I have always loved Christmas. The Christmas after my mom died, I was sure that would change. So many of my most fond memories of our Christmas traditions circles around her. I was positive that without her there, Christmas would not be the same, and that I would sit there depressed and missing her. For once, I was happy to be wrong.
Each year on Christmas Eve, my family would read the Polar Express. It began with my mom reading it to us as my dad drove us home from my grandparents’ house. As we got older, my brothers and I began taking turns reading. For some reason, I assumed that we would stop doing this tradition because my mom was gone. It just didn’t seem right to do it without her. We continued reading, and it made me realize that she was still a part of Christmas, even if she wasn’t there physically.
The holidays are hard. I imagine they always will be to some extent, but the past couple of Christmases haven’t been as hard as the first one. Everyone in my family had a spot they went to to open presents Christmas morning, and looking over and seeing her spot empty for the first time was hard. Over the years, looking at that spot hasn’t been as difficult, because I have been blessed with friends and family who have made it less obvious to me that she isn’t there. That has helped me more than I could ever put words to.
The past couple Christmases, my family’s traditions have been changing. The way we celebrate now is different from how we have celebrated my whole life. I have had a hard time dealing with it, mostly because I felt that if we started doing things that we never did with my mom, we would essentially be kicking her out of Christmas. Looking back now, I realize how naive I was to think that, though I do still struggle sometimes with our changing traditions. However, I’ve realized that changing certain things about how we celebrate does not change the way I feel about the involvement of my mom in Christmas. As my brothers and I have grown up, we’ve changed, and the important people in our lives has changed. This means that things like traditions have to change to accommodate the new people we have brought into our lives. But that doesn’t mean that we need to lose things or people that brought us comfort in the past.
My mom will always be a part of my Christmas and other holiday celebrations. This is not because I am forcing myself to be stuck doing one tradition to keep her there or because I refuse to move on and feel the joy from being around others. This is an active choice I make each year. I want to remember the amazing woman who left me too soon, I want to continue being thankful for all the wonderful things and people she brought into my life, and I want to continue taking time each year to remember all the good holidays I had with her.
It is all too easy to sit around at the holidays and be sad for the people who are no longer sitting there with you. But I honestly believe that this is not how my mom would want me to spend my holidays, and I doubt your parent would want you to do the same. My suggestion? Remember the good times, be thankful for every memory you had the chance to make, and find ways to continue including them in your holidays.