This time of year can be a joyful and magical time. We are anticipating the birth of Jesus Christ. We are preparing our table for Christmas and buying gifts. But for many, it isn’t joyful and it begins a time of sadness. For many of us there are family members missing from our tables, and gifts we will never buy because we have family members who won’t be with us for Christmas.
For my family, we will see one less chair where my Mom used to sit. I won’t be buying Christmas gifts for my sons, Dylan and Jordan. There isn’t much I wouldn’t give to have all three names on my Christmas list. If you have a similar story of loss, the holidays may not be joyful for you. The holiday season may bring you a great deal of sadness.
So, what can we do during this time of year to try to make the time joyful for ourselves and our families? Nobody wants to be the Grinch or Scrooge at Christmas. We all strive to be more like the eternal optimist, Charlie Brown, but how do we do that? Our family has a few traditions that help us to make our heavenly family members part of our holiday celebrations.
The first thing we do is to keep cherished memories alive. My daughters have never met Grandma Lou, but they can tell you a lot about her and the traditions she brought to our family. This was difficult at first, but the more we have shared about her zeal for holiday baking and candy making, the more she has become a part of our holidays. By not talking about our deceased family members, we only prolong and intensify grief and sadness. You may find that by talking about them, you begin to smile when sharing those cherished memories. I don’t have quite the zeal for holiday baking that my mom did, but each year we try one of her cookie recipes that we haven’t yet made. The simple act of using Grandma Lou’s recipe helps us to keep her memories alive in our holidays, and she brings joy to our celebration.
Another way we remember our family members is with Christmas ornaments. We have a Christmas ornament each year that we put on the tree in memory of our sons. Usually it is some type of angel, and some years we use ornaments we received at a yearly miscarriage memorial. I always purchase two extra ones and pack them away for my daughters for their own Christmas trees someday. Because we don’t have stories to tell about the boys, they are brought into our celebration when we hang these ornaments. Each year those are the first ornaments that my daughters want to put on the tree. For families who have suffered miscarriage, we want to remember those very special lives. This eases the pain and sadness of loss, and makes our children a part of our family celebrations. I still cry each year as we put them on the tree, and I don’t think that will ever stop. But, there are also many times when I am able to look at the ornaments and smile at the thought of my sons.
Most importantly, I turn to prayer. I pray to Mary to help me grieve and lessen my sadness. There is nobody that understands the loss of a child more than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Praying to her, asking for her help, and thinking about her grief at the foot of the cross all help to lessen my own grief. I encourage you to find a saint you have a connection with, or turn to the Holy Trinity to help ease your sadness and bring some joy back into your celebrations. Maybe your loved ones had a special saint or Bible verse that was important to them. I encourage you to pray to that Saint, or spend some time reflecting on the Bible verse, to feel closer to them. There is a line from Psalms that I like to turn to, “My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.” (Psalm 62:6)
The list of ways to remember your loved ones during the holidays is endless. These are just a few suggestions based on my family’s traditions. I encourage you to look at your family’s traditions and find a way to incorporate your loved ones into them. Whatever traditions you may start, I hope it will help you put joy back into your celebrations. I pray that you have a Happy Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas filled with joyful memories and stories of your loved ones.
“Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.” Psalm 126:5
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