Jody passed away May 5th, 1988 and I remember that first Christmas Season without her was looming large in front of me as if it were yesterday. I recall wondering what the heck we were going to do without her to celebrate one of her favorite times of the year.
So, as a family, we started to talk about what we could do to include Jody in our Christmas celebrations. Though the family was spread all over the country we talked about our plans as if we were going to be together in one home. Planning this way really brought our family much closer together emotionally and spiritually. A Christmas present that only Jody’s death could have brought us.
- We decided to hang special ornaments on the Christmas trees in her honor.
- We chose to have places at the family Christmas tables with a setting for her and her picture on the plate.
- Some of us decided to put a light on the local Hospice Christmas Tree in Jody’s name.
- Some of us decided to give food to the local food bank on her behalf.
- As a family we choose to tell Jody stories and remember her as if she were with us still.
- We all agreed that it was fine to celebrate Christmas as a happy family and to be sad that a dear one was not with us. The two were just part of life in our family at the moment.
I decided to wear crazy, colorful socks, one of Jody’s habits, as a way to remember her and have her present it a physical way. To this day thirty years later I still wear those crazy socks and remember Jody.
The thing we did well was we all talked about it. We didn’t hide behind emotional correctness / politeness and didn’t shy away from chats about our first Christmas without her. And yes it was emotional; it was a bit of a challenge for each of us especially for her widowed husband Roy.
Roy’s family did it differently. They chose not to talk about Jody and just got on with Christmas as they always did. They avoided, as best they could, the awkward elephant in the room – Jody is not with us – and somehow pretended their way through the Christmas Season with barely a mention of her. It was really hard on Roy! And must have been for his family members too even though they wouldn’t admit it out loud.
The juxtaposition of the way two families handled the same loss during their first Christmas without Jody was a great lesson for me. Trying to hide the elephant in the room is way harder and more emotionally challenging than addressing the loss of our loved one and talking about how to include them in our first Christmas without a beloved family member.
For me facing it in an open way, being real and chatting about what we could do and how we could do it was healing and very much a part of the grieving process. As we planned our celebration to include our late loved one Jody we also were honoring her loss. Odd I thought, that planning our first Christmas without her could be so healing for our sad hearts.