We’ve reached the peak of Hallowthankmas in the stores.
I‘ve never liked smashing one holiday on top of another which seems, in my mind, to rob each of their respective unique characteristics.
I’m also particularly frustrated that Halloween-a “holiday” mocking death and focused on fear (for many)-occupies way more space in mass retailers’ aisles than Thanksgiving.
But I can no more hold back the onslaught of merchandising than I can the days marching resolutely toward end of year holidays even if I choose not to join the commercial bandwagon.
So here we are.
There are forty-eight days until Thanksgiving and seventy-five days until Christmas.
Only a short time left to figure out how to honor the missing and love the living through some of the most difficult days of the year for bereaved hearts.
I’ve written many posts about what helps, what hurts, how and when to have hard conversations with extended family members about making space for brokenness at the table and in our celebrations.
I’ll be reposting those over the next couple of weeks since I firmly believe it takes forethought and planning if we want Thanksgiving and Christmas to look more like a Hallmark movie and less like a disaster film.
In the meantime I want to share some questions that are helping me sift through my own expectations, hopes and preferences for what our holidays might look like this year:
- What is TRULY important to you, your family and/or close friends with whom you celebrate?
- Do you love to make an elaborate meal, bake tons of cookies, pull out all the old family recipes that call for less-than-healthy ingredients? Is decorating your thing? Does it just not feel like Christmas if you miss driving around looking at lights?
- Are you fresh on this journey and need a way to skip traditions all together? Maybe you want to spend the holidays away from home or at home with a single candle lit in honor of your child.
- Do you have to consider younger children (either surviving siblings or grandchildren) that might pressure you to keep things “normal” for their sake?
- Have you asked your surviving children what’s important to THEM? Don’t assume their silence equals assent.
The first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, lots of things had changed in addition to his absence. One son got married and moved out of state, my mother’s health was in decline, my husband was working out of town and my house felt so, so empty.
We chose to put up a very small tree with limited ornaments consisting of family photos and hearts. We gave gifts but asked that others not give us any. We joined extended family for a meal but not for opening presents.
That’s what was right for US for that year.
Each year since has been slightly different.
I have to ask those questions of myself and of my family over and over, recalibrate, shift our focus or change our choices depending on how life has reshaped our circumstances in the past twelve months.
If this is the first holiday season since your child left you might want to ignore it altogether. That’s OK. But at the least you may have to tell friends and family that’s your plan.
So grab some paper and find a quiet spot to think.
Then write without editing your thoughts, feelings or ideas.
Save the page so you can reflect on it and make the decisions right for YOUR family THIS year.
In the meantime, I’ll be posting ideas from other bereaved parents that might help you navigate this particularly challenging part of the journey.
It may seem impossible.
But you’ve faced the impossible before.