In the first post in this series, we introduced you to Kelli, Deb, Mary, Shari, Michelle, & Beth -- who all have experienced first holidays following a loss -- what advice they would give to those facing their own first Christmas. Today, they share 5 ways to intentionally include remembering a loved one as part of your Christmas traditions.
Part 2 of 2.
#1: Tree Ornaments
"I have a pottery shop so we have lots of homemade ornaments, and we saved all of Riley's ornaments. I wanted putting up Riley’s ornaments first, before any other ornaments, to be a tradition for our family after he died. Last year (2016) was the first year after he died and when we did this my daughter didn’t know how to handle it, so she was laughing. My son was worried about me because I was crying. It’s interesting how people react differently to grief and memories. That's part of grieving. What's important is that in the end we put them all up and we created that time and space and tradition to remember Riley."
Michelle: "My mother had a box of ornaments that she had for all of us girls. Every year when we put ornaments on our tree we have those ornaments from our mom, and those are very special to me. I love seeing them and remembering her when I do."
#2: A Grief Tree
Deb: "At the suggestion of my counselor we bought a "grief tree" and I let my daughter pick it out. So ours is hot pink with lights on it! Every year we'll purchase an ornament for this tree for people that we lost who are important to us. As we add new ornaments to our grief tree, we'll have a tangible way to see how many years we'll live through this grief. Grief is part of who we are and what we own now, and that grief tree is a symbolic of who we are now.
When we’re feeling down, we can hang out by grief tree and grieve and be sad and take time to process that grief and sadness. It's in a separate place from our regular tree and we will keep them in two different spots. My daughter picked out an elephant ornament for my dad because they used to watch National Geographic together. Interestingly, my daughter was excited to get the grief tree out this year (our second year having it) and it's good for us that it doesn’t tie into our everyday Christmas things but allows us to grieve as we need to as part of this season."
#3: Giving Back
Deb: "It's really hard to not be shopping and picking out gifts for my dad at Christmas. We decided that we would make a guesstimate as to what my dad’s Christmas list would have been and we calculate what we have spent on him and we donate that money instead. We adopted a family that needed bedding and clothes and other things, and we used the money that we wouldn't spent on my dad on this family. It really did give us such joy to be able to do this, and knowing we were doing it in honor of my dad was really special to us and helped us feel like we were still shopping for him and including him in our Christmas traditions. It's been good."
#4: Tangible Expressions
Kelli: I have a candle that sits on our mantle that we light when we want to remember him. We light that in memory of him.
Deb: Last year for the first time we bought Christmas lanterns and Chinese lanterns. We wrote a message on them, lit them, and then let them off. Last year was the first year we did that, and we are doing it again this year too. It's good to take time out to remember him.
Kelli: We read a poem about the "First Christmas in Heaven" at Christmas the year that Riley died. Losing Riley has made heaven so very real.
Mary: "After my mom died we’d sit with dad we'd make him tell us something that we didn’t know about mom. We went around the table at Christmas and each person could ask him one question. Once he was asked 'when was the first time you kissed mom' and it was a story we’d never heard! They'd been married almost 50 years and we'd never heard that story. My dad just LOVED this tradition. We each asked our one question, we toasted mom, and then went on with our celebrations. I learned things about my dad and mom that I didn’t know before, and we actually ended up smiling and laughing when we were talking about her."
What about you? How do you include remembering loved ones in your Christmas traditions?