Christmas is considered to be the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is so full of joy, gathering moments, feelings of comfort and gratitude. The places, the landscapes, the smells and flavors call for good memories. However, good memories only bring positive emotions when we can find some coherence between what life was like then and what life is like now. When we lack the person to whom we associate the “good” with the “memory” in that same memory, we are almost led to assume it as a bad memory or, at least, as an undesirable memory or one to be avoided. And so, sometimes, we end up feeling guilty and ungrateful. This is all part of the grieving process, heightened by the contrast with a period of time that is, supposedly the most wonderful of the year.
You may not feel motivated by Christmas. You may not be able to find pleasure in what used to make you feel good. You may feel overwhelmed by the people, traditions, rituals, and all the errands associated with the Christmas season. The chair is empty. There is no longer that seat at the table. Grief is especially hard at Christmas. Accepting that your suffering and difficulty are real is the first step to take to navigate through this first Christmas without your loved one. Trying to avoid or rationalize this reality will only contribute to the hardness of this moment.
Recognizing your new reality as a first step, in the following steps you will be faced with decisions: traditions to keep, traditions to create, rituals in which you will participate and gatherings in which you will not be present. There will be times when you will not feel capable of celebrating anything, and when nothing makes any sense to you. But please don't forget that, probably, your Christmas isn't the only one that has changed and that is now sad, due to the loss of this someone.
Honor that someone by appreciating something he or she also appreciated. It could be a book, a song, a tradition, or a recipe.
Keep some traditions, but don't try to make Christmas the way it used to be. Because it won't be. Don't pressure yourself, if you feel that you want to keep a tradition, but it is difficult for you to keep it, because it will be confusing for you not being able to associate this person's image with this tradition, or because it is too much work, don't keep it.
Do not suppress your emotions. It's natural to cry. It's natural to want to isolate yourself. It’s natural to appear distant. Instead of repressing it, talk about it, verbalize it, and explain it to the little ones. Turn that conversation into a moment of sharing good memories about this person. Share and immortalize your good memories.
Create new traditions, especially with the younger ones. Don't do things by the book. By creating new traditions, you will also be creating new memories that will turn into good memories for those around you. Make a non-Christmassy recipe. Celebrate Christmas in a different place. Change the schedule of celebration days. Invite someone new.
Balance your alone times and your times with others. It may be important for you to be alone, to reflect, even write about what you think and feel. You may feel the need to go somewhere where you feel connected to this person you lost. Or you can use this time alone to feel good, relax, listen to good music, drink something comforting, watch a movie. But don't be alone if you think you will fall into deep melancholy and sadness. While among others, give them the attention and affection you would like to receive. Open yourself to the love of others. Be honest and transparent about your needs. Meet the needs of others, too.
The loss of someone special is hard. Grief is a very difficult process. However, in this process, not everything has to be extremely hard and difficult. The first step is to accept that your suffering and difficulty are real. Moving on to the next steps, in this Christmas you will be recreating the happy in a happy Christmas.