If this is the first Christmas after your loved one died then it is very special; very sad, very different, all together surrealistic.
My brother-in-law John Chamberlin died this year. He was my wife’s oldest sibling, but he died way too young at 60 years old. He was an icon that a family can never forget. John was complex, not your middle of the road kind of guy. My grand kids called him “Crazy Uncle John.” We have two photos matted together in a single frame that shows John’s complexity. On one side is a portrait of John when he was a mild mannered policeman, in uniform, clean cut, the all American cop. On the other side is studly long haired John in his leathers sitting on his Harley, the all American biker. When you look at the pictures you can begin to understand why they called him “Crazy Uncle John.” It makes perfect sense.
John left two adult children and their spouses, a bunch of grand kids, his faithful Pam, his Mom and Dad, three sisters, a bunch of nieces and nephews, lots of friends including two wonderful former wives and their families who claim John as their own and remember him with fondness and love, and a few brothers-in-law, like me. The holes in our hearts can never be filled.
The first Christmas after our loved one’s death is difficult. They are all difficult. When I look around the room on Christmas morning and see my adult kids and grand kids playing I miss Dad (eleven Christmases later!), and a little tear wells up and careens down my smiling cheek as I watch them play and remember him.
Here are some ways to remember our recently lost ones.
- We gathered at the hospice where John died recently. Hospice dedicated their Christmas tree to departed loved ones. We put a motorcycle ornament on the tree. You can have a special ornament for your tree at home, too.
- Those pictures of John I mentioned above, and the ones of your loved one can be displayed for all to see, or share their photo album.
- Tell their favorite jokes (We can’t tell John’s favorite jokes in a family setting, if you know what I mean.).
- You can keep an empty place at the table for them.
- Share a written poem, story or passage from literature.
- Ask family members to share their favorite Christmas time memories of your loved one with the whole group.
- Light a ceremonial candle.
- Give a gift to your favorite charity in your loved ones name.
- Take a special Christmas Day family trip to the cemetery.
- Post a family “Thinking about our loved one” photo on Facebook.
You can probably think of other ways to remember. I think the worst thing you can do is to ignore the loss and do nothing. You may think that remembering them is too sad for Christmas. Nonsense! Christmas is the season of thankfulness for the birth of Jesus, who, by the way, died a long time ago. Give thanks for and honor your loved one with your good thoughts and memories. If you are a cry baby, like me, just remember that tears and sadness only last for a little while and you will get over it; just keep breathing through the sadness. They tell me that my tears only show how sentimental I am. What ever.
Whether you are the mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, child, relative, or friend you can not deny the impact your deceased loved one made in your life. Remembering them, especially this first Christmas after they are gone, is another sign of your love.
I love you – Bryan Martin