The holiday season can be great, but when you’re going through a loss it can definitely be different than normal. For me, the first time experiencing this was in 2013. My grandpa passed away from cancer just five days before Christmas, making this difficult experience even worse. Later, in 2016, my grandma also passed away from cancer. Both of them played a big part in my life, as my mom and I both lived with them, meaning that all of our holidays were spent with them.
Since I lost my grandpa so close to Christmas, it was very difficult celebrating without him that year. Each family member was going through the stages of grief differently. For me, it was denial: denying that anything happened, hoping that I would wake up and he would still be there.
Fast forward to Christmas 2016. Since my grandma passed away in April of that year, I had some time to grieve between then and Christmas, but still not a lot. By Christmas, I was at the end of the grief stage of anger and the beginning part of the bargaining stage. The anger stage brought anger towards myself for not spending as much time with her and the bargaining stage brought lots of “what if”s. Christmas without my grandma was very different — she was the glue to our family, and it just didn’t feel right without her. Today, I am definitely still in the fourth stage of grief, depression, and I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to the final stage of acceptance.
What are some ways to cope during the holiday season, you may ask? For me, it’s decorating for Christmas early. One of my grandpa’s favorite things to do was decorating the house for Christmas, so my mom and I like to do it early in memory of him. Another alternative is listening to Christmas music. My grandma played piano at my church, so music was always a shared favorite between the two of us. Also, spending time with close family and friends can always be sure to bring a smile to your face. You can also be sure to keep traditions going that you did with this loved one — it may be different without them, but it helps keep their memory alive, and reminds you of time you spent together. Something else I love is finding cardinals outside. I’ve always been told that seeing a cardinal means that a loved one who has passed is watching over you. Lastly, take time for yourself. The holiday season can get stressful, but you and your mental health are most important.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek help, especially during the holidays. It’s not good to bottle up your emotions; try to remember the good memories and not the bad. And remember that no matter what, that loved one is always with you. They live on in your memories, your heart, and the ways they have shaped you into who you are today.
Gone from our sight, but never our memories. Gone from our touch, but never our hearts.Unknown
The Empty Chair Prayer:
The pies are in the freezer, the turkey’s on the list,
But this Christmas, oh how a loved one will be missed!
Lord Jesus, please hear our Christmas prayer,
For those gathered around a table that has an empty chair,
Oh Lord, comfort their hearts – we know that you are able,
And let them know that this year, there’s another chair at Heaven’s Table!