Is Christmas difficult this year because you will be missing a loved one? Are you wondering how to manage without them? Do you feel that Christmas will be too hard to handle without their presence? The following 7 strategies will help you to bring that person whom you are missing a little closer – and you can use them right now.
1. Bring them closer through their words.
It’s a different relationship now that your loved one is not physically present in your life – but it’s still a relationship. You would like to hear their voice one more time – and you can. Recall special words or phrases that this person spoke to you when you were with them. What words do you think this person would say to you now that would bring joy to your life? Keep those words close to your heart when you miss them this Christmas and speak them out loud to yourself when sadness hits you.
2. Tell them what you really miss – then tell someone else.
Only you know how precious this person was to you when they were alive. But, does anyone else know how much you miss this person at Christmas and how important this person still is in your life? Write down what you miss about this person and share it with a trusted friend. Invite a friend to hear what is in your heart. In a season in which so many appear to be happy, it’s okay to visit sadness for a time. You miss because you love and always will.
3. Honour a Christmas tradition or ritual that was important to them.
Remember your deceased loved one by honouring a special Christmas tradition or ritual that was important to them. You could even establish a new one that is helpful to you. Did they play Santa Claus? Did they like a special food? Did they love to decorate the house a specific way? What do you remember about this person as you think back about Christmas? How might you bring them closer to you by taking part in what was important to them? You will feel their presence in a special way when you engage in one of their important ritual or traditions.
4. When a “grief burst” happens, honour the moment and tell their story
When you are surprised by a moment at Christmas that brings you closer to your loved one and you feel overwhelmed with emotion, don’t push it away, move into it. A smell, a song, a picture, a missing spot at the table – each of these could potentially stir up emotions from past memories. When they do, tell the story that surrounds that memory. Say, “This reminds me of… I remember when… I miss them because…” When you are drawn closer to this person because of a memory, it just says one thing – you miss and you love. What could be more beautiful than that?
5. Plan ahead with your family.
Planning forward is important. Being intentional is smart and healthy. Let your family know that this year you would like to remember and honour the person who is no longer with you in a special way. Let them know you are looking for suggestions. Be intentional. “Do you have any ideas how we might remember Dad/Mom etc. this year at Christmas?” You will be surprised how often people want to remember but are not sure how to broach the topic with the family.
6. Do one specific thing at Christmas to remember.
People deal with grief and mourning so differently. Think about one unique thing you could do this Christmas to remember that special person in the midst of your Christmas celebrations. It could be as simple as lighting a candle, sharing a story or toasting them in remembrance. Small gestures of honour can add a lot of joy into your home and are a healthy part of mourning.
7. Put up a boundary that that empowers you.
When someone tells you that you need to “move on”, “forget” or even “celebrate” Christmas because it’s “better for your family”, put a boundary around that statement. Remind them politely that honouring your loved one is the best way for your family to celebrate Christmas together. Unhelpful words can throw you into a tailspin and cause you to doubt yourself. By protecting your heart and speaking up, you will be empowered. It will enable you to do the best thing possible – that is, bringing your loved one closer to you this Christmas.
Rick Bergh is a best- selling author, thanatolgoist, narrative therapist, and former AHPCA Board member. He uses these practical principles in his own family to remember his late wife Pam, who died at 47 years of age. You can read more of his writings on grief and mourning at www.rickbergh.com.