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Loss at the holidays

In an unusual year, even the holidays feel strange. Normally my thoughts for the holidays are the joy of family, friends and Jesus’ birth. But this year feels different; family isn’t allowed, -well there isn’t one and the holidays may feel a lot like Christmas presents and pizza take out. If you are like me who loves the holidays, this pizza take out analogy makes you cringe and at the very least, very sad. Family is even more important around the holidays because 2 years ago I lost someone very important to me the day after thanksgiving.

The reality is you can lose someone at any time but the loss of someone during the holidays is more acute, their chair is empty at the table and their stocking is no longer hung up. When we lost my most beloved father-in-law 2 years ago, the day after thanksgiving I was deeply sad, but as the constant optimist- very thankful it had happened during a holiday so I was with him and my mother-in-law. Many people apologized because they figured the holiday made it worse and maybe it did, but it also meant the gift of time.

Time with family is such a valuable gift that I can’t even tell you coming into this Christmas season how sad I am to not have this special time with him. But I know that time with loved ones can also increase infection rates and is not advisable when someone is in a high-risk category. The question I will tackle this year is how do I deal with loss- like the missing person at a seat at the table that is forever empty or more acutely you don’t see them now and won’t for months.

Here are my best tips for dealing with the loss of the ones you love whether temporary or more permanent:

  1. Remember them and do something they would do. For example: My grandmother loved creating special stocking stuffer gifts and to this day, it is one of my favorite traditions. According to her, this is what is supposed to be in each stocking; some fruit for you to eat all by yourself (a big deal not to have to share with a sibling), a sweetie treat (persimmon cookies for me, those were always my favorite) and a little something extra (usually something crafty to do with her later).

  2. Look at pictures of family members who are still with you and long-gone family legacy tells a strong and powerful story. (And the hairstyles are always good for a smile).

  3. Eat food that brings joy and reminds you of those you love. Example: My father-in-law loved this one type of Vietnamese soup and it is my husband’s favorite and eating it always makes me miss him and smile.

  4. Live out their legacy if it was a good one. Example: My father-in-law was very generous and always had family members favorite foods in his house to offer, which meant lots and lots of coffee when the uncles would come or lots and lots of Rambutan for his grand-daughters when they visited.

  5. FaceTime with cup of tea in hand and Christmas lights twinkling in the background. Seeing someone can be more fulfilling than just a voice oVER the phone.

We may not be together today or even tomorrow but love never dims when you keep someone close to you. So, try some of these tips to celebrate your family whether they are near or far. The holidays may be different this year or sometime in your future but they will always be blessed by those you love and have loved.

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