This year my holiday spirit is…well, less than stellar, which does not bode well in my house since my husband is already on the naughty list for not being a fan of the holidays any year. When my cheer’o’meter is low, I can usually fill it up rather quickly. This year however, there is just nothing in the tank.
My family is dealing with loss over this holiday season. Unfortunately I have experience dealing with loss at this time of year. This will be my eighteenth Christmas without my older brother. I remember quite vividly how hard the first few were, especially since Christmas was his favourite time of year. If ugly sweater parties were a “thing” when he was alive, he would have been the life of the party. He always was the life of the party.
It never gets any easier, it just gets… different.
A few short months ago I lost my brother-in-law suddenly to brain cancer. By sudden I mean he was diagnosed on a Sunday and passed away the following Monday. No signs, no symptoms, no cure. He was 47 years old – a husband, a son, a brother, a father of two, and my husbands only sibling. It was to state it mildly, devastating. Losing a sibling is not something I want to have in common with anyone.
At the time of my brother’s death I had no children. I found out I was pregnant with my first child two weeks after his passing. This time there are teenagers and young children involved. Which means questions and a whole lot of them. In this time of “Festive Fun” there is also G.U.I.L.T – a whole lot of it.
“How can I smile when I just lost my dad?”
“How can I be happy when my brother can’t be here?”
“I can’t go to the Christmas party, I will bring everybody down.”
“Because Uncle Dave is in heaven does he know what Santa is bringing me for Christmas?”
Like I said, a whole lot of questions.
I am not a physiologist or expert in this field. I didn’t even really want to write this article. After all I am the “fun girl” and let’s face it, there is nothing fun about this. But it IS important, it’s important to share and know that you are not alone.
I turned to the only expert I know…GOOGLE… I read through a bunch of articles, tips, strategies and how t.o.’s. I then thought about how I have managed the holidays all these years with the feeling of loss, of something just not being quite right.
In my VERY UN-expert opinion. Here are my thoughts on how to get through the Holidays after a loss:
Cry whenever and wherever the hell you want. There is no RIGHT or WRONG way to grieve, EVER. I remember bawling, openly, at the dinner scene in Christmas Vacation. Sobbing when the turkey exploded open because it was always a favourite movie of my brother’s.
I think this is my favourite tip. GIVING truly heals, it will not only help heal you but it will help heal those you are giving too. If you don’t have time to volunteer, pay for someones order in the drive-through. Carry someones packages to their car. Let someone ahead of you in line. There are SO many ways to give on a daily basis…Do it all year round you won’t regret it.
I know…Kind of doesn’t quite work with tip #2. What I mean here is, take care of yourself. Get lots of rest, don’t try and do everything. This is a time when you really need to lean on these who love you. If the offer…TAKE IT!
Don’t Skip it
This is important especially if you have young children involved. If there was something you did at the holidays when the person you lost was alive, STILL do it. They would want you to. It is also important to teach the kids that all the good things about that person did not die with them.
…with yourself and others. There is no need to fake it here. You and others in your family are broken. There is a HUGE piece of what you knew to be so…gone. If you don’t feel like doing something, then don’t. But be sure to tell those around you why. Don’t keep it all in, let people in. If it happens to be the cashier at the grocery store who notices you openly sobbing as you pack your bags…then so be it.
The ultimate goal here is not to put on a “Brave Face” for everyone else. It is about spending the time with those you love and healing together. It’s okay to laugh, cry and get angry. You don’t HAVE to listen to carols or deck the halls. You DO however have to get up every day and participate in life. It just so happens that life around this time of year, is supposed to be a little more J.O.L.LY. If you can’t find the jolly, no worries…Start with the J…in time the rest of the letters will come.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful and J. holiday season.
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