By Jim Peltzer, LCPC
When families assemble for holiday parties and gatherings, it’s natural to remember and miss family and friends who have gone before us. For some, this will be the first holiday without mom, dad, a child, grandparent, brother, sister, cousin or friend. For others, their family member or friend has been gone for years.
The pain of loss is all too real, and many people will try to “keep it together” for fear of ruining the holidays. Feelings of loss can be triggered by a number of things – wrapping presents, making the annual “Merry Christmas” phone call, preparing dinner for everyone. Thoughts like, “Dad would have loved this gift,” “You got the potatoes to taste just like grandma’s” or “It’s just not the same without them here” come up throughout the day, constant reminders of one’s loss. Some people are afraid to make these statements, while others try their hardest not to bring up the departed at all, in fear of upsetting others.
Our initial instinct may be to protect our loved ones’ feelings, and avoidance seems like the best option. But while that decision is 100% well-intended, sharing your sorrow may be a better route to healing for everyone.
When someone passes away, we’re sad but we can also celebrate their life and remember the good times. Don’t keep your emotions pushed down. Celebrate that life during this celebratory season because, whether or not you mention the deceased, everyone still thinks about that person every day. Share your memories and thoughts. There will be tears of sadness but also tears of joy.
My grandmother loved Christmas, and our family tries to recreate that magic every year, in honor of her. My mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly when my children were young, and It is our job to carry on her love, her holiday spirit and her traditions by sharing our memories with her grandchildren.
Because they are a time when loved ones come together, holidays remind us of how much we love and miss the people who are no longer here to celebrate with us. Make them a part of your family celebration, and hopefully the tears will one day be replaced by smiles and hugs. It may not be easy, and that’s okay.