Coping with feelings of grief is difficult and complicated at any time, but during the Christmas season it is even harder. We think about those who have died, memories of previous celebrations surface, and our hearts ache. Our ghosts walk with us and make our steps heavy.
Over the years, Family TLC has helped many people turn their sorrow into a celebration and even into laughter. I invite you to read on and share in the stories of some of our ghosts of Christmas past. You may be surprised to find that they may help you celebrate with your own ghosts. The names of our clients have been changed to protect their privacy.
Tanya’s father passed away in April and she was dreading her first Christmas without him. She told me that her tradition was to always make two Christmas cakes: one regular cake and one diabetic-friendly cake for her father.
Because her father was no longer there to celebrate she didn’t want to make any cakes at all but she felt obligated to make the regular cake for everyone else.
I asked Tanya if she would be willing to make both cakes. I explained that the ritual of making two cakes did not have to end. She liked that idea, and the next time I saw her, Tanya told me that she did make two cakes but something happened while she was baking the diabetic cake.
When the cake was in the oven, she got distracted because the same song was playing over and over in the living room. She left the kitchen to investigate and found that the radio was not on, but that a CD was set to repeat. She was quite confused and wondered why a song that was so special to her dad was on repeat.
While Tanya and her son were trying to figure out how that had happened, he turned to her and asked what was burning. Tanya was very upset, absolutely devastated that she had burnt her father’s cake. I told Tanya that in some cultures it is believed that the only way to deliver a present to those who have passed away is to burn it. Tanya looked at me, laughed and said, “So now I have to burn the diabetic-friendly cake every year!”
Dave’s grandson Nathan died tragically four years ago. He told us that everyone just wanted to move on and enjoy the holidays without the sorrow about Nathan. This did not sit well with Dave as he felt as though Nathan was being forgotten.
We talked about Nathan and Dave shared with me that that Nathan was a hockey player. Dave had many fond memories of playing street hockey with Nathan and of watching Nathan on the ice in many hockey games.
These wonderful memories brought a smile to Dave’s face. We explored various ideas of how Dave could bring hockey back into the holidays in Nathan’s honour, without upsetting everyone else.
Dave decided to buy the family an air hockey game for Christmas and organize an air hockey tournament. When Dave came back to see us after the holiday season he told us that everything went better than he could have ever imagined. The family decided to honour the winner of the tournament with what they called the “Nathan Memorial Trophy.”
We have learned at Family TLC that the secret to enjoying the holidays while working through grief is to bring those who have passed away into the celebrations in a happy way. This way everyone can remember their loved one with a light heart, just the way they would have wanted.