jeremiah 31:13b

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