Last night after a day spent shopping with my mother and youngest daughter, my daughter and I were riding home and listening to the radio (which I honestly only do at Christmas time). I’m a pretty loyal XM Satellite listener now but I love the local Christmas stations. After playing one upbeat song after another the Christmas Shoes song came on. The mood shifted quickly as we listened to a little boy plead with a stranger for help to buy a pair of shoes for his sick mother “in case momma meets Jesus tonight..” That somber sounding line rang through the chorus. The song is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Which is exactly how many of us who have experienced a big loss feel about the holiday season.
After the song ended, my daughter who is actually a pretty big country music fan said she’d never heard that song and never wanted to hear it again! We had just left my mother’s house, which for as long as I could remember served as a mini wonderland at Christmas time. My parents went overboard with the decor! They were definitely “go big or go home” kind of people, which I think led to me embracing minimalism the way I do, but I digress. They always had the largest tree ever, decorated to the hilt, and a fancy moving train that wrapped around it that kept my nephew intrigued for hours. But my mother had shared that she decided to forgo Christmas decorating again this year. It was her (and our) second Christmas without my father who had always hailed it as his favorite holiday. It occurred to me that Christmas had shifted for me and for my family. It’s still a wonderful time of the year. Our family was growing with grandchildren and new nieces and nephews being added to our tribe, but it was also shrinking at the same time. We’d lost my grandmother the matriarch, and my father the patriarch in the same year and if I am being honest it would probably never feel quite the same.
The morning after the sad shoe song and my mother’s No Decorations Declaration, I woke up to a blog post by my friend over at Life Less Young where she wrote about how Christmas was actually not always a happy time for those who have lost loved ones. She suggested we do something in their honor during the holiday like make their favorite recipe. It made me think that one of my go-to grief strategies is to actually do something with the grief. Take some sort of action. I had already decided to embrace Christmas more this year because it was my dad’s favorite. I personally have always been more of a Thanksgiving kind of girl but the idea of embracing Christmas seemed a little more abstract than making a favorite dish, which seemed more purposeful. I loved that idea and decided to think of what else we could do to make the holidays easier for those of us to have experienced a big loss.
Here are two other things you can do to bring yourself a little peace and joy:
Do something kind for others– One way we decided to honor my father was to make a large donation in his honor to a charity that would have meant something to him. We chose a cancer research foundation. But your something doesn’t have to be a large donation. It can be as small as a random act of kindness. My father always paid the toll for me whenever we traveled and I happened to be following behind him. I realize that many people now use EZ passes but there’s still a pay lane. Paying the toll for the car behind me is a small way I can honor that memory of him. Find some way to do something kind for others in honor of your loved one. My grandmother gave the best and most sincere compliments. I also find joy in making someone’s day that way, so I always try to do that too!
Do something kind for yourself-on my father’s birthday (which is during the holidays) my family planned to visit his gravesite, which felt necessary but a little morbid on a day meant to celebrate life. So, after I got off work that afternoon, I decided that instead of rushing over to meet up with my family I was going to take some time just for me. I went to a nice Indian Restaraunt in the beautiful Town Center across from my job and treated myself to a very satisfying lunch. It gave me time to get centered and to be alone with my thoughts and to celebrate his life. It lifted my spirits the way a good meal always does-hence my love of Thanksgiving. We decided as a family that each year moving forward that we’d all do that together. Your me time doesn’t have to be a big celebratory meal it can be as simple as Pj’s all day kind of day where you take a break and just do whatever you love: books, puzzles, binge-watching your favorite series. Whatever brings you a little bit of joy- do that!
And finally, if you’re really struggling remember it’s okay to say you’re not okay. Let a friend or family member know how you feel and don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help if needed.
Wishing you love, light, and joy this holiday season!
Until Next post,