Was Christmas PAST awesome? Is grief making Christmas PRESENT sad? What will Christmas FUTURE be like? Yes, pretty common questions for those of us who have lost loved ones. The holidays are often difficult to get through. For me, it’s like this: CHRISTMAS PAST: When I think of what Christmas used to be like… my first husband and I with our two boys, excited about the holiday, going together to cut down a fresh Christmas tree. Then we’d come home, set it up and decorate it together, with holiday music in the background. I’d make Christmas cookies every year with the boys. There would be parties to attend, lots of shopping, wrapping and decorating. Hard work but fun together in the season, even with snow! Our third and youngest son was stillborn just before Thanksgiving. We’d just moved into a new house in a new state and that holiday season was very difficult. But we did everything as close to usual for my two older boys, who were ages four and six at the time. We remembered Robbie each subsequent Christmas with a decorated grave blanket that we made together as a family, with cuttings from our live pine trees. In time, the holidays got back to normal while raising the boys. Then my 21-year-old son Brent died and his 19-year-old brother Brad became our only child. Brent was engaged and the hopes we had for our lovely soon-to-be daughter-in-law and their children, our grandchildren, shattered. That next Christmas was unbelievably painful. We decided to put up a tree, to try to keep things as normal as possible for Brad, and went to cut it down, but it was not the same. Then there was a very bad winter storm and we lost power and heat. The three of us slept on cushions in front of our only fireplace, in the dark. Every so often, one of us would not be able to hold back the tears. It was awful. At that time, I doubted that I’d ever enjoy another holiday. CHRISTMAS PRESENT: Since then, my first husband and I split, Brad finished college,became a chef, moved out, got a house and got engaged. I got remarried and gained 3 adult step-children. My step-daughter has a life partner and my step-son got married, so we gained a daughter-in-law. But none of them want to cut down a live tree and set it up! So now, I have an already-cut tree delivered and my current husband and girlfriends help me decorate it. On Christmas Eve, Brad and I and his fiancee have lunch out together, get Christmas plants to put on Brent & Robbie’s graves, then come home and cook together for a big family gathering that evening. If we are lucky, some of our adult children are around for Christmas dinner (as they also have obligations with their other families). It is different. I miss not having Brent here with what might have been his family, but I am very grateful for my blended growing family, the love we share and my belief that Brent is with me in spirit. CHRISTMAS FUTURE: Who knows? My siblings have now retired and are often down south for the holidays, we live north of Boston. My son is scheduled to get married this summer and thankfully, we are like extended family with his fiancee’s family. Hopefully my remaining step-son will find a life partner as well. Then ideally, our children will have children, giving us grandchildren! Then, Christmas will be truly EXCITING again! I can HOPE! In any case, most of these changes might have happened even if my sons hadn’t died, but it did have an undeniable lasting impact. I will think of them every holiday (not just on holidays, of course) and wish they were here physically. But after much research and many signs, I trust they are happy and still with me in spirit — and I can live with that. I hope you can too. Your loved ones are with you in spirit also. BELIEVE! Comment & share YOUR thoughts & experiences with holidays and grief. Wishing you a Christmas PRESENT and FUTURE that is healing, loving and keeps getting better. Supporting you on your journey to a new normal. Schedule a complimentary 30-minute conversation HERE. Barbara J Hopkinson, President & Exec Dir., A Butterfly’s Journey… To A New Normal PS. Please SHARE this blog with other grievers. Thank You.