Friday, November 28, 2008

The First Christmas after

We've all been there. The first Christmas after losing someone special. There is a lot of advice available when you lose a loved one. But, somehow none of it helped me that first Christmas. Of course it all seems harder during the Holiday Season, but really it is a whole year of adjusting to life without your loved one. Mom was sick for a long time, so I really lost her a piece at a time. It had been a long time since we were able to do our Christmas baking together. But, that first Christmas without Mom and Dad were without a doubt the hardest. I struggled with everything and did not find any joy. Finding joy in everyday life is hard when you are down in the trenches of grief. Holiday baking was not something I could bring myself to attempt that year. It didn't seem right, and of course I felt guilty about it. Guilt and grief go hand in hand, especially at Christmas! I wanted to do something that would bring me good memories of Christmas' past without dwelling on what was lost. I decided to make a simple home-made cookbook of my favorite holiday recipes with a special dedication to Mom, Grandma Tona and MaMa. Each recipe I typed brought back a special memory. I cried a lot, but I also laughed a lot at our kitchen exploits. In the end, it helped. It helped me cope and it helped my friends know how special Mom was to me. I gave out the little books to friends, neighbors and family as part of their Christmas gift. Just knowing the love we all felt found it's way into my the kitchens of my friends, helped make Christmas special that year.

Here are a few ideas that may help you this Christmas:

  • Christmas Recipe Collection - gather together your heirloom recipes & give them out to friends. You can put them into the form of a small booklet or recipe cards.
  • Memory Jar - Take strips of colorful paper and write a Holiday memory about your loved one or family on each strip. Fold and put into a jar. Keep this by your bedside. Each morning, take out a strip, read it and start your day with a good memory.
  • Give your loved one a gift - Even though they are gone, you can still give. Choose a charity that is special to their memory, and make a donation in their name.
  • Seek out someone in need & give to them - Maybe it's a neighbor, friend or family member. But we all know someone that could use some help in today's economy.
  • Play Grocery Santa - The next time you are in line at the grocery story, pay for the person in line behind you. If they have a cart full, just give the clerk what you want to donate and ask that it be put on their grocery bill. This is extra fun to do in secret!
  • Give a book - Buy a new or used book that connects to a special memory for your loved one. Write a note inside the cover asking the reader to pass the book one to someone else after they find it. Then leave the book in a public place for someone to find.
  • Tipping Angel - Mom was a waitress for a number of years, so I especially like this idea. Find a waitress or waiter that seems to be having a hard day and leave them an extra generous tip.

Grief is unique to each person. What helped me may not help you. Give in to the tears when you must, but don't stay there. Reach out for help when you need it. Pick yourself up and do something, anything, to make it through. It's what your loved one wants for you this year.

1 comment:

KathyM said...

Thanks for sharing something so personal with us. Everything you said was meaningful but the waitress part was especially important to me. When my children were getting to be old enough to "know" I took them out each holiday season to get 2 angels off the angel tree so that we could all go shopping for two children we didn't know. After shopping we would eat at a favorite restaurant. During the holidays the rush is usually "on" at the popular restaurants. I would tell the kids that whoever was going to be our waitress or waiter for the night would get a Christmas surprise from us. We would leave a big tip! (I was a waitress too in my past life.) I wanted them to know that I appreciated all the hard work they were doing for us to make sure we had a great meal and a great dining experience.
As for the kids and the angel tree, I asked my children to remember as I will ask all of you who read this to remember....If these angel tree children need our help for Christmas....they will also need our help and prayers all year long.
And for waitresses who choose a job to "wait on us"...they usually give it all they've got. When you think about it, we all exchange our goods or services for money, or other valuable goods and services. No one is better than the other. All are needed. All should be appreciated. The waitress that you tip this year may be the waitress that you ARE next year! The child that you help this year may be the child that helps YOU next year! Thank you for this blog. You have enriched my life with it. I will be thinking of you over these holidays and holding you in my heart. Please keep blogging!