A child looks into his mother’s eyes and asks, “Are we going to have a Christmas tree without Daddy?”
This may be a familiar question to many families this Christmas. It is very tempting when someone dies in the family to change all the traditions in order to avoid familiar customs in the home that bring back painful memories. Granted, there is some truth to this, however, a new void becomes present in the life of the family when certain traditions are changed or eliminated.
It is helpful to evaluate Christmas traditions and see which ones should be repeated, those that could be changed even for this year and those that can be totally discarded.
“Yes, dear,” his mother replied. “We’ll put up the tree and you can put the star on the very top just like you always did. But, let’s not string the cards. Why don’t we decorate a box and put the cards all together so we can look through them.”
For those of you who grieve the loss of a loved one or a significant change in your life, it is not uncommon to wish Christmas was over. You wouldn’t have to hear the song lyrics of joy and merriment every time you enter a mall or coffee shop. You wouldn’t have to face a group of cheery shoppers laden with parcels only to remind you that you have one less person for which to buy. Even that family Christmas dinner that everyone expects you to attend holds the power to expose the empty chair.
How does one get through the holiday season with a broken heart?
Perhaps that’s where we as friends and family play a significant role in preparing a gift for you. Now is an opportunity for the rest of us to acknowledge that you are hurting and to surround you with love and understanding. We can be (a) present to you – to listen and to care.
We can accept your way of expressing grief as a natural and normal
step in your grief process. We can educate ourselves about the power of healing, held within the opportunity for you to talk about your loss. We can approach you and inquire how you are. We can acknowledge you don’t need fixing or rescuing. You are not broken in ways that our solutions or reasons will help.
We can also learn those statements that are comforting and those that are rote and rude. We can bring up your loved one’s name in conversation so you know he or she is not forgotten. We can provide a safe environment within family and friends where you can shed some tears, tell a few stories and laugh. We can understand that you are exhausted and our contact with you needs to be positive and uplifting. We can just be with you – meet you where you are and follow you where you go even into spaces of silence if that is your choice.
We want to contribute to your Christmas this year in ways that strengthen and comfort you. We also might have to learn a few things about the grief process to know what role is helpful to you and what just adds to your pain.
So what can we give you this Christmas? We can give you an important gift, one that is life giving. Maybe one more appreciated than those wrapped in tinsel and gold paper and put under that tree – a gift from the heart.