After a loved one has passed, we’re acutely aware of every “first” without them – the first meal, first birthday, or the first holiday season.
“The holidays can be particularly painful as everyone around you seems to be celebrating – the last thing you feel like doing,” reflects Julie Evans, from Sands Funeral Chapel in Colwood. “Grief is a healthy part of our healing, and triggers like old traditions, mementos and stories will bring your grief to the surface, but there are many ways to make the holidays meaningful in a manner that makes sense for you.”
By experiencing this roller coaster of emotions, you’re being authentic with yourself – you are not celebrating the holidays “wrong.” Instead, focus on creating meaning for yourself this holiday season:
Keep Some Old Traditions
There is beauty in keeping a practice alive after the loss of a loved one. It can be an opportunity to reminisce with family or friends. While bittersweet, the feeling that you are reviving their spirit and legacy through their favourite traditions can make the holidays more meaningful, and help you feel close to them.
Combine New Elements with Old Traditions
Sometimes, adapting traditional festivities helps families cope better with a loss.
If shopping for your loved one’s gift was something you looked forward to, consider shopping for someone else in their memory, Evans suggests.
Sands Colwood is collecting new unwrapped toys for the West Shore Christmas Hamper Fund, for example, and filling shoeboxes with daily necessities and treats for those less fortunate. Community members are invited to drop by with their donations and connect with the Sands team. “It’s common to feel isolated at the holidays, so choose activities that will give you a moment of peace and connection,” Evans says.
If the holiday dinner was always at your house, maybe another family member can entertain this year? You can bring your loved one’s favourite dish as a way to share joyful memories. Acknowledging loss is healthy, and reminds us that loved ones are always with us when we remember, especially with others who do too.
Attend a Remembrance Service
Candlelight services through both spiritual and secular communities can be safe spaces to remember, grieve and hear words of hope with others going through a similar challenge.
Develop New Traditions
You may find it difficult to celebrate the season after experienced the loss of a loved one: things have changed and the holidays will never be the same. Making a change to your holiday traditions to mark this new phase may bring you some comfort. For example:
- Volunteer at your local food bank, soup kitchen, church group, animal shelter, homeless shelter or other organization – it can be a good way to connect and your help will be greatly appreciated. It may become a tribute to your loved one.
- Go out to eat or invite friends over.
- Go to the theatre or see a movie.
- If you prefer not to stay home, a trip somewhere sunny could inject new energy into the season.
- Treat yourself to a spa day, massage, or whatever you enjoy doing that helps you relax and feel restored.
These first holidays will be different, and while it can feel lonely, you don’t have to be alone.
For information, or to contribute to Sands’ holiday initiatives, drop by Sands Funeral Chapel.
If you would benefit from some extra support during the first year after a loss, learn more about Arbor Memorial’s Aftercare Advisor Email Series.