It’s the ninth anniversary of my father’s death, and that also means it is time for my annual PSA (public service announcement) about being gentle and non-judgmental with those who choose not to celebrate the holiday season because they’ve lost someone during this time of year.
The coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 300,000 lives in America will put a damper on this year’s festivities. But I also noticed the opposite effect, with neighbors putting their Christmas decorations up well before Thanksgiving. Both are natural reactions and we should respect the way individuals choose to cope.
This year as I reflect upon the anniversary of my father’s death, I remembered a detail I came across in a card he had attempted to write one of his sisters, but no longer had the cognitive function to address and mail. He had written in the card that he had been diagnosed with the swine flu. He had not received such a diagnosis, but the H1N1 pandemic was in the news at the time. Dad had latched on to that to explain what was happening to his body. That memory came back strong this year as the coronavirus pandemic unleashed its fury across the world.
Related to the pandemic and the need to wear masks, I also am reflecting on the fact that Dad would likely have been anti-mask. In 1986, when I was 12, wearing seat belts became mandatory when driving a vehicle in California. I remember many heated arguments in the car because of my father’s stubborn refusal to put on his seat belt. He claimed wearing the belt was constricting and made him feel like he was choking. Sound familiar this year? As an ill-advised compromise, Dad would drape the belt over his torso, but not latch it. Fortunately we never had any serious accidents. According to the Los Angeles Times, my father was part of the majority who at the time did not wear seat belts on a regular basis.
It has been the strangest and most challenging of years and the holiday season is no different. Connect with those you love however you can safely. Offer words of comfort and healing to the many who are grieving.
Whenever I learn of someone’s passing during the holiday season, I feel an extra pang of sympathy. Losing a loved one at any time of the year is devastating, of course. But there is something about loss during a period of such joy for others that is particularly painful.
Today it has been eight years since my father’s death. So much has happened since then, yet it’s still hard to believe that it has been so long since his passing. I remember how odd the Christmas decorations and Christmas music blaring everywhere seemed to be after I learned the news of my father’s passing. It’s a tough lesson to learn in such a fragile state: the world goes on without your loved one.
If you find yourself grieving this holiday season, cut yourself some slack. Don’t feel obligated to put on a happy front. There are many others just like you who feel conflicted emotions during this time of year. Hopefully over time, some happier memories will filter in through the grief. If you know someone who has lost someone during the holidays, reach out to them and offer your support.
I hope you and your loved ones have a holiday filled with peace and love.
The holidays can be stressful for caregivers, but they also offer moments of magic and the potential to create memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
I hope that you enjoy the time spent with family and other loved ones over the holidays. For those of us remembering those who have departed, it can be a comfort to reflect upon happy moments and favorite memories.
And if you feel yourself being overworked or stressed out, don’t be shy about asking for help!
Ever since my father died five days before Christmas in 2011, the holiday season has been bittersweet for me. He also spent Thanksgiving of that year in the hospital, so both holidays are associated with sickness and death.
But each year, there are stories that reinforce the wonder of the holiday season and lift my spirits.
The story about a lovely woman named Karen, who has dementia but has maintained her lifelong love of Santa Claus, is one of those uplifting stories.
As Karen has moved into the latter stages of dementia and was recently placed in hospice care, her family made the wise decision to capture a beautiful holiday moment that her family will treasure for generations to come.
If you click through on the Facebook post above, you can read the entire story behind the photo shoot. I love the fact that Karen has a Santa doll and speaks Japanese to it!
Of course, not everyone with dementia reacts to holidays in a positive fashion, so it’s best to follow their lead. But don’t be afraid to indulge in some good old-fashioned fun this holiday season. We can all learn a lesson from Karen and her family.
I hope everyone has a peaceful, love-filled holiday. Make those moments count with those who mean the most to you.
For those of us dealing with loss, the holiday season is bittersweet. This year, I bought a tabletop tree, and decorated it with Christmas ornaments from my childhood. My family always had a tabletop tree, because we lived in an apartment that didn’t have room for a big tree.
It didn’t matter to me that the tree was small and fake, I loved the magic of Christmas as a child. My parents worked hard to make the holidays special for me, and I am grateful I have those happy memories.
Happy holidays to all. Stay warm and safe, and enjoy the precious moments with loved ones.
