Q. My husband and I both lost a parent this past year as well as several aunts and uncles. We’re still grieving these losses and our children and grandchildren are also very upset. We thought we would grieve for a week or two or even for six weeks and then go on with our lives. We are Christians and we know our family members are with God, but our sadness continues. Our whole family is dreading Christmas day. What can we do to get through Christmas this year?
A. Losses are keenly felt at Christmas. When a family suffers a number of losses in one year the pain is further exaggerated. The fact that loved ones are not there cannot be ignored. It's normal to feel sad under these circumstances. Your family cannot have a completely happy Christmas this year, no matter what you do.
Although you can't avoid your sadness there are some things you can do to help all of you make it through the holidays.
1. Change your traditions. Ask yourself what you want to do to celebrate the holidays this year. Give yourself permission to eliminate old traditions and to create new ones. Tell your adult children what you’ve decided. They may object to doing things differently but stick to what will help you.
2. If your losses are very recent or are still very raw, a trip away can help ease you through the holidays this year. You might celebrate Christmas in a different climate, at a resort or at an out of town family member’s home. A change in location even in town will help you avoid painful memories.
3. Go shopping and do Christmas chores on your good days. Shopping from catalogs and on line is also an option.
4. Don't expect to avoid all your pain. On your bad days allow yourself to feel sad, to cry and to miss those you have lost. The loss of close family members is a major loss and grieving takes time.
5. Don't try to protect others from your sadness. If you allow yourself to feel sad and to express your sadness this will give permission to them to also share their feelings.
6. Talk about the family members you're missing. We don't need to protect other family members by avoiding mention of those who are gone. Rather than detracting from the
Holiday spirit, talking about your missing
family members can help you become closer to each other as well as helping all
of you grieve your losses.
Say things like, "Mom would have loved seeing the way the tree looks this year." Or, "Remember when Uncle Bob dressed up like Santa and fooled even you, Dad?" Ask your children what their favorite memories are of their grandmother. This will help them grieve their loss. Sharing happy memories of the one lost can be fun although also sad.
7. Give gifts or money to a charity in memory of loved ones. Children and grandchildren can help decorate graves at Christmas. A Christmas letter written to each person you’ve lost can also help family members grieve.
8. Give everyone permission to have a happy Christmas day. Use humor to lighten things. Being happy or forgetting about lost loved ones some of the time won't mean you're being disloyal.
“Blessed are those who morn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4