Loss is something many of us endure, belonging to a club none of us wanted to join. It is felt most poignantly during holiday gatherings. As a matter of fact, most of us feel conflicted over the annual gratitude feast and dreaded festive merriment. As much as we want to celebrate our living children, we find the hole of a missing loved one hard to bear.
I’m a relative newbie when it comes to loss. Our second son died just a year and a half ago. This will be our second Thanksgiving and Christmas without him. Here’s what I’ve learned about not just getting through the holidays, but savoring them.
- First of all, establish some new traditions. Building new memories without holes helps ease the angst.
- Secondly, honor or miss a loved one quietly. Siblings, children and everyone gathered are aware of the gaping hole left by the loss of a loved one. There’s no need to draw attention to it.
- Third, be a blessing. We have new neighbor, and one set is celebrating Thanksgiving alone. Of course we invited them, and will call to reassure they’re welcome. When you focus on the needs of others, your own grief takes a backseat.
- Fourth, have your own remembrance celebration before the family gathers. My husband and I like to talk relive our favorite memories right after the turkey goes into the oven.
- And last but not least, fix favorite foods. Everyone in the family has favorite dishes, and we honor our missing son quietly by serving his favorites. Everyone thinks of him and it’s never awkward.
Get up and dress up and paste on a smile. Your bravery will not go unnoticed, and you will bless the entire family when you incorporate these tips into your holiday celebration. The hole in your heart lives there because you loved so deeply, and I never want it filled with a second-rate imitation of the love we shared with our son. In the journey of loss, I’ve come to welcome the hole as the place where our son’s memory still dwells as vibrantly as ever.