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Old 12-23-2004, 10:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The First Christmas After a Death

“The Christmas cards,” one of the women in the group said, and all the heads nodded slowly.

We had come together to talk about how to get through a Christmas after suffering the death of a loved one. Many in the group were widows, but not all. Children and parents had also died.

The brochure had said “the first Christmas after,” but some of us read it differently. One woman who was there had lost her husband 8 years before. Grief knows no time frame.

“Christmas cards,” I thought, and my stomach turned to lead.

I remembered the first Christmas after my son had died. ‘What happened this year,’ that’s what you always write about. What happened this year is Chet died.

I had always had a photo Christmas card of me and the kids.

There were no Christmas cards that year.

The woman sitting in front of me turned and whispered, “My poor mother. Can you imagine what it will be like to not sign ‘Martha and Fred’?”

I couldn’t imagine.

“How many years?” I asked.

“40,” she replied.

How do you get through that first Christmas (or whichever one it is)? It’s an ordeal. The colors seem garish, the sounds, nerve-wracking, and the people, sometimes like clowns. You walk under a different Star of Bethlehem.

The leader kept trying to get us to suggest areas of concern, but what we did was talk about our loved ones. You love to hear their name, you know? And to speak it. We heard the names, and then asked one another about “Fred,” and “Tina,” and “Dad,” and there were tears and grins.

Some things that can be said about that first Christmas (or whichever one it is) follow. I don’t know that they’ll help, unless information and understanding help, but here they are:

1. When we grieve we have no energy.

Decisions are hard to make, the smallest chore seems monumental, ordinarily joyous things are not, things that used to bother you don’t bother you any more, you don’t defend yourself well, to pretend takes too much effort, and you need lots of rest.

“She is seeking the solace of sleep,” my sister would tell people who called.

Nothing matters. The oven goes out, dinner has to be canceled and you have to reconvene in a restaurant. You wonder why something like that would upset the others so much.

2. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Do what you know you should do. Think of a time when it mattered, if necessary – supplements, eating right, rest, talking to someone, keeping your obligations manageable, getting exercise.

Your immune system will be shot. Outsource it. Therapy and support groups bolster your immune system.

3. You can cancel Christmas if you want to.

Sleep, take a walk, or study something intellectual to get your mind off emotional things.

4. You can also change the venue.

One woman took her grown kids downtown to a hotel and they celebrated there.

5. People want to help you and they don’t know how.

Nothing will really help. You just want them back. But let others “do something”. If they ask and you can’t think of anything, ask them to “do something”. They’ll figure it out. Everyone knows houses must be cleaned, dogs walked, groceries bought, and meals prepared.

6. Alcohol doesn’t help anything.

7. Explain what you need.

One woman in the group told us how much she had wanted to have the gathering at her home as usual the first year after her husband’s death, but they wouldn’t let her. Another woman told us how much she didn’t want to have it at her house. How can others know? Tell them.

Say, “If I get up and leave the table, just let me go. I’ll be OK. I’ll come back when I’m ready.”

Half the women there who’d lost husbands wanted to be called a “widow.” The other half hated the word. If someone has to guess, they can guess wrong, so speak out as best you can.

8. You might get some relief helping others – serving dinner to the homeless, or buying gifts for a family in need.

Then again you might not, but at least you’ll have killed some time.

9. What will you do with their Christmas stocking?

One woman set out her husband’s Christmas stocking with a journal beside it for visitors to write in it. Another woman slept with her daughter’s stocking under her pillow.

10. Avoid malls.

You see things you would buy for the one who is gone, you see the happy couples when you are no longer a couple, you see the cherubic face of a little boy who looks like the one you lost.

You hear the music. Even a little is too much. Remember you can turn the radio and television off.

In the words of a caring friend of mine, “Have a Christmas.” You may be hard put to supply the adjective, and that’s okay. If you choose to observe the day, “Have a Christmas,” and understand that those who slip and tell you, “Well, I hope you have a Merry Christmas,” don’t know what they’re saying.

The “firsts” are difficult – the first anniversary, the first birthday, the first Valentine’s Day, the first fall, summer, spring and winter.

“How odd,” you may think, when the first snow falls in the first winter after, or when the first daffodil blooms in the first spring after. “How odd that’s the same when the most important things are not.”

Prescriptions and predictions are annoying. Time does heal many people and it becomes less raw with time; however, if that time does come, it comes at its own pace. Be forgiving of yourself and others, and, well, have a Christmas. Or don’t. One way or another that particular day will pass and you will have survived your first Christmas without them.