This week was a double whammy for me, as not only did I mark the fourth anniversary of my father’s death on Dec. 20th, yesterday marked seven months since Mom died. Somber anniversaries just before Christmas.
Mom’s last Christmas card to me.
While I think of my parents daily, I honestly let the 20th slip by without officially marking my father’s death anniversary. Four years out, there is naturally some healing and closure. I know this will eventually happen with how I feel about my mom as well.
Just after Christmas, I am paying my father tribute by visiting New Orleans. I will be taking the train, one of my dad’s favorite modes of transportation (after a boat.) I will be staying at the Roosevelt Hotel where my dad worked for a brief time.
My dad never provided a great deal of detail about his time in New Orleans, but when he did speak of the city, he spoke of it fondly. I’ve been once before, but was just passing through. I look forward to reconnect with one of my dad’s old stomping grounds, when he was a young and carefree man.
I also hope that being “stuck” on the train will free up time for me to focus on writing.
For the other bloggers out there dealing with loss or illness this holiday season, I send along thoughts of peace and comfort.
Each year, it seems that there is another memorial ornament to hang on the Christmas tree.
Welcome to middle age, I guess.
The top of this year’s tree is loaded with memorial ornaments and pet collars of departed pets. While the sheer number of the dearly departed is a bit shocking, I don’t mind that the Christmas tree has become a memorial tree of sorts.
It’s a nice way to reflect on those we shared so many holidays with, and who will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Do you hang memorial ornaments or otherwise honor the departed during your holiday celebrations?
I know many of you out there are celebrating a less-than-ideal holiday. You may be visiting your loved ones in a care center. They may not be able to communicate with family anymore.
Or like me, you may be grieving the loss of a loved one today.
But as many of you have illustrated on your own blogs, wallowing in pity will not make the holiday season any brighter. While it takes effort, we must find ways to appreciate what we do have, and cherish the happy memories with those who have departed.
No day is perfect, just like no person is perfect. But every day and every person is special, if we only take the time to seek out the good.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family.
Of course I am thinking of both of my parents today. As children grow into adults, sometimes holidays like Christmas seem more like a burden than a day to enjoy with your loved ones. Buying gifts, making travel arrangements, trying to get through visits without a spat, it’s enough to knock the jolly spirit out of anybody.
And admittedly there were many Christmases where I felt just like that. While I never actually spent a Christmas day with my parents after I turned 19, due to living so far away and school/work commitments, I would try to at least make an annual visit. I would usually choose somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I can’t say I really enjoyed these visits. I do regret never having the chance to just take Dad aside and have some daughter-father bonding moments over a cup of coffee or beer. But then again, Dad was always a benign but forgettable figure in my life at that point. We weren’t close, we never had a deep bond.
Of course, having watched him battle Alzheimer’s for over four years, now I realize all of those years of lost opportunities. Dad never shut me out, but he wasn’t one to pursue a more active father-daughter relationship. I was relieved at the time that I only had Mom’s need for companionship to fulfill.
Holidays at their most basic are good excuses for families to bond together, to share stories and create their own unique traditions. While I can’t go back in time and change things in my own family, I can at least share my story and encourage others to embrace family bonding opportunities. What may seem like a mild inconvenience now may create memories that you will cherish forever.
When I was four, my parents bought me a Powder Puff big wheel cycle for Christmas. This replaced my Fonzie cycle, which I guess I outgrew or it broke down. Of course, it had to be assembled before Christmas Day, and my mom worked in secret after I went to bed while Dad was at work to get the darn cycle put together.
In many households, assembling toys is the Dad’s job, but my father was never handy with tools, even though he worked for a trucking company for years.
Once Mom finally had the monstrosity assembled, a new problem arose. Where would they hide the conspicuous gift in our tiny apartment?
Mom did her best to hide it in the closet, but one day, as she was hanging up Dad’s freshly laundered clothes on his side of the closet, I snatched a peek at the big plastic wheel and the pastel streamers hanging off the handlebars.
And that’s the moment I realized Santa didn’t really exist. I don’t remember being particularly upset by discovering the truth. I played along for a couple of more years with my mom’s insistence that Santa was real before finally revealing I saw the cycle in the closet when I was four.
While most kids graduate to an actual bicycle after riding these contraptions as little kids, I never did. And while I never asked, I don’t think Dad ever learned how to ride a bike either. I just can’t imagine Dad atop a bike, wearing a helmet!