I lost my mother 6 years ago during the Holidays, she died mid-December on a dark and snow-filled night in Montreal. Since the earliest memories as a child, I have always associated Christmas with my mother. She exuded everything about the Christmas spirit, her warm, loving, selfless nature and the way she always made Christmas so special for my siblings and I.
I remember baking and decorating the tree together. I remember Christmas mornings and the french crepes my dad would make for us all while we stayed cozy in our pj's all day long. My mother slaved over a hot stove all afternoon cooking an entire Christmas meal for us and some of our extended family. No matter what else happened during the year, Christmas was always a time of joy, connection and warmth in our home.
After she passed away the Christmas spirit in our family sort of fizzled out for a few years. Christmas was no longer a time of happy positive memories, instead it was a painful reminder of the one person who we all associated the Holidays with and who we all missed very much.
Building new traditions after the loss of a family member takes time and like grief itself, you may experience a few years where you'll feed sad or numb, Christmas may even lose its meaning all together. And, as with everything, time heals all wounds.
I still miss my mother, but now the Holidays have become a time to honor and celebrate her spirit more then ever. Having my own child now, I get to see Christmas again through his eyes, and I honor my mother by teaching my son about the real meaning of the Holidays and by passing on all the traditions and rituals she instilled in me.
If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one and the Holidays are triggering feelings of sadness and loss, here are a few tips to help you process your grief and remember the person you are missing during this time:
- Talk about them out loud: some common mistakes we make when things are difficult is that we avoid talking about the very thing we are upset over. For fear of stirring up the uncomfortable feelings. However, it is not only cathartic, but also healthy to acknowledge these feelings and allow space for them in our lives. Say their name, talk to others about them, remember them, let yourself cry over them.
- Share the positive memories/stories that you associate with your loved one: a great way to honor those who have passed on is to keep them alive through story and narrative. If its a parent, a grand parent, or a sibling you lost, tell your children about them. Tell funny stories you remember about the person and let others get to know them too. This not only keeps the memory of the person alive, it also allows a younger generation to form a relationship with the person who's passed on and to learn about what they were like.
- Cook your loved ones favorite food: maybe its a particular recipe or an entire meal, honor your loved one, and your feelings, by making a ritual out of preparing and cooking some of their favorite foods. Invite others to join you and make it fun even! If its a favorite cookie recipe - let your kids prepare and bake them with you.
- Hang a picture of your loved one: as part of your decorating tradition, why not include a photo or photos of loved one's you've lost. My husband and I have a whole wall dedicated to old photos of our family, parents and grandparents. Its a reminder of the people who are watching over us and most importantly its a way to include them in our present day lives and to never forget where we came from.
- Reach out for Support: Having friends who are willing to listen and support you through your feelings of loss is important, learn how to reach out and ask for support when you are feeling sad or missing your loved one. Talking about your feelings with a supportive friend, family member or a counsellor can help empower you to feel more in control of your life, it can also help to decrease the emotional weight of carrying these feelings all on your own.