If you have recently lost your mom, the first Christmas can feel like doomsday is approaching. It is common to feel anxiety and added stress as the holiday nears. Though the rest of the world seemingly goes on without a tear, it may be a personal struggle to feel put together — especially on holidays like Christmas or Easter where everyone celebrates with family.
The truth is, this Christmas will be different. Missing your mom can be expected during a special holiday, so perhaps let yourself be open to the varied feelings you may have. You could continue with holiday traditions, or order take-out and spend the day at home. There is no right or wrong way to spend your first Christmas without your mom. The grief will come in waves and you are the only one who can determine what you need.
Here are some ideas to help you cope and get through this holiday season.
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Step 1: Allow Yourself Permission to Grieve
The number one step to surviving the first Christmas without your mom is to allow yourself to grieve. Try not to push down the sadness or pretend to have things together. You went through a significant loss and the first Christmas can be very difficult to overcome.
Welcome your grief and try not to judge the feelings that are arising. Though grief can feel paralyzing, the pain can hopefully lessen over time.
Treat yourself as though you had surgery and are in a fragile state. This will help to frame your mindset with the idea that you can accept help and that it's okay to not be okay. Turning toward our grief can feel scary, but you are not alone in your grief. Many people have walked this path before you.
Give yourself permission to grieve and take it easy on yourself. You don't need to force yourself into the Christmas spirit. It's okay to sit this year out to feel your grief.
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Step 2: Give to Yourself First
Christmas time is referred to as the season of giving. If you are a gift-giver but aren't feeling up to it this time, take a step back and acknowledge it. Allow yourself to put yourself first. The loss of a mother can bring up feelings of helplessness and loneliness. This can be a lot to process and it's recommended that you give yourself love and compassion.
If you are up for it, allow yourself to receive gifts and comfort from your family and friends. Tending to your emotional and physical needs is the most valuable gift you can give yourself.
Step 3: Do Something Different This Year
You may associate Christmas with special traditions and spending time with your mom. In the throes of grief, sticking to routine or tradition may not be easy. This year, you might skip tradition and ask yourself how you want to spend this Christmas. This doesn't mean you are giving these up for good. Next year, you can come back to your traditions and find new ways to celebrate in memory of your mom.
If your mom was the one that coordinated Christmas, your family might feel torn about what to do. Talk with your family and consider hosting a small, low-key gathering. Give yourself and others permission to spend it alone if that resonates.
Step 4: Free Yourself From the Holiday Hustle
Christmas can overwhelm anyone, even those who aren't grieving. Be extra gentle with yourself this Christmas. Stepping back from the hustle and bustle of the holidays can bring a lot of relief. You may want to skip the holiday shopping and decorations this year. Trust that what you are feeling is valid. If you still wish to get gifts, consider online shopping to avoid the holiday crowds.
It's okay if you are feeling sad or introverted. Meet yourself where you are and trust that you will get through the season. When you free yourself from the pressure to commit to Christmas, you may feel a big weight lifted off your shoulder.
If you're still feeling the need to shop or decorate, consider doing a little less this year. It's also okay to let others help you with decorating and shopping.
Step 5: Create a Memory Book
If you are up for reminiscing, a memory book is a beautiful project to pour your feelings and work into during the holidays. It will keep you busy with a task and can be a good way to process emotions and grief. Gather photos and items of your mom and let creativity move you. You can decide if you want to make a scrapbook or a digital memory book, if you prefer.
This project will provide a dedicated time for you to sit with your grief and the memories of your mom. It can bring you peace and healing as you trudge through the Christmas season.
Consider making a personal memory book and a memory book that you can duplicate and share with your loved ones.
Step 6: Start 12 Days of Letters
For each of the 12 days of Christmas, you may consider writing 12 letters to your mom. Writing a letter is a helpful and healing way to express emotions. In the letter you can express your gratitude and share your favorite moments with her.
Even though she is no longer with you in the physical, the bond of love still remains. Writing letters to a loved one who has died can be particularly cathartic and moving.
It's optional to read these letters out loud at her grave or memorial site on Christmas. It can be comforting to remember the beautiful times you cherished together.
Step 7: Create an Altar
In many cultures, people create sacred altars to honor their loved ones. This Christmas, you may feel drawn to dedicate a place where you can visit with your mom. This can be in your bedroom, living room, or any other quiet space in your home.
You can place photos of your mom and the things she loved on a small table or mantle. Lighting a candle or incense is a lovely way to set the energy and tone of the space.
Let this space transform into a special place where you can be with your mom. Give yourself permission to retreat here whenever you need it. When you sit in this space, allow yourself some quiet meditation time.
You may feel called to read a letter, talk to your mom out loud, or even cry. This a safe space to feel your feelings and express your gratitude for mom.
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Step 8: Make a Gratitude Jar
It's hard to stay stuck in sadness when giving thanks. A gratitude jar can be a great way to break up some sadness and grief.
Find a jar with a lid and decorate it with ribbons, bows, paints, or stickers. You can put your mom's name on it if you wish to dedicate this gratitude jar to her. Cut up some pieces of paper schedule a time, once or twice a day to sit down and write. You can write down the things that you are grateful for, whether it be things that your mom taught you or a simple action from the day.
By practicing the art of gratitude, you are shifting your mindset and giving your heart and mind a rest. Resting in a place of gratitude is a wonderful way to spend the first Christmas without mom.
Step 9: Travel
If you feel called to step away from the routine of life, book a trip. You may decide to visit a place your mom loved or somewhere she always dreamed of going. Traveling can open your mind and heart and can serve as a wonderful way to help with the grief process.
Try to not overthink the trip and instead allow yourself to be led throughout the journey by your mother’s wishes or memories. Remember that your mom is with you every step of the way, cheering you on and wishing you peace this Christmas.
Step 10: Be of Service
There is an old saying, "When I got busy, I got better." The loss of a mom is heartbreaking and sometimes the best way to heal is by staying focused.
Consider volunteering your time for a cause your mom treasured. You may find that by giving back, you begin to feel better. Being of service in honor of a loved one is an incredible feeling. You can volunteer for a day or consider volunteering on an ongoing basis. Remember, the key to being a good volunteer is to give to yourself first.
This Christmas Will Be Different and it’s Okay to Let it Be
There is no right or wrong way to get through this time of year. These ideas are suggestions and you are welcome to practice some or all of them. Be kind to yourself during this time and remember that it is okay not to be in the holiday spirit. The best gift you can give yourself is the time and space to check in with your emotions.
Allow yourself to spend this Christmas however necessary. Be honest with yourself and honor your mind, body, and heart this season. This is the time to nurture yourself and let go of any agendas you have of how you should be coping. Embrace where you are in your grief process and rest in this space.
Grieving a loss reminds of us our capacity to love and that is the most precious gift.