This series is being written for TheGriefToolbox.com. You can find the original post, here.
Number 1: Change The Pattern
Christmas time can feel overwhelming… buying presents for everyone you know, decorating, holiday plans… None of it is the same if you’ve lost your mom, your dad, or both of them. It seems like so many memories are wrapped up in Christmas (or Hanukkah), how could you possibly enjoy it?
After losing both of my parents to cancer in my 20’s, I’ve learned how to enjoy some of the things in life that I used to find so difficult. Last year I had absolutely no desire to decorate the tree. It felt like every ornament I added, pain was whispering in my ear Doesn’t this feel bad? Don’t you miss your mom? Wouldn’t she love to be here? How would she be decorating this year?…On and on my brain would talk to me like a broken record. Would this EVER stop?! COULD THIS ever stop?! Am I always going to loath Christmas and wait patiently (or not so patiently) until it was all over? This sucks.
For 40 years, my mom’s family had gotten together for brunch. I always felt awkward at these brunches. We’d get there late when everyone was leaving…I didn’t really know anyone or talk to them much during the year. Everyone had these big families…Then my dad died and it was just me, my mom and my uncle who showed up together and then when my mom died, it was just me showing up and meeting my uncle there…I would never bring a boyfriend to brunch like everyone else I knew and people would ask me “so, do you have a boyfriend” and I’d have to lie and say no (my mom never wanted any of my family on her side to really know I was gay). This was not my Christmas happiness, this was really turning into misery. I never felt at home at those brunches, and probably never would. I did have some cousins that I really enjoyed seeing at the brunch but they were usually busy with their own families, taking the opportunity to exchange gifts at the table as I would sit and eat danish after danish, wondering when would be the right time to go home, who would I awkwardly hug to say goodbye and in what order.
Making the Shift
I decided last year I wasn’t going to go. It felt scary yet also freeing. Would anyone miss me? Wonder where I was? Deciding to change the pattern and not robotically go was so incredibly liberating. I am now free to create my OWN Christmas memories… on MY timeline..? WOW!! Seriously, this was an amazing concept and changed EVERYTHING.
I found out that would be the last brunch the family would put on and I felt bad for a minute, but thought back to all the good memories I created with all the time I had in the morning spending it with my partner and our kid-animals at home… It felt amazing! I had absolutely made the right decision.
Changing the Pattern
So, what I’m telling you is – change the pattern. If something is creating pain for you, try and think to yourself – What would make me happy in this moment? What do I have full control over? What do I really want? I can’t change the past, but what can I do right now to have a more enjoyable experience….because that’s what my mom and dad would want me to do.
Download new memories onto your brain hard drive. Decide this is the year that you will override atleast 1 painful memory and replace it with something that feels GOOOOOD! If it’s ornaments that are bringing you down, buy a new set that you pick out with your family! Put the old ones away and don’t bring them out ever again! OR bring them out when maybe a few more years have gone by and the pleasure you feel when you see them overrides the pain. If your dad always let you light the candles for Hanukkah, ask someone else that you love to light the candles this year or if you can’t part with that broken down menorah, take a picture of it on your phone for the memory and buy yourself a new one.
Create loving, happy memories this holiday season, with the people who are here are earth RIGHT NOW who want to love you RIGHT NOW. Your parents are watching from above and are there with you in spirit.
(Note: More parts of this series will be posted, so please look out for them!)