Christmas was my grandmothers favourite holiday when I was growing up. Every year she would plan a day that me and my siblings would head to the dollar store to pick out little gifts for our parents. It usually wasn’t something useful, beautiful or even something they might want – but it was something we picked out all by ourselves. My mom still has a little figurine my brother picked out one year sitting with all her other collectibles.
The holidays have always been about the little things to me, though it’s always a nice surprise when you receive a thoughtful gift. As I’ve gotten older, what matters most is spending the time with my family. It’s tough now that I’m married, sharing time with other families, extended family and friends has all taken time away from some of my favourite traditions growing up – most of them started by my grandma.
Even though it might make you remember someone who’s gone, keep the traditions alive. My grandmother always served her family turkey sandwiches on fresh buns for breakfast on Christmas morning. The first year after she passed away, I couldn’t eat it because it just wasn’t the same. Fast forward to almost 10 years later and all I want to do is cherish the tradition and continue passing it along to my own little boy.
Let yourself grieve.
My grandfather passed away 3 short months before my son was born and I was absolutely devastated. He was 87 and, despite the fact that he was sick, I thought he would make it through Christmas to meet my son. I didn’t allow myself to grieve, I used distractions and made myself busy so I didn’t have to face the fact that he was gone. That Christmas I heard his favourite song and I completely broke down, uncontrollable grief hit me like a tidal wave and there was nothing that anyone could say to stop it. I felt a sense of peace and relief after I’d calmed down and I wish I’d allowed myself to deal with these feelings months before.
Surround yourself with supportive family and friends.
It’s extremely difficult to understand someone else’s grief, unless you’ve experienced something similar. With that in mind, ask for help and support from the people who love you. It’s never easy to lose someone and if you have to say “no” to events and gatherings because it will be too painful, do it. Self healing is part of the grieving process and only you know what is best for you.
Accept that your way to grieve may be different than other people.
Before my grandmother passed away, she always told us that we would know she was still with us by leaving a white feather when we needed it most. I’m a skeptic and don’t normally believe in this kind of thing but the day of my grandfathers funeral, my siblings and I came across a little white feather when we got to the funeral home. None of us said a word – we picked up the feather, brought it to my dad and watched the emotion spread across his face. In that moment, I truly believe my grandmother was watching over us. You never learn to grieve until you’ve experienced devastating loss – let yourself heal in the way that works for you.
Write it down.
I have always kept a journal and it was particularly helpful when I was dealing with loss over the holiday season. So many amazing memories came flooding back into my head and so I wrote them down. Whenever I’m feeling sad I’ll pull out the notebook and read the memories, traditions and love I poured into those pages.
Believe that things will get better.
I’ve fallen into the trap where grief is all that I can see or feel. My family and friends did their best to help me cope but I didn’t believe I could ever feel anything more than pain. I felt like the world had taken away precious time from my grandparents, time that I needed and wanted. The funny thing about time is that it’s never enough but it does help you heal. Believe that as time goes on, the pain won’t ever go away but it will become manageable.
Go through old photo albums.
One of my favourite memories after my grandmother passed away was going through her old photos when she was in her early 20’s. When you watch someone struggle with sickness and old age, it’s nice to see them when they were in their prime. We laughed at the funny photos, remembered some of her stories and spoke to my grandpa about their early lives together. A photo truly does capture 1000 words but it also preserves memories.
Look after yourself, let your family and friends help and practise self care. The people you love most in this world would never want to lose you. Trust that time will heal you, memories will eventually be remembered with happiness rather than tears and you will be stronger because of it.