You know that special feeling you get in your stomach when you hear your favorite Christmas song (provided that you’re a celebrant of the holiday)? It summons the thrill of an annual time of year that hopefully is filled with traditions involving fabulous food, family, and celebration. It’s a sort of nostalgia all its own. Chances are it evokes lots of moments from years past and brings back some fond memories which you hope to recreate in the coming year.
For anyone who has lost a loved one though, those same songs are a bittersweet reminder that the smiling face they remember from Christmas mornings past or the familiar voice they recall softly singing along to the tune might have to be just a happy memory. It’s a weird feeling, a sort of sentimental thought hijack. One minute you’re feeling fondness, then the next you’re thinking about loss.
Christmas 2013 was our first Christmas at home without my dad. The year he passed away, we went to South Africa to be with my uncle, aunt, and cousins. I think the first year (especially because my dad died in the fall, fairly close to the holiday season) it makes sense to do something totally different. There’s something comforting about a traditionless day when you’re missing a major player from years past. It doesn’t make you forget, but it does lessen the pain when you’re doing things differently by choice.
What made this first year at home easier? 1. Friends (or family – the two are interchangeable). The more time goes on, the more obvious it becomes that losing someone you love can only be healed by spending time with other people you love. 2. Accepting that all great traditions evolve. Someone pointed this out to me this year, and it gave me a lot of comfort – at some point, change is inevitable. It could be because we’re newly married, meaning suddenly there are two families to work in to the holiday. It could be because a baby has been born, and with that a hundred new meanings to the holiday come to life too. At some point, what once was the norm gets altered, for better or for worse. I’m constantly inspired by the friends I have who have faced the same situation as me and have since created beautiful, new traditions.
What we did this year was different, but honestly, a lot of it was fun. We got to be with people we love, who we often wouldn’t get to see on Christmas. Sure, there were
some many moments when it was all too apparent who was missing from the festive scene, but it was not a lonely holiday nor was it sad. It was the first of many Christmases to come. Thanks to everyone who made it special.