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How to share the spirit of the holidays when you have lost someone dear

Victoria D. Schmidt | 12/10/2013, 6 a.m.
It is early December. The air is crisp. A fluttering of snowflakes drifts slowly down from the sky. It may ...

It is early December. The air is crisp. A fluttering of snowflakes drifts slowly down from the sky. It may be a white Christmas this year! You don’t care. You don’t even think it’s Christmas. The love of your life is dying or more sadly, has already left you.

You are hurting. Again and again, you tell yourself, “How can I go on?” You can and you will.

There are ways to lessen the pain or briefly put your grief aside and catch a glimpse of the holiday spirit and, as time passes you may overcome the devastation of your loss and once again experience the joy of living.

Last year, at the beginning of December, Jo Ann watched anxiously and with deep devotion over her husband, Fred, as he lay dying of Alzheimer’s disease. Concerned for their mother, her four adult daughters came to comfort her and prepare the family home for the holidays. She was unaware of the activity going on around her. It was late in January when Fred died. This year, Jo Ann is once again decorating her home herself and preparing a festive dinner for her entire family. “I have found myself,” she says. “I have found Jo Ann, again.”

On the fourth of December two years ago, her husband Ted passed suddenly in his sleep of a heart attack. Donna was shocked, bewildered. “The days through the holiday season,” she told me, “were surreal. I couldn’t, I didn’t believe he was gone. We were such a devoted family.” She and her children decided not to attend the usual large family Christmas day gathering. “We stayed at home, went downstairs in our pajamas and robes. It was comforting, just the four of us. We sat in front of our tree and exchanged happy memories of Ted, the best we could.”

Jo Ann and Dona are fortunate to be surrounded by family particularly during the holiday season. Sadly, many who also are bereaved find themselves alone when they most need friendship and compassion.

Julie who had lost her husband was alone during that first Christmas. Her son Jonathon had visited her often and they’d spend quiet, gratifying times together. But that holiday season, Jonathan was in Paris on a previously committed study program at the Sorbonne. After a while, she reconsidered and remembered others she knew who were also alone. Julie e-mailed a half dozen of her friends asking them to celebrate the day with her. Three women immediately accepted her invitation.

Three decades ago, Daisy’s husband died of cancer and she was left with two young daughters to nurture, care for and bring up. Then, the family faced another tragic loss. One of Daisy’s now grown daughters and her husband were killed in an auto accident. Daisy suggested ways that would help them accept the loss … that they should meet in small groups or all together from time to time and talk about their love for one another and for the love they had for the ones they had lost. She assured her family that they could share the joy and the spirit of the holiday season and would grow closer together. In time, they did.