Part 3 of the Holidays after Loss series delves into Christmas, a season that becomes particularly challenging after losing a loved one. The initial Christmas without them is one of the toughest "firsts," their absence amplified by the festivities and gatherings synonymous with this time of year. Similar to Thanksgiving, the emphasis on family and blessings intensifies the sense of loss and grief.
Christmas has always held a special place in my heart—the lights, the food, the joy of giving, and now witnessing the excitement of my children on Christmas morning. I was fortunate to share one Christmas with Liam, and that memory remains a cherished treasure. Despite his passing in August, the first Christmas without him was incredibly painful for me and my family. Over the years, we've discovered various ways to incorporate Liam into our celebrations, offering a semblance of peace and joy during my favorite holiday.
Christmas After Loss Survival Guide
Include their favorite holiday dish: Incorporate your loved one's cherished holiday dish or special recipe into your festive meal. For me, it's my Nana's Oatmeal Cake, a tradition we've maintained since she passed away.
Light a candle or hold a candle-lighting ceremony: Honor and remember your loved one with a memorial candle. Consider participating in special holiday candle-lighting ceremonies organized by various organizations or create your own intimate ceremony with close family and friends. LJG Candles have a special keepsake inside to cherish after the candle has been burned.
Create a Memory Tablecloth: Revisit the idea of a Memory Tablecloth from the Thanksgiving post. It's a wonderful way to pay tribute to lost loved ones, allowing the cloth to grow with added memories each passing year.
Give to Charity: Embrace the spirit of giving during the Christmas season by donating to a hospital or organization in your loved one's name. Ensure your contributions make a meaningful impact by researching the recipient organizations. Consider supporting charities such as St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, or Wounded Warrior Project.
Have a remembrance tree: Establish a tradition of adding a memorial ornament to a remembrance tree each year. You can choose a theme (like butterflies), or just add a personalized ornament each year. LJG Candles has a large selection of memorial ornaments here. For friends who lost their daughter, their tradition of cutting down a tree for her burial plot has offered a small comfort to them for many years.
Try something completely different: Coping with loss may necessitate a complete change in holiday traditions. This could involve hosting festivities in a different location or reshaping the guest list to create a more intimate gathering. Our family Christmas is significantly smaller since Liam died, which offers us space to grieve in our way.
Learn to say no: Acknowledge the overwhelming nature of the holiday season and grant yourself the freedom to decline invitations or commitments. As the saying goes, "NO is a complete sentence." Prioritize self-care during this period, and communicate openly with friends and family about potential changes in plans.
The pain of loss remains a constant companion, but with time, it becomes more manageable. Christmas will forever be a challenging time for me, given the significant void, yet I strive to include Liam in every holiday activity. Tears still flow, but so do laughter, songs, and celebrations. I share these ideas in the hope that they bring you some comfort as well.
How do you include your loved one at Christmas? Comment below to share.
Check out the last post in the series, Navigating the Holidays after Loss - New Year's Eve or sign up for my email list to receive the final post of the series via email.