9 Ideas to Cope with Grief This Christmas

christmas rocking horse
Photo by Andrew Branch on Stock Snap

A loving, kind-hearted grandfather with the warmest smile and a great sense of humor. A big teddy bear of an uncle. Protective. The strong, silent type, always with perfectly placed one-liners. A man like a second father to me. A woman like a second mother. These are the people whose absence I will undoubtedly feel to a greater extent as the Christmas season approaches.

But perhaps the most glaring void this Christmas is the one created by a gleeful little boy who left us last summer. My first child. See, he was never meant to be mine forever. I was his foster mom. But for 10 months, I was his and he was mine. I loved him fiercely for those 10 months, and I love him fiercely still. If I’m lucky, I’ll hear from his mom around the holidays. I may get to send a Christmas gift to him. Even so, none of that can replace his presence in our family. To us, none of that will make him feel less lost. We do life without him now.

This will be the second Christmas my arms are empty of him. I am still learning what life looks like in his absence. I continually search for ways to hold on to my memories and honor him as well as the family and friends I have lost, and I’ve gathered a few ideas to share with you. 

  1. Hang a stocking. Family members can write notes or letters throughout the season and place them in the stocking. These can be kept private, or you can choose a time when they will be read aloud.
  2. Give a gift to a charity. Choose a cause your loved one would have championed and make a donation in his honor.
  3. Buy or make an ornament to hang on your tree.
  4. Create a photo tree. Display your favorite pictures of the people you’re missing.
  5. Make a memories tablecloth. Have your family celebrate your loved one’s life by decorating a tablecloth in her honor. Write notes to her, memories of her, or draw pictures.
  6. Continue favorite traditions you shared with those you’ve lost.
  7. Choose a candle to light throughout the season.
  8. Connect with other bereaved families by attending a support group. It can be refreshing to spend time with people who understand your grief.
  9. Talk about those whom you miss. I’ve found that many people, myself included, avoid mentioning loss for fear they will stir up emotions that otherwise may not be there. But I know from being the one grieving that I am sad and thinking about it anyway. Talk to someone you trust or someone you know is missing your loved one, too.

We all grieve differently. While some are thankful for the busyness and distractions, others can’t help but feel that the absence of a loved one is magnified this time of year. Find the things that work for you. Set realistic expectations for your participation in seasonal activities, and remember to give yourself grace this Christmas as you adjust to a new normal.

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Nikki is a native Texan, originally from Cypress. After marrying her husband, Randall, and being convinced to move to the arctic (just kidding -- Michigan) for a few years, she is excited to be back in Texas thawing out and learning her way around Fort Worth! In 2015, Nikki and Randall decided to become foster parents, and she is now a stay-at-home mom to foster children, as well as long-distance stepmom to a teenage boy. She has been 'Mom' to six kids and counting, always wondering what (or who) the future will bring!



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