Together our group had a holiday memorial to our loved ones, lighting the 4 candles in the Advent wreath. No one knows who wrote the prayer, but here it is:


As we light these 4 candles in honor of you, we light one for our grief, one for our courage, one for our memories, and one for our love.

This candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

This candle represents our courage – to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to change our lives.

This candle is in your memory – the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, the caring and joy you gave us.

This candle is the light of love. As we enter this holiday season day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us. We love you.

And then you can say their name.


"When we live and let live, we don't need to criticize, judge, or condemn others. We have no need to control them or try and make them conform to our way of thinking.

We let others live their own lives and we live ours.

Last edited by deedee; 12-10-2007 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 12-27-2004, 04:19 PM   #2 (permalink)

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Thank you for this.

My dad died on Christmas morning. My little girls voice calling "Pop the decals are sliding off". I heard my mom's voice calling his name once, twice, and I knew the third time.

He had only retired six months before. Served his city for thirty-five years. Relished the every moment he had with his "Babe" my little girl. The trips to dance school, the plays, the amusement park, her chauffer to school. She'd run to him from the schoolyard, and he'd swing her while she shrieked. EVERYDAY! He was her world, and she his.

He'd just come back from his walk. He was healthy, and active. As he died in front of our eyes....the Barbie Mobile under his feet.....decals helter skelter...I said to the dispatcher of the ambulance "My dad is dead". The strong EMT's from the fire department cried. Big tears. I can't look at those toys under the tree I heard one whisper. My mom followed the stretcher out, and I called my siblings screaming into the phone. It's Christmas one of them said. How will we do this?

This was the fourth without my daddy. Mom was a little angry when I put the lawn ornaments out. Angry at who? I'm not sure. She insisted we have a tree the first year after his death. Daddy would have wanted that....these kids need a tree. This year she wanted a new "crappy" tree. A wire one. She mellowed on her own. We just let her go. The kids! They deserve presents. We have to eat. Eventually she has settled in. Although when we all got together inadvertently someone would well up.

When I wondered out loud the day after my dad died how'd we ever have Christmas again. My mom said "Just like we had an Easter for when Grandpop got murdered". Two holidays my mom still gets through.
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Old 12-27-2004, 04:22 PM   #3 (permalink)

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One of the hardest things for my Mom, after my Dad died, was signing any kind of greeting card. Just writing her own name, and not both of their names.
Suddenly, she was a "me" instead of a "we".
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Old 12-11-2005, 02:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Just bumping this up for anyone else who needs to read it.

I really like the idea of lighting four candles, as a way to include him in our family gathering on Christmas Eve.

~ While the light lasts I shall remember
and in the darkness I shall not forget ~
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Old 12-11-2005, 03:27 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I needed this.

Thank you.
No matter how spoiled the past may be, our future is spotless....

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Old 12-11-2005, 07:11 PM   #6 (permalink)
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thanks for bumping this one - 1st Christmas after hubby passed. Still feeling many feelings at this time since it was such a short time ago. the lighting of the candles is a wonderful idea!

Learn to write your hurts in sand. Learn to carve your blessings in stone! - Unknown
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Old 12-11-2005, 07:17 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you deedee...

I love the candle memorial. Thanks again to MG...I miss her so.
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Old 12-11-2005, 08:31 PM   #8 (permalink)

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I think the what makes my first Christmas so hard is what I feel the rest of the family expects. Without my son (Keith) I would rather just pass on it this year, but Ikeep hearing that for my daughter and the other family members I will need to be strong. I get the feeling that they are afraid that I am going to ruin Christmas by being so sad. I feel like they think I should fake it for everyone else. I don't want to ruin the day, but it was Keith's favorite holiday and it is the first. I really don't know what to expect, I do know that I am really worried about going through it. I know it should be a day to thank the lord for giving my don eternal life and to to celebrate Jesus's birth day. But I cannot let go of the true feelings inside or change them.

Does anyone else feel this way about their families? I know they also loved him very much and they could be surprised how it takes away from there joy, but for them it is different their children are there. I am going to do the candle lighting cermony, I need it and I need to include Keith.

Bonnie Jean
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Old 12-11-2005, 08:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I know Wolf - I miss her too.

