November is the beginning of the holiday season when we make more of an effort to be with family and friends. We reminisce about past family gatherings, and even joke about events that didn’t seem so funny back when they happened. New memories are made while old ones are shared with the next generation. Traditions continue and new ones begin.
For some, however, these upcoming holidays may be sad or bittersweet. Those of you who have lost a family member, or close friend recently, may not feel like celebrating or may even feel guilty about being happy during this time.
My husband and I have lost both of our parents, my mom being the most recent three years ago. During the holiday season, I do feel sad that our two kids no longer have grandparents to send ‘Merry Christmas’ cards to, or to call them up on Christmas morning to hear their voices and tell them how much they love them. As I put up our tree and pull out stockings and special handmade decorations each year, I am reminded of past holidays with both of my parents.
For several years, my husband, our two kids and I would pack up our minivan and drive ten hours to spend a few days with my parents for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we would all pile into the van and drive around neighborhoods looking at the lights and decorations, then come home and drink hot chocolate topped with lots of whipped cream! Another tradition, I vividly remember, was my dad banging on all of our bedroom doors early in the morning yelling “Merry Christmas! I’m Up…Everybody Up!!” Recalling these memories now still cause me to tear up, because I know they will never happen again. But, then I remind myself that I’d rather have those happy memories than to never have had them at all. These are the memories that shaped the traditions we now share in our own home. We still drive around on Christmas Eve, looking at holiday lights, and come home to hot chocolate topped with lots of whipped cream. And, when we can wake up before our kids do, we bang on their bedroom doors too!
Grieving is a necessary and natural process, and I am not at all suggesting that this be done quickly. I just wanted to offer a few suggestions, that helped me through the first Christmas after my mom passed, that may help lighten your heart a bit during these upcoming holidays.
I believe that celebrating life is the best way to honor our departed loved ones. And, knowing my parents the way I did, I feel they would want to see me happy and smiling when I think of them, especially during this time of the year. I still shed a few tears, especially on my November birthday, but the happy feelings I have when I remember them now outweigh the heavy heart I used to have.
Display feel good photos of your loved ones. These represent the best of who they were in the physical, and what a wonderful way to include them in your current life happenings. As time passes, children often worry that they will forget what their loved ones looked like. Keeping their positive energy in a photo, displayed in the family or main living area, is a perfect way to have all of you still feel connected. Keep stoic or stern looking photos packed away (or even toss them). I believe that only happy expressions are worth honoring.
I love this picture of my parents, sitting in front of our Christmas tree, from back in the 1970’s. This is how I think of them every Christmas. I smile whenever I look at this photo, and feel them close to me as our family celebrates together.
Honor the family traditions that you loved doing together. If your family had a tradition of going to the movies on Christmas Day, then go to the movies on Christmas Day. If you used to drive around looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve, drive around and look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. Traditions give a sense of continuity and offer comfort. They honor what was important to you in the past. You will feel a stronger connection during the holidays by celebrating those traditions you enjoyed together. You may even find a new tradition to honor their memory.
Bring more light into your space. The inward Yin energy of Winter can increase feelings of lethargy and depression. We spend more time indoors and lose the benefit of sunlight to boost our Vitamin D levels, which contribute to our sense of well-being. Expose yourself to brighter Yang energy by allowing as much light into your house as possible each day, or bundle up and go outside, even if for only 20-30 minutes. If neither of these options work, invest in a light box or lamp for your home, which simulates sunlight. These have been used successfully to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well.
Keep clutter to a minimum to allow for more breathing space for you and your home, and deep breathing is one of the best ways I know to relax your mind and body. If you need an energy boost, try removing at least 9 things from your home. I modified an old feng shui cure for shifting energy (which recommends moving 27 things) because I didn’t want to just move things, I wanted to release some stuff. By starting with just 9 items, I felt better and was inspired to release more unwanted energy out of my personal space, which helped me feel not only physically, but emotionally lighter.
Add pops of a favorite bright color to your Winter decor. Earth colors such as brown, tan and rust, tend to be the general choice for creating a cocooning effect, but if overused can significantly drop the energy of the home’s residents. Brighter colors, such as orange and yellow, can do wonders to lift spirits. Consider using these friendly colors in small doses with candles, a throw or toss pillows. Adding metallics such as silver or gold, will also do the same to boost your energy quotient.
Bring nature inside. This is a simple and inexpensive way to feel connected to the outside world. Special rocks, interesting looking bare branches, sprigs of greenery and pinecones all work, just make sure they are clean and bug free before bringing them indoors. Artificial also counts if you cannot readily find the real deal.
Spend some private time with your feelings. This can be during prayer, meditation, a visit to a memorial site or favorite place, or just a walk out in nature. However you feel connected with your loved one and God, Universal Spirit, or another name you may use to address the eternal life energy, spend time with your feelings. Talk with your loved one, in your thoughts or out loud, and say what is in your heart. Be honest and don’t judge how you respond. Sometimes, we need to sob, vent, curse or apologize to express how we feel, and get it out into the light of day so healing can begin. Afterwards, take a very deep breath (or two or five), and continue on with your day. This will allow you to release some of the pain and remember more of the joy and love.
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving! ♥