by Leslie Farin
People who lost their moms warned me how difficult it can be to get through the December holidays. And not just the first year. Their absence becomes more bearable as time passes, but the hole in my heart just doesn’t seem to go away. I wrote in an article a while back about my struggles with Mother’s Day, which I thought would be the most difficult holiday for me, but here I am again feeling overwhelmingly sad and weepy. Holidays without Mom are just not the same.
This holiday season will be my fourth without my mother-in-law, and my fifth without my mom. I was fortunate to have wonderful relationships with both of these fabulous women and miss being able to pick up the phone to chat about nothing and everything. We shared gift ideas, recipes, advice, and funny family stories. One of these special ladies was from the Bronx and the other from Brooklyn; no topic was off-limits. I love the expression “she never met a thought she didn’t share” as it applied in spades to both these women. Our almost daily conversations were honest, open, and supportive. Both said what was on their mind without hesitation or sugarcoating, but the unconditional love that accompanied these sometimes heated exchanges provided a safe haven difficult to duplicate in my other relationships.
Getting Through the Holidays by Taking Positive Action
My first impulse is to dread the holiday season. In fact, I managed to successfully avoid people and parties for the last few Decembers, choosing instead to spend quiet time alone or with just immediate family. I wanted this year to be different. Both my mother and mother-in-law loved a good party and I imagine would be disappointed to know I stopped participating in my previously active social life. My goal when the pandemic ends is to get back to being the person I was before they passed. It may take time, but I plan to take steps to ease my pain by incorporating special memories of them into celebrations every December.
Though loved ones pass, relationships live on. These two women I miss so dearly will always be a part of me. I plan to do my best to cope in ways I am told are helpful when trying to move on.
How to Manage Your First Christmas Without Mom
Is this your first Christmas without mom? If your family dynamics are like many others, Mom was the glue that held the family together. She coordinated and hosted the holidays, especially Christmas. So, the first one is generally the hardest, so be kind to yourself and allow yourself to grieve.
Who will take over the celebration duties? If you have siblings, it’s a good idea to divide the responsibilities so no one person is the nucleus. This way, you can lean on each other for support to get through the holiday. If it’s just your immediate family, involve them in the plans and assign them specific roles for the celebration.
You may want to celebrate Christmas the way Mom always did to maintain continuity. Do whatever you need to do to celebrate joyfully. Mom would want you to. Prepare some of her favorite Christmas recipes, share family photos or watch videos of past holidays, hang her beloved ornaments or sing the Christmas carols she loved most. Preserving Mom’s traditions can make you feel close to her and help you cope with your grief.
5 Ways to Feel Better When Missing Loved Ones During the Holidays
Here are a few suggestions that might help you feel better when missing your loved ones.
Continue family traditions!
Don’t quit your favorite family traditions to avoid pain. Whichever holiday you celebrate, choose one aspect you remember fondly that you can duplicate in your own life.
We had special traditions in both my family and my husband’s. One from my mom that I especially loved growing up was that we each lit candles in our own menorahs – all seven of us. The candles burned brightly in the menorahs carefully placed on the dining room table, so the flames were reflected in the window. With the lights off, we let the magic of the candlelight wash over us. My in-laws had a different, yet equally wonderful, tradition. Each year my mother-in-law hosted a latke contest with friends and family. We all looked forward each year to judging, then eating, the creative recipes brought to the party from near and far.
Share an anecdote or two with siblings or friends. It’s okay to tear up. It’s also okay to laugh when your memories are funny. Keep your loved ones alive and a part of your celebrations by telling their stories. My mom was an easily distracted driver who often scraped the side of the car when backing out of the garage, even after Dad built a new one with an extra wide door. One time she forgot to open the door altogether and drove straight through it. Though perhaps not particularly funny at the time, those stories always make me giggle now. And now that I’m a mother myself, I can understand how distracted one might get raising five children with only seven years between the youngest and oldest.
Donate time or money to a cause about which they were passionate.
