Once it hit October this year I felt it coming, that old familiar holiday feeling. But this year when the holidays inevitably crept up it wasn’t exactly the same feeling as years past. How could it be with my Mom’s absence? Which was made all the worse by remembering my Dad’s absence and that this would be my first holiday season without them both.
There is a lot of advice out there on what to do your first celebration without a loved one to help adjust to the changed holiday. From advising that you don’t make any changes to your plans fearing you may a nervous breakdown, to recommending not cooking going out to dinner instead and everything in between like donating your time to a good cause, staying close to loved ones or avoiding them all together-the advice list goes on and on. It’s all good advice and I imagine that different things work for different people. After reading countless articles and meditating on the idea myself, I still wasn’t sure how I would celebrate the holidays that would make me feel comfortable.
I knew one thing for sure, it wouldn’t be the same and I would probably be dealing with a lot of emotions. So after a couple of weeks of back and forth about what to do, I decided to do something totally out of my comfort zone-run a 5k on Thanksgiving morning. Four miles may no seem like a big deal but for me, running at all was a huge accomplishment. It all started when we first moved back to Chico a few weeks ago and I saw a sign for the Thanksgiving Day 5k on a store window downtown. I pointed it out to Mando and joked that it would be fun. At that point we were still throwing around Thanksgiving Day plans and didn’t know where we would be or what we would be doing. But something deep inside me was nagging me, urging me not to make plans and to celebrate quietly here in Chico.
But old fashion guilt has a way of making you feel like your desires aren’t what they should be and so I continued to bat around the idea of celebrating elsewhere. But the truth was, my heart just wasn’t in it. We’d been traveling a lot lately and I didn’t want to get back into the car and drive far away and stay at someone else’s place when I felt like we just got here, (we moved in early November). I guess that fact that we don’t have kids or pets (but we do have plants and a watering can in the shape of an elephant names Fante that I talked to often), sometimes leaves me feeling like the family I have, (Mando and I), isn’t sufficient enough.
I said these same words out loud to my therapist a couple of days ago and realized that it just wasn’t true. The truth was that I did think that Mando and I were enough, I just didn’t think anyone else did always felt that the bigger the gathering for celebrations, the better. I was stuck on this old pattern of thought also worried what other people thought of how I defined family and how I celebrated the holidays. It was my old thinking trying to creep its way back into my head. It’s also not surprising that the idea of conventional family bothers me because my Astrological sun sign is Cancer which is the sign of home, family and domesticity.
I was once told by a fellow Astrology enthusiast that when these aspects in a Cancer’s life are in disarray, that person is in disarray. It’s was an Astrological connection that rang so true for me and that I could connect back to my childhood, especially because my family has never been conventional and I think on some level I’ve resented that. Even today in low moments, I think of my Mom’s unexpected death and get angry that yet again, I didn’t get to say goodbye to a parent and my family unit is once again, turned upside down. Would it be too much to ask for a normal family like in the holiday commercials and ads? For us to all want to be around each other and able to be, to accept each other for who we are and listen to one another, for my Mom to be here like she’s supposed to be. And puffy white clouds, unicorns and snowflakes and all that crap.
When I come down from that negativity I can clearly see there’s someone out there that has it worse than me for sure. That no one has normal. That we’re all striving for better and are doing our best. I’ve come to learn however, that happy families are happy because they just don’t expect or define normal like the rest of us living in misery do. They don’t want to be normal they change their normal when they realize that the good of the family unit is compromised. If an aware family realizes that something is up-there are secrets, upsets, addictions, illness, depression, jealousy, resentment- they confront it. No matter how uncomfortable it is to have these conversations, to address the things people don’t want to address and make change with action, they do it because to continue on in such a way as a family would be false and hurtful to family members.
Redefining what family and the holidays mean has become an important part of me moving through my grief. Losing someone so close to me makes me realize that family is what you make of it and who you surround yourself with. It doesn’t matter how big or small the gathering but the quality of the people you keep and the joy you bring one another.
That brings me to some of the good tips I found for the grieving on the holidays. Whether you’ve lost someone recently or are still feeling their absence years later, ignoring their missing spot at the table is the last thing you should do.
Try some of these instead…..
- Acknowledge your grief-Acknowledging the absence of a loved one is important around the holidays. The ornaments they loved, the desserts that were their favorite and everything in between can’t go unspoken or unnoticed. Make sure to talk and cry about your loved one
- Don’t do nothing-Even if you’re not sure what to do and let it go to the last minute, take that friend up on their offer to join them for holiday dessert. Hiding from the world and putting yourself in a position where you’re alone for the holidays will make you more sad and can be unhealthy. Remember, you don’t have to do ALL the things just make sure you do something.
- Do something non-traditional-You have to face the fact that the holidays will never be the same again without your loved one. So why should the celebrations continue to be the same? Death is a chance to add new traditions and do something out of your comfort zone that takes your mind off missing your loved one. Think vacation for Thanksgiving, going to the movie theater or out to dinner instead of gathering at home. Switching up your traditions allows you to handle the change better.
- Do something in remembrance-Making your loved ones favorite dish or setting a place for them at the table is a nice way to remember your loved one and also still enjoy the holiday.
- Expand your definition of tradition and let it change-The holidays will never be the same. Not without the person you lost so don’t pretend it will be. Allow yourself to do something different at least for the first year if that’s what you feel comfortable with. You can opt in and out of holiday events as you feel comfortable and shouldn’t worry if you change what you do from year to year.
- Put a twist on a favorite tradition-It could be anything that comes to mind and may even be something that before you lost your loved one you never thought you’d do like putting a twist on your grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe because you know you’ll never make it the same way she does, it keeps the tradition going and keeps you connected to your loved one. Losing someone is a great time to start a new tradition to prove to yourself that life does go on.
How do you deal with your grief during the holidays? Have you started any new traditions or kept old ones going now that your loved one is gone?
- 2 cups blanched almond flour, I used unblanched and it turned out great but it is a thicker crust
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional; omit for a savory crust) *I omitted even though it was for dessert. If I did use sugar I would recommend coconut sugar.
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (chilled briefly to firm up, if necessary; may substitute cold butter)*I used Nutiva’s coconut butter
- 1 egg *I used Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional; omit for savory crust)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees *I baked mine in a toaster oven on bake setting for about 10 minutes and it turned out great!
Place dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse several times. Add egg and vanilla then put drops of coco oil onto the top of it. Pulse until the mixture forms a ball.
Press into dish and cook 8-10 minutes.
*Click the title to find the link to the original recipe