Last evening as I was decorating and generally clearing away too many papers (perils of a writer), on the television came a 2002 Hallmark Channel movie entitled “A Christmas Visitor”.
It featured a couple whose son had been killed in the Gulf War and had received notification from the US Army on Christmas Eve. Consequently, over the last twelve years, it seems this family had decided to forgo any Christmas celebrations.
In the movie, the only surviving sibling, this young man’s sister, was dealing with surgery to remove a lump in her breast. At the time of her brother’s death it seemed she couldn’t have been more than 10 years old.
In a tender moment, she revealed to her Mother how she always felt unloved growing up because their family, unlike her friends’ families, never celebrated Christmas after her brother John’s death. She believed that by not putting up a tree, decorating the house, etc. that her parents were indirectly telling her that they loved her brother more than her.
Even the mother in the movie embraced the daughter and suddenly realized how selfish she had been in her own overwhelming grief that she hadn’t taken into account how it would affect her daughter or husband.
When we have lost a significant person in our lives, especially a child or a spouse, our tendency as adults is to concentrate so much on our own grief and to dismiss the needs of the surviving children and family members.
If you are in this position now and you are struggling with whether to completely forego all the festivities of this season, please think twice. It’s very easy to just crawl under the covers and just want to disappear, but there may be others in your life who count on you to love them and nuture them and make life as ‘normal’ as it has been in the past.
No one can say this will be easy for you. It’s not. Actually, it’s probably one of the most selfless things you will ever do, especially if this is the first Christmas, Hanukkah or holiday season you are living through without that special someone.
But remember this, please…how you show love to those who are living, will go a long way to how your family survives this tragedy. Your surviving children, and perhaps your spouse, are screaming inside, “but I’m still alive…notice me…love me…look at me…pay attention to me…hold me…cuddle me…say nice things to me…give gifts to me…”
If you are either unsure or have already decided to not do Christmas, please reconsider. You don’t need to do all that you have in the past, but the very best start is to have a family meeting and let everyone express their feelings.
Once you have a clear understanding of what everyone feels, you’ll be able to rethink a more moderate strategy for what you can do and what you just can’t do. At least everyone will have a better sense of why you feel the way you do and they won’t feel so left out of the thinking process.
Christmas or Hanukkah might look a little different this year but it can still be celebrated.
Next post will look at alternative ways to do that…