These two women both were champions for the underdog, and I share many of their passions. It makes me happy to contribute time and money to some of their causes. What better way to carry out their legacy?
Take them off the pedestal.
If you tend to think about loved ones who passed as saints, as I do, make an effort to remember something they did that drove you crazy. Let them be human. Of course, it’s nice to focus on the positive, but that’s not completely who they were as people. We all have both positive and negative traits. You won’t miss them less and will probably feel closer to them if you don’t put them up on a pedestal. Don’t forget you are not perfect either, and those who knew you best were well aware that was the case – and loved you anyway.
Be kind to yourself.
Whether it’s your first holiday or your tenth without your beloved parent, know it will be difficult. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself if you need it. It’s okay to leave a party early or spend an entire day binging on a Netflix series if it makes you feel good. But don’t feel guilty about having fun. Just because you make the effort to enjoy the people currently in your life doesn’t mean you forgot about those who are not. Remind yourself often not to feel guilty moving on with your life. It’s important to do so and what they would want for you.
The New Normal When Celebrating Holidays Without Mom
Life changes forever when a loved one passes – that’s something over which we have no control. We can only control our response. Create loving, happy memories this holiday season, whichever holiday and however you choose to celebrate. Focus on those who love and support you and are with you right now. Each member of my immediate family will light all the candles in our own menorahs this year, which are already in place on the dining room table in front of a window. We may not have a big party with a latke competition, but we will joyfully make a variety of latkes using my mother-in-law’s favorite recipes. We plan to find meaningful volunteer opportunities in which to participate together. While we continue with some of our family traditions, we may also begin some new ones to pass on to the next generation.
Throughout the season, we plan to share stories via Zoom and celebrate how lucky we were to have our moms with us for as long as we did, knowing they are still with us in spirit.
What do you do to get through the holidays? Please help others by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.
How can I avoid feeling overwhelmed during the holidays without my mom’s support?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other family members or friends. Share your feelings and let them know what you might need during this time. It’s okay to lean on others for support.
Is it normal to feel guilty about enjoying the holidays without my mom?
It’s entirely normal to feel guilt or conflicting emotions when experiencing joy without a loved one. Remember that your mom would want you to find happiness and carry on with your life.
Why do holidays act as reminders of my mom’s absence?
Holidays are often associated with family gatherings and traditions, and your mom’s absence during these times can trigger memories and intensify feelings of loss and grief.
How can I navigate family dynamics during the holidays without my mom?
The absence of a mother can impact family dynamics differently for each member. Open communication, empathy, and understanding can help navigate potential conflicts and emotional distance during this time.
How can I support other family members who are also struggling with the absence of a mom during the holidays?
Offering a listening ear, validating their feelings, and understanding their emotions can provide support to other family members who are also grieving during the holidays.
Quotes to Help Convey Your Feelings at the Holidays
Losing a loved one, especially a mother, can be particularly challenging during the holidays. Here are some quotes that might resonate with how you fill if you are missing your mom during this special time:
“At the holidays, I miss my mom more than ever. Her love and warmth made this season truly magical.”
“The empty chair at the holiday table is a reminder of the love and joy my mom brought to our celebrations. I miss her dearly.”
“The holiday lights may shine brightly, but my heart feels a little dimmer without my mom here.”
“The holidays are a time for family, and the absence of my mom makes me cherish the memories we created even more.”
“Every holiday season, I’m reminded of the love my mom gave me. Her presence is missed, but her love still warms my heart.”
“Though my mom is no longer with us, her spirit lives on in the traditions and love she passed down. I miss her profoundly during the holidays.”
“The holiday season is a bittersweet time without my mom. I cherish the moments we shared and carry her love in my heart.”
“The holidays serve as a reminder of the beautiful moments I shared with my mom. I miss her more than words can express.”
“While my mom may not be here to celebrate with us, her love and spirit are always present during the holidays.”
“The holidays are a time for love, and the love my mom gave me continues to fill my heart, even in her absence.”