How to keep lost loved ones alive at Christmas
It doesn’t matter if you lost a loved one last week, last year or 11 years ago. Come Christmas, there’s a big aching hole at the table, in the room, and in your heart.
Because there are so many family traditions woven into everything we do throughout December, it can be a really difficult time of year, but ensuring you remember those you’ve loved and lost can really help to keep them alive.
Get everyone involved on the first Christmas
The first Christmas without that certain someone is normally the toughest. It’s likely you’ll want to start sobbing the second you wake up, and as the day unfolds, every festive act can make memories spiral. It’s tough when the emotions are still so raw, but turning this into a positive can really help.
If your mum was the big organiser at Christmas, you’ll want to remember her. If your partner always made the mulled one, you’ll enjoy toasting them as you slurp that first glass. If your dad was the first to kick off charades, you should definitely play it in his honour.
It won’t be easy, but by getting everyone together and asking non-blood relatives to take the lead in raising a glass (just in case the lump in your throat is stopping you from saying something, even when you really want to), it’s a chance to remember those who aren’t with us any more, and keep them being a part of your Christmas celebrations.
Share those memories
“Talk about the person you have lost,” says Donna Lancaster, grief counsellor and co-founder of The Bridge Retreat (thebridgeretreat.com). “Share together all of your happy memories of them from over the years; the funny stories and individual quirks that made them so special to you all. Get out the photos and film clips and celebrate their life. Allow yourselves to laugh and cry together in honour of the love you all shared.”
Celebrate their life as well as Christmas
Create a simple area in the home dedicated to your lost love one, suggests Lancaster. Display photographs and meaningful objects in a cluster, then for December, you could add a festive candle and light it each morning as a symbol of their presence.
Do what they did around the festivities
“Play their favourite Christmas games, sing the festive songs they enjoyed and watch the films that they loved,” suggests Lancaster. “Go for walks together along the route they used to take. Make sure they’re felt through all the many ways you share the festive season together as a family.”
Make a toast
That toast really is so important. If it’s all you can manage to squeak out the words, ‘To absent friends’, before you all raise a glass – that will do. It can be so, so hard. But everyone who’s there with you at that precise time knows exactly who you’re thinking of, and everyone will think of them too. If you want to raise money or awareness for charities that are connected, it’s also a good time to pick something to sign up to the following year, so you’re doing something positive. Ensuring lost loved ones remain a part of your Christmas Day is something that will bring you so much happiness every year.
The Press Association
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