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I believe in the concept of the Holidays (whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, winter solstice, Eid, etc). The Holidays can offer us a sense of context is a busy world. Familiar holiday traditions can offer a sense of comfort. Sharing the Holidays with family members or friends can offer a greater sense of community. What happens when a loved one dies, especially during a holiday season? Does that change how you celebrate those Holidays going forward? Does anything need to change?
I think the best answer to that question is that you forge a path that makes you comfortable. It might mean continuing old traditions or modifying them to fit your new circumstances. It might mean starting completely new Holiday traditions. That is what I genuinely believe to be the correct answer. But, sometimes forging that path isn’t easy.
Personally, I still struggle with our holiday traditions. Two years ago today, on December 10, my Aunt Linda died. She was admitted to the hospital the weekend of Halloween and died on December 10th. It completely derailed Thanksgiving and Christmas for our family. And, for me at least, continues to diminish my joy in the holiday season and my ability to move forward with my own Holiday traditions. Which is a little odd because my aunt and I practiced different faiths and she lived in another state; we weren’t literally celebrating the Holidays together. So, what makes this so difficult? I think that her dying during this time of year, which is marked by the comings and goings of Holidays, has meant that I still think of the Holidays in context of her death. I also think my desire to make the Holidays a time of joy and the pressure I feel to create a meaningful Holiday celebration for my son has made it difficult for me to forward. How much meaning and happy memories can I possibly pack into a Holiday season? That’s what I should be doing right?
Realistically I know that I can only do so much and I’m not sure that forced Holiday gatherings or events translates to happy memories. Obviously, I’m not quite through struggling with this process. But, there are a few things that I’m certain of – I loved Linda. I continue to honor her by moving forward and living my life to the best of my ability. I do think Holiday traditions are wonderful and our family is working on developing new ones or modifying old ones. The best I can do at the end of the day is to be grateful for the life that I have and to be present and open to what life has to offer me and, in turn, what I can offer my son. The Holidays have away of working themselves out and coming together, I just need to be willing to come along for the ride. I don’t really think it is that simple but I think that’s the best I can do under the circumstances.