As many of you may know, my sweet grandaddy was called Home in July of last year. It was both expected and unexpected – His health had been declining for years, but we hadn’t expected him to pass quite so suddenly. My grammy, his wife, passed while I was in high school, but due to a complicated childhood I didn’t have much of a relationship with her at that time. While I felt her loss, I didn’t experience it the way I experienced losing my grandad. This is the first time I’ve walked through something like this and it’s been overwhelming, both in joy and in grief.
If you have lost someone dear to your heart, you know how difficult the holidays can be. Especially the first round of holidays without that person. Christmas was the most difficult this year because my grandaddy used to dress up like Santa when I was a little girl. He had a natural white, fluffy beard (and a fluffy midsection lol) so he played the part well. Not to mention his big and jovial personality.
Merely pushing through and surviving the holiday season while grieving the death of a loved one seems too common of a practice. If you’re experiencing this, A) You’re not alone and B) You don’t have to just survive. Your celebrations can become actual celebrations again without anxiety and depression weighing you down. Here are some things we did to enjoy the holiday season while still recognizing our grief and remembering the man we love.
Christmas looked and felt a bit different this year, but we still celebrated it together. There was yummy food, gift exchanges, and time spent together. Ignoring the holidays all together would have made things even more difficult because it would have left us feeling isolated. This would have been the polar opposite of what we normally do and it’s not how my grandad would have wanted us to honor him.
Five months have passed since my grandad moved into his Eternal Home, but the tears haven’t (I’m not sure they ever will) fully dried up. Grief doesn’t have a linear timeline. It varies per person, per situation, much like giving birth, ironically. Before Christmas even came, we acknowledged that we were still grieving and we embraced it. We allowed ourselves to cry as we opened gifts and shared memories. Tears are not a sign of weakness or a marker of where you are in the grieving process. Tears can be joyful and healing.
There are so many sweet, small ways to honor our loved ones who are no longer with us. It can be as simple as lighting a candle or sharing stories; perhaps you want to create your own tradition. One of the ways we honored my grandad was by having “grandaddy brownies”. I used to bake them for him on special occasions and they became his favorite dessert. Thus they were renamed “grandaddy brownies” and they were on our plates for Christmas dinner.
It’s easy to get stuck in memories and in the “missing” of the people that are no longer here. There is time for nostalgia and remembrance, but you can also have too much of a good thing. Excessively dwelling on the loss of a loved one does our loved ones who are still here an injustice. The past year, I tried to shift the attention I had been giving my grandad to other people. This was helpful in a practical sense because it made the “gap” he left behind less gaping, for lack of a better word. It also gives me more time with my other grandparents, making it beneficial for someone other than myself.
The past couple of years have been difficult. Many of us have lost someone and any loss is hard. It often leaves an empty space in our lives where that person used to be and it causes us to look our own mortality in the face. I refuse to leave this post on a depressing note, however. Death can make things difficult and sad for a period of time, but they don’t have to be that way forever. Whether you feel stuck in your grief or you’ve just begun the grieving process, know that there are brighter days ahead, even if you can’t see them right now. Allow yourself to cry and feel every emotion that squeezes your heart then embrace the life you still have ahead of you and live it to the fullest.
You can view my grandad’s obituary here.