This post appeared as an article in the December 2016 edition of AroundCanton magazine.
March 2nd, 2017 will be 6 years since my mom passed away after a two year battle with cancer. I remember the first Thanksgiving after she passed my uncle saying around the dinner table, “Her absence is no more real than when we are all together.” She never got to meet four of her grandchildren. She doesn’t get to see the excitement of all 8 grandchildren when they open presents or laugh with one another while trying to stay up late enough to “catch Santa”. The most wonderful time of the year is indeed still wonderful, even while we carry a loss in our hearts.
So how do you deal with loss during the holidays? Well, I’m not sure there is a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all process for everyone. However, I do think there are some common things we can all do to ease the pain a bit.
First, find ways to “include” those who are no longer here in your holiday schedule. Tell stories about them from family gatherings gone by. Make sure the younger generations know how important those who are missing were in establishing the traditions we enjoy today.
Second, don’t feel bad about feeling sad. Allow yourself room to grieve, especially in the first few years or holidays after they’ve passed. Grieving isn’t weakness, and is a natural response to loss. The healthiest thing to do is allow space to cry, talk or process your emotions.
Third, don’t feel bad about feeling happy. You aren’t dishonoring their memory while you laugh and celebrate with those around you. Free yourself from guilt and enjoy the moments you have with the special people in your life.
Finally, make sure you tell the people in your life what they mean to you. For many people, Christmas is a time where they will give and receive words of affirmation and love more easily than perhaps any other time of the year. Don’t allow another day to pass without them knowing that you care, that they are special to you, and that they matter.
In the Bible, Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” My prayer for you this holiday season is that the Lord will comfort you through those around you, even as you mourn those who are no longer here.