Posted on 22 March, 2016 at 17:10 comments (0)
Peggy Guiler: Posted on November-14-12 11:47 AM
Those who have lost someone close still want to enjoy Christmas and share laughter and love with the living but it often feels as if there is a shadow hovering over the season. The shadow is one which is the deep sorrow we feel from the loss of those who have been part of our Christmases past.
River of Hope Enterprises springs from such sorrow and is my way to honour both the living and the dead.
I have three wonderful children who have inspired me and taught me much. Christie, Gayle and Bryan are the light of my life always. Sadly my son Bryan died in 2000 at the age of 16 and left a huge hole in our hearts and lives.
My daughters and my grandchildren Hope, River and Leo, have helped me to hang on to life when it seemed too hard to live. Friends who have cared for and held my hope when I could not are too numerous to mention. Nancy, Sandy and Shirley have a special place on that list.
This year we lost my Dad, Chris Guiler. The blessing said on Christmas morning will never be the same. When it is said this year, and always, our hearts will remember him.
In this post, I would like to offer some ideas and open a discussion about how we cope with loss at Christmas. (Details about how to enter the discussion are at the bottom).
Many funeral homes and churches offer "Blue Christmas" services to support people who are grieving. I encourage you to find them and participate. There is great healing in grief shared.
Most of us don't want to dampen Christmas for the loved ones who will be with us that day and we also want to find some joy in the day for ourselves.
Ceremony is proven by the ages to be a way to help us heal. Often in our modern lives, which do not include religious practice, we forget about a ceremony. Even if religion is not a part of your life you can find some sort of tradition to help you cope with the season.
Christmas was a huge event for my children and me. We never had much in the way of gifts but my focus was to make memories. One of those was to decorate the tree on Bryan's birthday. Another way to share a glass of brandy after opening our Christmas ornament gifts on Christmas Eve. Now a small Christmas tree is placed on Bryan's grave on his birthday, December 12. Ornaments and trinkets find their way to that tree from I know not where but it is there for all of to share a moment and a memory with him. I still take two glasses, a candle and a little nip of brandy to Bryan's grave on Christmas eve. I don't cry as much or as long as I used to but it allows me to "get it out" and then move on to a lovely day with those who are here. This year, because Bryan is buried beside my Dad, I will likely take an extra glass.
I am thrilled that for the past two years Christie and her children have been able to help me decorate the tree in my home on Bryan's birthday. It took us a long time to be able to do that again but now it is fun and we have lots of laughter. We still hang all Bryan's ornaments on the tree along with the ones that he and his sisters gave me each year. It is an old tradition revisited with some sorrow but much joy.
Grief is likely the most individual and loneliest emotion any of us will know. What works for one does not always work for another. Some of the people in your family may not want to be part of what you have planned and may not even want to hear about how you are coping with the season and the loss. That is OK. We all have to grieve in our own way.
Some other things which people find have helped and some ideas of my own are below. Take what works for you or be inspired to create your own.
Write a letter to the person and place it on the tree, burn it and allow the smoke to rise to heaven or tie it to a balloon and let it go.
Candles are always a great tribute. Light a special one somewhere in a window and sit with it for a while remembering alone or with others. My tradition has always been to light a "Christ Candle" for the window on Christmas Eve. It is lit to help the Christ child find his way to our homes. Perhaps another candle could be added to memorialize those who are gone but who we wish could find their way to us to celebrate the day. (Some dollar stores have five days candles used in Catholic traditions).
Take an hour out of the busy season with your family and sit together and remember. Just allow everyone to get the pain out and recall some of the fun shared with the person they lost. Consider making a special hour on another day so it doesn't cloud Christmas. Some families prefer to do this on Christmas day but it may be difficult, especially for children.
Set the table with an empty spot for the one who will be missed this year. (get permission from everyone before doing this as it may be very upsetting to some).
Offer a toast to the dead and to the living at your Christmas dinner.
Buy a string of blue lights or a box of blue balls for the tree and take time to share memories or just by yourself to hang them.
If Christ is still part of your Christmas you might consider reading or listening to this poem - My First Christmas in Heaven (I have a framed copy of it that I tuck under the tree).
Make up your own ceremony. Discuss possibilities with family members and see what they would like to do.
I hope these ideas will inspire you but also that you will find some comfort in them.
For those who might like the more distant support of others with similar experience on the internet, I have created a closed group called "Blue Christmas" on Facebook. You can join the group by messaging me on FB or sending me an email. It is my honour to maintain the site for your use.
Blessings to all as we move toward the season which brings light in the darkness.