I can’t help it…the holiday season reminds me of my Mom and those remind me that she’s no longer physically here. This often saddens me when I’m reminded. I’ve embraced this, really I have, I know it’s part of my “new normal” of living the rest of my life without her here. There will be no walking me down the aisle when I get married, no holding my first born, etc. I didn’t think about these things initially after her passing. I’ve embraced this and the fact that even for the silliest of sad movie moments I’ll tear up like she used to–I used to make fun of her for this!
The point here is that life goes on and if I keep myself open to moving on, I will. I’ll never forget her, but I will always be open to how to continue to live my life to the best of my ability without her physically here….evening during the harder times. To do so, I’ve found that embracing the facts is part of the process. Facts like she’s physically gone and there’s no bringing her back in that sense and the emotions that ensue. There’s nothing wrong with being sad but for some reason many (including my past self) thought this to be a shameful or unacceptable reaction. Don’t get my wrong, I don’t “enjoying” crying or being sad, but I tend to be better if feel it and deal with it.
So to make for a happier holidays I’ve started to bring some of her back into my holiday traditions. Here are my top 5 tips to make it a happier holiday season even if someone special is gone.
1) Reignite a traditional holiday event. For example, as kids she used to take us into the city to see all the holiday decorations, do a little bit of shopping and have a nice lunch. This year I decided to spend a day celebrating my birthday doing this. It was really nice and I did it with friends! The memories the came up made me happy and not sad, I was mentally and emotionally ready to do this.
2) Make their festive food tradition your own. Every year she’d spend time baking her infamous chocolate chip cookies for the neighbors. I did this to a T the first couple of Christmas years but I’ve now put my own spin on it and the cookies are a supporting act and not the main feature. It’s taken her tradition and turned it into ours! It doesn’t make me sad, it makes me feel closer to her.
3) Be open to your new normal. Especially if this is your first holiday without them. You can’t bring them back (physically speaking) so what you’ve known as “normal” or “traditional” is going to change from this point forward, it’s inevitable and fighting it won’t make it easier. Our first holiday after my Mom passed was Thanksgiving. She used to spend the week leading up to that Thursday in the kitchen prepping for our and our extended family’s dinner! Our first one after she passed, my Dad ordered one of the box ones from the grocery store. I was in shock but I wasn’t about to argue about it. Even if we did try to recreate it, it would have not been the same and probably added more tension and emotion to the day.
4) Embrace the feelings. Yup, you are going to get mad, be angry, and/or tear/cry–might as well accept it. It doesn’t mean you are broken–just human and unlike the Tin Man, you have a heart. I can still remember our first Holiday Season without her…it felt weird (like something was missing), it didn’t feel right, I was sad, felt lonely, I cried, etc. But each year since, it’s gotten easier and happier. I still have moments/days that are still less happy but I take those days for myself and then commit to not letting it keep me down.
5) Focus forward. I can’t tell you how many times I opted to turn to food to “soothe” or drown my feelings related to not having my Mom around any more. I can’t tell you because it happened so much that I lost count. But I can tell you that those times have significantly reduced over the years. For one, I’m more aware of how I feel after I’ve done that and I don’t like that physical feeling. Secondly, it doesn’t help with the emotional pain, it’s still there after I down a box of chocolates. So I now I focus more on fueling my body versus “feeding” the feelings. I also get out if I’m in a funk. Winter months tend to keep us inside more than outside which reduces key nutrients and vitamins that we get from the sun and have side effects in and of themselves. So I commit to getting outside weather permitting and if it doesn’t I still try and get out of my house.
I can’t guarantee that all this will work for everyone, I’m simply sharing what I know has worked for me. You can’t stop change from happening, but you can make it an easier shift by going with its “flow” versus fighting against its “current”!