Today’s post holds a very special place in my heart. In fact, I’m currently writing it while watching one of my favorite holiday movies – The Family Stone. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a family that comes together to celebrate Christmas, and one of the sons/brothers brings home a woman that the family has a hard time warming up to. Throughout the movie, you learn that the matriarch of the family (played brilliantly by Diane Keaton) has terminal cancer. It’s a really good movie, with lots of life lessons scattered throughout.
For many, the holidays are a lovely time to come together and celebrate with friends, family, and loved ones. But for others, it can be stressful and/or really sad. If you’re estranged from or have a messy relationship with loved ones, or perhaps have lost someone close to you (or experienced a pregnancy loss, or death of a child) that makes the holidays even tougher, I’ve gathered some tips that have helped me cope and not only survive the holidays, but thrive.
A bit of a backstory – I lost my mother to cancer nearly 7 years ago when I was just 24. I’ll never forget finding out she had stage IV cancer one week before Christmas in 2010. She died less than 6 months later. Christmas was her favorite holiday and every Christmas since the diagnosis has been especially painful for me and my family. However, with every passing year, we learn different ways to honor her memory and keep her even closer to our hearts and I believe that’s the most healing thing for us all.
There are times where I still burst out in tears for no reason (especially during this time of year), but I also know that I’ve come a long way these past 7 years. Here’s what I’ve done to not only survive, but thrive during the holidays:
– Watch my mom’s favorite holiday movies and talk about it with my sister or dad
– Cook her specialty dishes and share them with Michael and his family so they can literally get a taste of my mom’s amazing cooking
– Cry alone, and not be afraid to do so
– Cry with my family – it’s very therapeutic
– Know that the way I grieve is okay, even if it’s not how others think I should be grieving
– Take time for myself to mourn her loss. That can mean lots of walks out in nature by myself, taking hot baths or long showers, going to my favorite coffee shop and sip on some tea while I people watch, etc.
– Talk about her more. There was a time where I couldn’t, because I would get too emotional. But I’ve found that talking about her is a way for her memory to live on, and that provides me a lot of comfort
– Carry out her Christmas traditions! That means listening to Christmas music starting in the “ber” months aka SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER…you get the gist, watching A Christmas Story all day on Christmas day, drinking coffee with hot chocolate in it (the best), being filled with joy purely because it’s the best time of year, etc.
– Write how I’m feeling out, or write my mom a letter and then burn it. This is incredibly healing and instantly makes me feel better
I’m still learning what my particular grieving style looks like, and honestly it changes from season to season. Lots of people say that time heals all wounds, but I disagree. I think time makes coping with the wound a bit easier, but you’re never fully healed. There will always be a piece of your heart that is missing due to the loss of a loved one (especially a child, mother, father, or guardian).
Hopefully, these tips are helpful to you as you navigate the loss or estrangement of a loved one(s). The most important thing I’ve learned throughout these tough times, is the more love you can display in memory of your estranged or passed loved one is the most beautiful way to honor what used to be.
I’d love to hear from you, how do you thrive during the holidays when dealing with a loss? Tell me in the comments. And sending lots of healing and loving vibes to all of you today, and always <3.
P.S. To any mommas out there who are dreading this holiday season because their babies are no longer with us, I especially send my love and thoughts to you. I am in awe of your strength. It’s okay to be sad, and it’s also important to take care of your self during this very difficult time. Please reach out if you need to talk – I have wonderful resources for you if you’re open to it.