With Christmas sneaking up on us fast, I feel sorrow tugging at my stomach. This will be my first Christmas without Barry. Gary worries that I won’t be able to cope. He has witnessed the fuss that Barry and I went to with setting up the tree and the lights, whilst listening to Christmas music. He knows that we were two peas in the same pod when it came to the festive season. Who will I share those special moments with now? I will write more about my feelings about Christmas in coming weeks, but for now I want to share an article that may help me … and other bereaved families … get through the holiday season.
Ideas for the Holidaze
by Kara L.C. Jones
“Sometimes it is about reworking the holidays to fit the needs of your grief journey.” -paraphrasing the brilliant Christine Grothe
There is more than just Christmas. There’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah. So does that mean more suffering? Well, no. It is all hard, but it can mean more opportunities for ways to remember our kids — even in the most resistant families where they don’t want you talking about *that* again. Here are a few ideas:
- At Thanksgiving dinner or any holiday dinner when they go around the table and you get to say what you are thankful for or to do a toast to something, try saying things like, “I’m thankful for *all* my kids, those living and dead, and all the ways they have each affected my life.” OR “I’d like to do a toast in honor and memory of all in our family who are not with us today — Nanna Cavaliere, Great-Gramp Sherm, andur twin girls Kylie and Ria.”
- Winter Solstice is about the return of light. While National Children’s Memorial Day is a great event to attend as a candle lighting, some resistant family members won’t attend with us. So maybe try a Winter Solstice gathering on Dec 21st. Invite people over to pot luck, hot cider, and candles. Have everyone light a candle after dark to honor that we’ve past the mark of the darkest day of the year and are back to climbing to the light. Offer people a chance to say something as they light their candle. And when you light your candle, dedicate it to the love you have for *all* your kids — and name them *all*, living and dead, one by one.
- If you family completely sucks and you get no support whatsoever there, then it is okay to choose self-care over traditions!! If you need a day that is quiet and reverant — or a day that is noisy and filled with movie watching — instead of that traditional dinner, it is okay! Do what you need to do. (not always easy, I know…)
- If the family does stockings for Christmas, bring an additional one, a baby one for your little one who is gone. Have all the living children take their turns going thru their stockings. When you get to the baby stocking, either ask each member to say something about the little one who isn’t with you — or ask them ahead of time to write notes and put them in the stocking before dinner. Then at gift opening time, open the notes from that stocking and read them out loud. It is okay for *all* the kids to be part of what should be a meaningful holiday — a holiday about Jesus who lived and died and was someone’s son, right?
- So you can’t avoid tradition, but it will suck and be unsatisfying. Can you do a separate, other gathering of bereaved parents and those who “get it”? Maybe it is that you all gather at a National Children’s Memorial Day event? Or that you have your own potluck and gift giving. You can all buy gifts, new, wrap them, put them under the tree. Do a meal. At the end of the meal, everyone picks one, opens it, ooooohs and ahhhhs over it as if it were gifts for our kids who are not here. At the end of the night put all gifts into a bag and go as a group to Toys for Tots drop off location or other worthy toy drive and donate the toys! Celebration, expression of grief, and a good deed. Not bad for one day’s work!
- Almost all the winter holidays involve candles somehow. Make a new tradition of family members making luminaries for the season. Kids can easily participate. You can make your luminary with your deceased child’s name on it if you want. Here’s a link to making simple, paper bag, Christmas luminaries: Making Christmas Luminaries, but you can make more elaborate luminaries for lampshade or more decorative Raku luminaries and paint on them, etc. Use your imagination. Give yourself and your family a way to give light and voice to *all* the children you love this season.
- And remember, whatever you do, it is okay to take care of you! If you are not cared for and feeling okay, how are you ever going to have energy to give anything to anyone else??