My father passed away unexpectedly in 2008, and my mother in 2016. I have to admit that the “first” holidays and events after the loss of my father were not as difficult for me as they were after my mother passed. There
could be many reasons for that. My father, though I loved him dearly, was much more difficult to deal with and take care of. Perhaps it is because my mother suffered a stroke in 2011 and lived with me for five years before her death. Since she liked to have the door to her room closed, I kept it open after her death; it helped to remind me she was in heaven.
I remember how purposeful my sisters and I were those first few years in honoring my mother at Christmas after she passed. She loved her grandchildren, and she loved to give them gifts. We selected some of her treasured things and gave those items to them in her name. We went around the room and shared stories about her — what precious memories! We talked about tricks played on her, the times she and my father took the grandchildren on vacations without their parents. We remembered how they thought they should spend the night with her on Friday because she didn’t work on Saturday, and how hard she would make you work. There were many laughs mingled with our tears.
While I have a heritage of family celebrations and fond memories of the holidays, many others, unfortunately, don’t. Maybe you have good memories but are far from home and it’s not possible for you to return for the holidays. How can you avoid or overcome the holiday blues?
First, I encourage you to choose what you think about. When you find yourself going down the path of painful memories, turn your thoughts around and think of something positive. My family is far from perfect.
We have struggled through job loss, infidelity, divorce, suicide, accidents, and health crises; I could continue the list, but you get my point. In all of these situations, I have always, though not necessarily immediately, being able to find something to be thankful for. Try it with me, you will find there is something to be thankful for if you choose to look for it.
Perhaps like my family, yours was touched by suicide. You, like me, can choose to be thankful that your loved ones lived. I chose to talk about my niece, Nancy. I treasure a handwritten note she gave me telling me I was the best aunt, and I remember how she liked me to take her clothes shopping. Although I mourn her, I choose to celebrate that she lived.
Second, choose not to sit home in depression or isolation. I founded a nonprofit called Adopt a Grandparent Day specifically to bring awareness to the plight of the residents of local nursing homes. Did you know that 60 percent of residents have no visitors? Contact a nursing home nearby and schedule a visit. Perhaps you will meet a new friend who will become like a sibling, aunt, uncle, parent or grandparent. How about volunteering at a local soup kitchen like Feed My Sheep? Serving those less fortunate than yourself can generate thankfulness.
Have your children moved away and won’t be home for the holidays? Perhaps you have no children or lost your children? Reach out to the young parents in your local church, civic groups or at work and invite them over. What about the young service members at our local military bases who won’t be able to go home for the holidays? Keesler has a program called Home Away from Home that allows you to adopt a service member for the day; call (228) 377-2331 for more information.
Last, of all, choose love. The actions of others can cause us to believe they don’t deserve love; maybe
they don’t. Maybe we haven’t always deserved love, either. Perhaps you must love them from afar; nonetheless, choose love. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.