The holidays can be filled with love and joy, but when you’ve lost someone close to you, they can be filled with heartbreak and sadness.
I lost my father just eight short months ago and I am about to celebrate my first Christmas without him. It’s a devastating thought, and one that I’ve tried to push out of my mind for a long time. But I can picture my father saying “don’t be so foolish” and then revving up to sarcastically say “don’t smile, now, you might crack your makeup,” (he loved that one) at the mention of me being sad over the holidays.
So, in keeping with my father’s fun-loving and don’t-let-anything-get-you-down attitude, I’ve come up with a few ways to celebrate my first Christmas without him besides spending it in a dark corner by myself.
My first thought when I was trying to come up with a solution to surviving this Christmas season was to spend as much time as possible with somebody else’s family. I figured that way I could try to forget what was going on in my own family and act like everything was normal. I’ve since changed my mind – after spending the weekend with my brother and step-mom putting up our tree and tidying up the house, it reminded that it’s more important than ever to be around family this year. What helps anybody get through a terrible loss is a good support system and I definitely have that, so this year I’m going to take advantage of it and spend as much time as possible with them.
Talk About Him
When somebody passes away and leaves behind a lot of loved ones to grieve, talking about it is usually a no-no because the memories are too painful to dredge up and everyone is trying to forget the fact that they’ve lose somebody close to them. Without accepting that there’s been a loss, there’s no way to move on with the rest of your life. You don’t have to like it, just acknowledge that it happened. And then celebrate their life; share stories about them that only you knew, and talk about what you think they’d be doing right now. I’ll be remembering my father complaining about all the cleaning we have to do before our relatives come over for Christmas, just to have them mess up the house again, and I’ll be imagining him sitting in his lounge chair watching awful 70s game shows while my step-mom scrambles around to get everything ready. Of course he’ll ask if she needs his help, but she’ll decline, because she knows better.
Sometimes it may seem like it would be too painful to carry on with traditions that used to involve a loved one who isn’t around anymore, but it can actually be quite comforting, and it’s a small way to honor them. My dad used to love setting off his own fireworks in the park every New Year’s Eve. He’d collect fireworks from various places throughout the year and get us all out to enjoy the display. It has been a few years since we’ve done that; as we got older we started having our own plans on New Year’s Eve so we weren’t around. This year, however, we’re going to set off the biggest and brightest display of fireworks and share the great memories we had of my father lighting the fireworks every year, and be grateful to my father for starting this tradition.
Give Myself Permission to Feel Okay
There’s no doubt in my mind that this Christmas will be sad. It’s going to be really hard to enjoy myself knowing that my father isn’t around to help us decorate the tree or eat my step-mom’s Christmas cookies. But there will be moments when it won’t be so bad. There will be tears, and that’s okay; but there will also be laughter, and that’s okay too. Anyone who knew my father would know that he would not want anyone moping around during Christmas. It’s okay to feel sad about losing a loved one, but it’s also okay to feel happy about the ones you still have around you.
Cherish the Ones That Are Still Around
If losing my father has taught me anything, it’s that life is short. That’s why it’s so important for me, now more than ever, to make the most of the time I have with my family and friends that are still around. The reason I was able to deal with my father’s passing is because I have no regrets; he and I have an infinite number of amazing memories and inside jokes and I cherish each one of those with every day that passes. And should I lose another loved one, God forbid, I want to be able to say the same thing when that time comes. So for now, while I still have them on this earth, I’m going to cherish the crap out of my family, and you should too.