When Others Remember – Grief At The Holidays

It is no secret the holidays are harder after the loss of a loved one, especially a child. The hole left by their absence gapes wide open. Traditions can feel heavy. A holiday that once brought excitement and joy, feels like a chore to trudge through.

This is a special time of year for family and friends to draw close. Yet, for the bereaved it can feel suffocating and overwhelming. There is guilt in going on as we did before.

Our greatest fear lives in the idea the world will forget. As we bear witness to those around us partaking in joy, that fear becomes reality… even if it’s not true.

For us, Christmas means many things. It used to be our favorite holiday. Family, traditions, Santa, and my birthday all wrapped in one. Now, bears new meaning. The day he was sick. The day he died.

While the holidays will never be the same for us, neither will any other day in our life.

It is important to find ways to incorporate our missing loved ones in the festivities and traditions. While reflection of “before” has become a normal part of our daily lives, we must find ways to remember them more during the holidays. In remembering we attempt to regain a little bit of the joy.

The biggest blessing is when friends and family share in our need to incorporate our loved ones. This is one way our family has done it. Last year, our first year without him, my sister and her family gave up their tradition of a “normal” Christmas tree. Instead, their tree became a beautiful reminder of the boy missing from our life.

Their Christmas tree includes photos from his life, reindeer (after his most beloved possession), and his name… the most precious thing now that he is gone.

It was such a beautiful sentiment, I had to share it.

*** All photos were taken by Heather Schmader Photography. Check out her work and follow her on Facebook.

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9 Comments on “When Others Remember – Grief At The Holidays”

  1. Thank you for sharing your amazing son and beautiful daughters with all of us. It can be so hard to navigate this world sometimes, it is awe inspiring that you put your life out there to give others a glimpse of your heart, inviting us into your raw and unbridled love is an honor and privilege. I am so sorry for your loss and am full of gratitude that you share your journey. Peace be with you all, ~B

  2. Hi Emily. I thank you for your courage in sharing your grief. I lost my son in August 2017 and also started a blog dedicated to him. To honour him, not forget him and to heal in the only way I know – by writing about my grief and writing about Adam. It was our first Christmas without him also but New Years was the most difficult for me. Just when you think you can’t be anymore heartbroken, along comes another wave of emotion to knock you for six. I will pop in here now and again to see how you are doing. Warm regards, Joanne

    1. Writing became a great outlet for me, as I’m sure you are seeing with yours. The waves of grief do continue to come, even after you pass the firsts…even when you think “I’ve done this before I should be OK now”. It’s not always predictable, but we find ways to cope don’t we. Sending you lots of love.

  3. I love the idea..I worried that since I lost my 15 yr old son on December 5th which also happens to be my oldest sons birthday..How are we ever going to feel like celebrating anything in December. Im hopeful this year that I will be able to change my mindset from total devastation and loss to positive memories and celebrate him.

    1. We lost our 17 year old son on Christmas Eve 2017 after he was knocked off his bike the night before and we haven’t celebrated Christmas since. In fact we haven’t even acknowledged it’s existence which is so hard as it goes on for so long and is everywhere. I feel so bad for my daughter who had just celebrated her 20th birthday a couple of weeks earlier which has also become an event we don’t really celebrate either as we are so focused on what is coming up. This fills me with immense guilt and sadness as we always loved Christmas and birthdays and now nothing. The following year my daughter volunteered at a homeless shelter and again in 2019 and then last year she delivered lunches to elderly people who had no visitors because of Covid. I’m so proud of the way she is working through her grief while I can hardly get out of bed at this time of year. I’m too hoping that one year we will celebrate again and remember the wonderful family times we had. It sucks losing a child and it sucks hating a whole month because of the pain it brings as it is the last month your child was alive and the month you lost them in. I kind of feel that way about 2017 in general.

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