How do I celebrate Christmas after my loss? Isn’t that selfish?

Celebrating Christmas after a death in the family can be the most difficult part of the year. This is even more true for those whom the lost loved one enjoyed the season because we link the season with them. Now they’re gone. Celebrating Christmas isn’t the same and in many ways won’t ever be the same.

The reasons for loss are many. Illness or accident claim many lives daily. There are soldiers killed and each one leaves a family who loved him or her – a family who will have that missing chair at the table.

It’s not just older people who die – perhaps instead a child lost to leukemia or crime. The reasons are many, the grief may vary but all who have had loss are facing or have faced that first Christmas that we couldn’t call Mom to say Merry Christmas, or the first one after the accident.

Here are some tips for celebrating Christmas despite that.

Make new traditions while embracing the old. We cannot change what happened; we can change how we respond to it. If every Christmas had a tradition of going to Christmas Eve service then getting up to brunch decide if you wish to keep that to honor him/her or if, just for this year, skipping it. It doesn’t have to mean ending the tradition.

Additionally there can be new ways to make memories.

Do something to honor your loved one. Did they love to see smiles on children’s faces? Take some stocking stuffer toys to a children’s hospital or shelter. Gather coats for kids who don’t have one. Did they love to help others? Volunteer at a veterans or homeless shelter. Those that serve holiday meals can use help even if it’s just reaching out to others or helping clean up afterwards. Find a way to honor your loved one with some action in the holiday season – the rewards can be like a touch from them.

Insure alternatives. Perhaps the tradition was always ham on Christmas day but you’re not sure you want to do Christmas meal and trimmings without them. Give yourself an option – whether it’s having tacos or going to a buffet, having a “plan b” can take the pressure off. Sometimes just knowing it is there is enough to be of comfort.

Embrace it, feel it then move on. Light a candle and say a special prayer before dinner. Play their favorite Christmas music and let the tears flow if they come. Do a tribute in a blog or write in your journal. I’ve found that to be very therapeutic.

The important thing is getting up and moving on. Give yourself an hour, or two hours or a half hour, but then stand up, and move on. Do something to remember them.

Be open to invitations. Some may invite you to dinner so that you don’t have to be alone or cook. This can be a way to share with others especially if they knew your loved one, as they may be grieving also in their own way. Share a favorite story or tell a funny story, something the loved one had said or a positive thing they did in the spirit of Christmas, whether it was Christmas or not.

The holidays can be the hardest times of the year. Christmas may have been mom’s favorite holiday. Hearing her favorite Christmas songs can also be a way of remembering her enjoyment of the season.

I think one of my loneliest Christmas’ was last year (2009) when I first moved to Illinois from Alabama and being away from all of my family who are still back in the south. But my wonderful new neighbors and business relationships really helped me, not just during Christmas but the remaining year, adjust by just befriending me and including me in their activities and daily lives. I’m very thankful for the many wonderful friends I have gained throughout this past year.

We never know when it’ll be our last Christmas here, or who around our table or on our gift list may not be here next year.

It is for this reason that every Christmas, every day, be special.

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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1 Response to How do I celebrate Christmas after my loss? Isn’t that selfish?

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