the holidays can suck especially if you've experienced the loss of a loved one. With 5 kids and 10 grandchildren I do keep busy during the holidays with preparation but then there are moments where I get hit with the emptiness. Seeing the ornaments that my parents bought me, watching my children or nieces or nephews gather and remembering how I once I gathered with my brothers and sister and spending Thanksgiving with my best friend playing UNO. Those are now memories and I have had to find ways to deal with the sorrow of the loss of their physical presence in my life. A difficult road to be sure but one that cannot be avoided, not by me and not by any of us. Death affects us all sooner or later and changes who we are, sometimes how we live.
I'm not presumptuous enough to think that I hold any answers of how to get through the grief, pain, sorrow and void that we feel. I just know that for me I have developed some tools for me, especially during this time of year, that help me to get through. And some of these tools I have in place year long so that I always feel strength and feel the presence of my loved ones.
I read somewhere not too long ago that Buddhist's keep pictures of their departed out after their passing with bowls of rice and fruit for their next journey. What my husband and I have done is created a table in a prominent place in our home with pictures of our loved ones that stay out year round. Some would think of this as a shrine but I think of it as a way of seeing them and inviting them to be with our lives on a daily basis. We don't look at the pictures as a sad, depressing thing but as a happy glorious way of keeping them always in our lives daily. What's fun is that when people come to visit they are drawn to the table and are so interested in who the people are which gives us an opportunity to share our loved ones with others! And so many people are reluctant to bring up our deceased family or friends for fear of making us sad but in reality that's what helps us heal and makes us also happy.
On Christmas morning when I was growing up I was always the first one up, usually at 3:30am! My dad always told me to go back to bed but I would go to my sisters room and wake her up and we'd sit and talk until 5:30, dad thought that was a respectable time. My parents, one brother and sister are dead now but I still wake up early on Christmas morning, not 3:30 but before everyone else. It can be a nostalgic almost sad time for me but what I've gotten in the habit of doing now is quietly going downstairs and turning the tree lights on and remembering with joy those wonderful mornings of childhood. I speak to my family and my best friend who's passed and soon I feel the warmth of their love within me. I know they are still with me and watching over me and my family. This is our quiet time to be together and it's become a new, different tradition for 'us'. I've come to find peace in this time before the chaos of the day begins.
My brother who loves to work with wood has brought a new tradition into my home. He made a candle holder and bud vase (in the picture) that he gave to me. He said that he and his wife light the candle and have a flower in the vase to remember her mother when they sit down for a meal at night. Now I will do the same for not only my mother but all of my family and my friend that have passed. Another way to invite them to partake in a daily activity of life. Some would say that this is memorializing and keeping the grief alive. But for me it keeps the joy of their lives alive within me.
It's not that I want to get stuck in the past. What I do try and keep in mind through it all is that the people who I have loved and lost had some amazing qualities and I learned so much from them. By keeping them ever present it reminds me of what I hold most dear from each relationship and what I would like to teach and model for my children, grandchildren and those that I come in touch with in life. I guess it's trying to bring the best of them through the best way I can and still letting the best of me be represented too.....through the fault lines.
And if all else fails, which sometimes it does, cry! Just cry and feel your grief!!! Don't let it stay pent it up inside because damn it, it hurts to have experienced death and loss! You're allowed and you deserve a cry that comes from the tips of your toes!
Live.Grow.Be. in Compassion