~ While the light lasts I shall remember
and in the darkness I shall not forget ~

Last edited by deedee; 12-10-2007 at 04:57 PM.
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Old 12-06-2008, 10:57 AM   #10 (permalink)

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Thank You soo much for this. I have been thinking about the loss of my father and have been very concerned about my mother and all the firsts she will be experiencing after 56 years of marriage, especially this first Christmas. Lighting the four candles may not be something she would do but is certainly something I can do.
"...the process of discovering who I really am begins with knowing who I really don't want to be ."
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:28 PM   #11 (permalink)

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Thumbs up loss

hi ya...
new to this website & just browsing around at the minute...
this thread caught my eye...
i lost my best mate November last year... he was my dad...
i have been clean for a while and it just devastated me... i spent xmas with my family last year the first year without my dad...
it was awefull...
i am the only son & this year i did not go to see my family...
i will see them in the new year!!!
i remain clean & sober!!! theres this big part of me missing... a lot of people would of picked up had this happened to them...
some people pick up over an arguement in a relationship... or just an arguement...
my point is HAVE YOU HAD ENOUGH???
thanx for letting me share
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Old 01-02-2009, 07:34 AM   #12 (permalink)
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A prayer for all of us and our loved one's who can't be with us except in spirit may we all find the strength we need and continue as they would have wished.
When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself." Namasté
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Old 01-02-2009, 11:10 PM   #13 (permalink)

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I lost my Dad two Novembers ago and he passed a week prior to my b-day. Things have been rough since. Up until half a year ago I was hitting the bottle pretty hard, and not letting the feelings about his death really come through. I haven't been completely sober since then, but I have made good strides towards it. During my periods of sobriety the feelings have come crashing through, and I let them in rather than picking up, but it is hard to acknowledge what happened.

Now when I think about my Dad, I say to myself "you are feeling this way, because he would want you to be sober in the end".
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Old 01-14-2009, 04:15 PM   #14 (permalink)
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This post really touched me because I lost my little brother to meth, schizophrenia and a loaded gun a few weeks before Christmas. (December 12, 2008) We celebrated Christmas for the little ones and got through it with just enough strength so the kids wouldn't have a ruined holiday. (my sister has three kids, ages 6, 2 and 1). Most of us in my family would have just ditched Christmas altogether if it weren't for the babies. The holidays and birthdays are the hardest after we've lost someone. I believe that those we've lost are waiting for us in Heaven and we will see them someday.

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Old 07-01-2009, 07:01 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I too lost my fiance 2 years ago. this song is how I feel. It has to do with christmas and our fallen ones.

YouTube - Rick Springfield - Christmas With You
I always liked superman... his reaction is the way I feel.
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Old 08-02-2009, 09:31 PM   #16 (permalink)
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This is an amazing thread. I lost my hubby of 17yrs in early March. In the first four months we went thru a lot of firsts. Easter, mothers day, fathers day, my 17yr old daughters birthday and my birthday. These have all been so hard. I'm hoping that this year the calendar will jump from October to January...I sure wish that were possible. Hubby always made the holidays and special occasions so wonderful. Thankfully I will always have my memories of all the ones we did get to share.
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Old 08-04-2009, 06:22 AM   #17 (permalink)

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The first Christmas without my son Joey came only 3 1/2 months after he died. This was last year, 2008. I was in a daze, unable to do anything. Since Joey loved Christmas trees so much, I did manage to buy a little tree and let my grandchildren decorate it in his memory. We had always had a big celebration at our house on Christmas Eve, but last year we went to my daughter's house instead.

When Christmas comes this year, it will be 15 months after his death. I hope I can have Christmas Eve at my house again. It will never be the same, but now I feel that Joey would want us to go on like always, and I feel he will be there with us in spirit. I pray for the energy and courage to celebrate Christmas once again.

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Old 10-01-2009, 12:24 AM   #18 (permalink)

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Thank you

This is just what I needed! My Mom died in April 2009, and I am having a tough time. I've relapsed, and am ready for God's comfort and have relinquished the lies...a work in progress.

Blessings to you,
Cole (new today)
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Old 10-01-2009, 12:31 AM   #19 (permalink)

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My Mom died this past April 2009, and I relapsed pretty hard; it is refreshing to hear about others with similar messes to recover from! Before I started drinking again, the grief was suffocating me: I felt like "there was a little monkey sitting on my shoulder sucking all the air out of my bubble." Drinking seemed to help at first, but it is a lie that leads to disaster. I am back to seeking God, thankfully. Blessings to you - Cole.
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Old 11-30-2011, 02:42 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Thanks to each of you for sharing your stories -

I know it will help me get thru this holiday season without my Dad.
PINK HUGS to all,
"Never let me imagine that my satisfaction with life depends on what someone else may do." ODAT in Al-Anon pg 234

PINK isn't just a color ~ it's my favorite attitude!
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