Traditions and routines bring us connection to the past and give us a sense of predictability. We find comfort in the details, rituals, and traditions that form our history and situate us in our families. We feel stable and like we belong when we engage in meaningful and time-honored practices that build new memories on our long-standing ones. We learn to process the emotions that come as new family and friends enter the circle and others leave their imprint as part of our past.
The Christmas holiday season can be such a lonely and challenging time when we are lost in the throes of deep grief. We find ourselves caught between wanting to feel and experience the joy and magic of the season when our fragile and broken hearts are barely able to keep beating and our mind keeps getting as clear as mud. Perhaps like me you are trying your best to bring in some balance. Sometimes family and friends are pressuring us to find ways to move forward and find some level of joy in the season. It’s easier said than done.
I was watching an interesting Christmas movie this week. The main character is an artist with a special gift for making glass blown ornaments. She spent the last year creating and painting beautiful sets of ornaments with the theme of the twelve days of Christmas. Her dream was to be selected to showcase and sell her inventory at a prestigious Christmas fair in Germany. She didn’t make the cut and was feeling discouraged. A week into the event, someone dropped out and she was extended a chance to replace them.
Very excited, she jumped at the chance and quickly packed up her inventory and shipped it out in 20 large boxes. She kept a single set with her as her display pieces. To make a long story short, she arrived at the fair, but her inventory got diverted to other countries and stalled at customs points. She was encouraged by the family she was staying with to use her display and pre-sell what she could, and plan to fill the orders when the boxes finally got to her. She had some exciting adventures and fell in love while waiting for the ornaments to get there. She pre-sold every set she made.
When the boxes finally arrived at the very end of the fair dates, they arrived crushed and battered. When she opened the boxes, she found nearly all of ornaments smashed to pieces. All her endless hours of work were destroyed, and her heart was crushed. Now she would have to return all the money and apologize to all those customers.
I know there is no comparison between things and a person we love deeply like our husband, but what struck me is the bigger story. We poured our lives, hopes, dreams and passions into our marriage. Love on the level of a marriage is fueled with the investment of our best selves and a desire to sacrificially seek to give everything we have to enrich and build that relationship. When our husband is suddenly gone forever, we are likely to feel devastated and like our hearts have been smashed to bits just like those fragile ornaments. We can’t go back and fix this. There is no more time. The grief we face is the heavy, overwhelming and life-draining concoction of emotions we feel that are so difficult to explain and sort out.
The Christmas movie I was sharing about didn’t end with the ruined ornaments. After our artist had a chance to gather her thoughts and reign in her emotions, she was inspired to go in a whole new direction. She created new pieces to sell using the fragments of glass as inspiration to create wood and glass mosaics. The new art pieces were stunning. The broken pieces of glass were assembled together to bring glistening color and depth to an otherwise monochrome piece of wood. From a distance, mosaic art glistens with an impressive array of colors and patterns, and intricate details are revealed when you examine the art up close.
It can be very tempting to believe if the holidays can’t be the way they always were, they can’t be meaningful. Especially in the early years after loss, all we can see is how much things changed, the traditions we can’t carry forward, and it can be hard to see anything else. The holidays can amplify feelings of grief in the bereaved with all the emphasis on family gatherings and celebrations. Creating new traditions or adapting old traditions may help to add joy into the season and remember the life and legacy of your deceased loved one.
The holidays are a good time to see how we might integrate a mosaic into our story. Perhaps we can find ways to overlay the new life we are forging with bits and pieces of the colorful and loved past we shared with our husbands. It might take a little time. I suggest taking it slow. Identify what the most precious memories are you want to keep. Explore ways to ensure these ideas and traditions can be incorporated in your holiday celebrations.
Embrace the honesty of your grief and integrate it into finding the joy of the season. They are both a part of the journey. People who love one another can have different needs and boundaries. It’s important to be respectful of the loved ones we can still enjoy time with. While we might find ourselves lost in our grief, it is important to try to be mindful of others needs as well.
A good starting point to build our mosaic is to identify what you value the most about the holidays. The values we hold provide a sense of continuity. Values furnish a sense of meaning and belonging, even as we shift our traditions. Some examples of values to think about are:
Every family has their own unique values that guide their holidays. Taking time to assess the values that form the foundation of your holiday traditions will help you when you need to change, adapt or create new traditions. After you make your list of values, write down things that connect with each value you want to do for the holiday. See if you can put down traditions you want to continue as well as new ideas. After you’ve brainstormed at least one or two ideas for each value, you can go back and prioritize what you want to do and make any adjustments. This can be done individually, or even better with the loved ones you plan to share the holidays with.
It’s important to realize there is no right or wrong way to grieve or to celebrate the holiday season. Do your best to keep an open mind. This might be tough, especially early on, but it will help you keep your heart open as well. The holidays tend to cause us to focus on family traditions, but we can also find meaningful personal rituals to help us continue to heal in our grief.
It is my prayer you will find special ways to honor your memories and heart for your husband, and at the same time continue to heal and find a measure of joy this holiday season. I pray you are surrounded by loved ones who are kind and respectful of your journey through grief. God bless you.
Do you know someone ready to make a meaningful impact this holiday season? Join us in embracing the true spirit of giving by getting involved in the Hope for Widows Foundation’s ‘Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program’ virtual initiative, now in its third year. This program directly supports widows who may be struggling to provide gifts and essentials for their children during the holiday season.
For many widows facing financial challenges, the choice between keeping the lights on, putting food on the table, and buying presents can be heart-wrenching. When you add the responsibilities of solo parenting, the weight of grief, and the toll it takes emotionally and physically, the burden becomes even greater.
To become a sponsor and access more information, and details visit the following link: https://bit.ly/3ZROBWo
For our widows/hope sisters in the community, please stay tuned as we’ll be sending out widow applications for sponsorship this holiday season very soon.
Let’s come together and make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.