When my Mom passed away and we were driving home from the hospital, I remember looking around and wondering how life could go on.
It was around dinner time and people were going on with their evening. I saw people walking into restaurants, smiling and holding hands, traffic patterns that were normal, and shopping centers that were crowded. People were going out to dinner and living their lives. I wanted to scream, “How can you act like everything is normal? My Mom just passed away. Nothing will ever be the same again.”
But, I couldn’t, because for them, everything was the same. If you’ve loved someone and sadly, lost them, I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar to this. It’s hard to love a person with all your heart, and then one day, be forced to live in a world without them.
In some ways, it’s the flaw of life: to love people and sometimes lose them.
While my life was forever altered the day my Mom passed away, the lives of most of the people in the world didn’t change that day.
Life went on, because life goes on.
It’s been over sixteen years since she passed away, and I miss her everyday. I can say that time does help: the pain fades and I’ve learned how to live with my loss. The memories I have of her illness have dimmed, and what’s left are the good memories. Those are what I know she would want me to remember.
If you’ve lost someone you care about then you know how hard it is. It can feel challenging enough to get used to living without them, but “special” days are particularly hard. Those are the days our loss tends to be heightened. These are the times we yearn for what “used to be” and feel melancholy.
Celebrating a holiday for the first time without a loved one is painful. You think about years past and hold your memories close. I remember the first holiday I faced without my Mom. It was Thanksgiving. I was in uncharted waters, in a confusing and disoriented world, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t want to deal with it.
The first year of first holidays is a hard year. While you might dread each upcoming holiday and think about years past, you must remember this is normal. It’s OK to feel sad, reminisce about the past, and wish things were different.
While I know it isn’t easy, here are some tips that have helped me get through those especially hard days:
Find a way to bring your loved one into your holiday celebration.
It won’t make you miss them any less, but it might make things feel a little easier.
Is there a special recipe your Grandmother used to cook? A special meal your family always shared each year on a particular holiday? Continuing this tradition, even though you must do it without your loved one, is a way to keep them with you. While it won’t be the same, it will make you feel close to them.
My Grandmother always made a special soup for the holidays. The smell of the soup reminds me of my childhood, of years past, and floods me with memories. I have the recipe, and when I make this soup for my family, I feel like I’m bringing my Grandmother into our lives. It makes me happy to be able to tell my kids, “This is the recipe my Grandma used to make for me.”
Using dishes and linens that belonged to my Mom makes me feel like she’s smiling down on me. Setting a holiday table like she used to set the table is a way for me to bring her into our celebration. I know she would get a kick out of it, and I know she would be happy my family is enjoying her things.
Take a moment during the holiday celebration to talk about the person you miss.
It’s nice, during a family celebration, to take time to remember those people who have passed away. In my family, during a holiday meal, we’ll say the names of the people who are no longer with us. Sometimes, we take a moment of silence to remember them. Going around the table and sharing a funny memory is another way to bring your loved ones into the current celebration. Figure out what works for you and your family, and try it. While it won’t make you miss them any less, it will make you feel like they’re with you.
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Establish a new tradition.
My Mom always enjoyed eating hot fudge sundaes. On her birthday, each and every year, my family has ice cream sundaes. It’s a way for us to celebrate her birthday by doing something she would have done herself. It makes it special and allows my kids to remember my Mom in a fun manner. We started this tradition when my children were young, and I don’t think we’ll ever stop.
Think of something fun, that you and your family can enjoy doing together, that helps you remember your loved one.
Big events are hard.
I’m not going to lie to you, life cycle events are hard. If there’s a big event, such as a wedding or christening, printing your loved one’s name in the program is a nice way to bring them into the celebration. I’ve seen this done many times; it’s nice to recognize the person and helps make them part of the celebration. Was there a special song they always loved? Play that song at the party. Did they enjoy a particular food? Serve that at the party. Be creative.
There are always special ways you can remember the person you miss.
Surround yourself with people who love and care about you, and go easy on yourself.
Don’t judge yourself for feeling “blue,” and give yourself time and space to feel sad. It’s hard to lose someone you love, and trying to cover it up or mask your sadness won’t help. Grief can be a hard process, but time really does help. Losing someone is a hard part of life, but sadly, a necessary part. Give yourself time and patience, let yourself feel sad and miss them, and then try to remember the good times.
You have to begin new traditions and make new memories. Trying to figure out how to do this isn’t easy. While I miss my Mom everyday, I am grateful for what I had. I don’t focus on the loss, but rather how lucky I was to be her daughter. I know she would want me to make the most of each day of my life, and wouldn’t want me to spend my time crying and dwelling on my loss. You owe it to yourself to make the most of each day of your life, even if that means living without a loved one.
Have you struggled after losing a loved one? How did you pull through it? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and experiences.