A Christmas Like No Other
by Amanda Meath
Amanda Meath is an extraordinary woman. Amanda was my educator when I was doing my Certificate 4 in Celebrancy. We have remained in touch ever since. From time to time I am lucky enough to convince her to write for this blog. Amanda has spent 26 years working within the funeral industry as a celebrant, Funeral Director and an educator.
Unfortunately we do not get a choice as to the perfect time that loss or trauma visits us. This blog is for all of you who are struggling with loss or challenges this year. I would like to also mention my dear girlfriend who’s husband died this month of cancer. We love you, you are not alone. We revere your grief and walk alongside you in it. Hopefully this post will give words to your grief and acknowledge what you are experiencing at this time of year.
A Christmas Like No Other
Every year brings its challenges to us all, this year for so many of you, you have the added weight of no longer having with you, one that you love.
It is a Christmas like no other.
Our normal Christmas’ bring with them a share of stress, love, joy and over indulgences. We busy ourselves with our usual rituals of present buying and giving; of card writing and pre-Christmas parties; of Church services carol signing, tree decorating, and food preparation. But this Christmas is different.
You no longer have your person, your spouse, your child, your parent, your sibling or your friend to share these time-honoured Christmas traditions with.
How much harder will it be to share these rituals, to reminisce with your other family and friends, to find the light and laughter of previous years.
Christmas is a time for coming together. For gathering of sights, sounds and smells that signify this special yearly event. A departure from the everyday mundane. It is a time where your grief at the death of your loved one is compounded.
Some of you may feel pressure to behave in a certain way. I want to assure you that it is ok to feel exactly how you feel in the lead up to Christmas and on Christmas day itself.
Others may wish for you to keep busy, to forget. To be joyful and happy for the sake of others during this time.
Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. If an event is too much for you, go home. If you want to be quiet, be quiet, if you do find joy rejoice in it.
Certain carols make me cry every time I hear them. My teenage children find it embarrassing. I see it as a connection to my loved one a memory that while it brings tears it also keeps him close.
Our memories are wonderful, one of the hardest things during Christmas is the absence of someone. Their simple presence but also the traditional things that they did – Decorated the tree, cooked the meat, made the bon bons, brought the ice, made bad dad jokes.
Why don’t you create a new tradition. Write the name of your loved one on a heart and place it on your Christmas Tree. Hang this on your tree or buy a specific ornament to represent them this Christmas. Set a place at the table if you can, light a candle, write them a letter find a way to include them in your day.
Don’t feel that by doing this you bring down the mood.
You cannot hide the fact that they are not there, acknowledge it and if you want talk, about them. Christmas is a time of reminiscing of remember when, of annual stories. By acknowledging them you allow all of this to flow. It may bring sadness because it is sad, but it may also bring smiles, laughter and joy.
It will be forever different, but the influence and impact of your person will always be there. Allow yourself to remember, acknowledge what you are feeling. There is no normal and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
If you need to be alone, honour that. If you need to be around others seek them out. Do whatever feels right for you.
This said it is also fine to have a good time. In spite of your grief if you find moments of levity and happiness, enjoy them. You do not do your loved one an injustice by feeling joyous. The best gift you can give anyone you love, even if they have died is to be true to yourself and continue to live your life as full as you can and to work towards adjusting to your loss.
Even with sadness in your heart you can find pleasure. Look to the simple things to be grateful for each day. Small sensory things; tastes, smells, sounds and achievements. Try to focus on the small this can bring moments of unexpected pleasure. The big picture can often be overwhelming.
I spoke earlier of lighting a candle in memory of your loved one. Perhaps also we could do this in thanks for those who have helped us during this year.
Candles are a symbol of life – a life that can be strong one day and flickering the next. The flame on the end of the wick gives us light and warmth. We can protect the flame by cradling our hand around it. Like a burning candle our lives are at the mercy of ill winds that may blow, but caring hands will help us to protect that flame.
As we celebrate Christmas we think of our friends, of our family – we think of all those who have put their cradling hands around our flame in difficult times. We thank them for being our friends and for being there when we need them.
A candle warms us, it can give a sense of direction, and can draw people together, reminding us how we are all really one family.
The symbolism of candles is reflected in numerous ways in our religious and cultural traditions. Most of us enjoy the splendour and glory of candles. They are visual reminders of our possible triumph over darkness. Have you ever noticed how one candle can go nearly unnoticed, yet when you have a lot of candles lit, their presence is overwhelming and one can’t ignore their impact?
Allow me to finish with a story about 4 candles.
The four candles:
The four candles burned slowly. The ambience was so soft you could hear them talking. The first one said “I am Peace! However, nobody can keep me lit; I believe I will go out.” Its flame rapidly diminished and it went out completely.
The second one said “I am faith! Most of all I am no longer indispensable, so it doesn’t make sense that I stay lit any longer.” When it finished talking, a breeze softly blew on it putting it out.
Sadly, the third candle spoke in its turn. “I am love! I haven’t got the strength to stay lit. People put me aside and don’t understand my importance. They even forget to love those who are near them.” And waiting no longer, it went out.
Suddenly a child entered the room and saw three candles not burning. “Why are you not burning? You are supposed to stay lit till the end”. Saying this, the child began to cry.
Then the fourth candle said. “Don’t be afraid; while I am still burning, we can relight the other candles. I am Hope!”
With shining eyes, the child took the candle of Hope, and lit the other candles. The flame of Hope should never go out from your life, and that way, each of us can maintain Hope, Faith, Peace and Love.
My Christmas gift for you is hope.
Hope that you find a place for your memories of and love for – your loved one this Christmas.
Embrace the feelings whatever they may be relish the memories and create new traditions.
Other Articles By Amanda Meath “The Funeral Industry and our Disconnection from Death”
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