Experience as a Flashlight: The woman was beside herself with grief. It was only a few months since her husband had died. She was not looking forward to Christmas. How could she deal with that loss at Christmas when the whole family would gather together and his absence would loom over everything?
I saw her regularly at the gym so, from time to time, I asked her if she had yet come up with a plan. Finally she told me she had. She was going to put all the mementos of his life (eg pictures, love letters, souvenirs from trips) together in an album which she would show the kids at Christmas. It would bring back memories which would help fill his physical absence.
I saw her after Christmas and she seemed at peace. Things had gone well she said. And preparing the album had given her focus during the difficult time of settling into a new routine without him.
For the first few years after my wife’s death, I lit a candle to remind me that she was still present in my memory. My grief support group had suggested it. They stressed the necessity of finding a ritual during the holidays which honors their memory in a tangible way.
Christmas can be a time when we feel the loss of loved ones more intensely than at other times of the year. Rather than pretending we are getting on with our lives, it seems more helpful to acknowledge the loss of special people and celebrate them. They were an important part of our lives and meaning-filled rituals help us express that fact and are emotionally satisfying as well.