With loved ones on our minds more than ever at this time of year, everyone has different ways of making sure that those who are no longer with us remain part of our Christmas rituals and traditions.
Along with the baubles, tinsel, carols and crackers, Christmas is also all about memories; our thoughts packed with vignettes of those we love and those we’ve lost.
On the one hand, there is the pain of grief and acknowledging those who are no longer by our side. On the other, there are the new rituals we create to keep their memory alive, whether that’s placing a remembrance decoration on the Christmas tree, raising a glass of bubbly, lighting a candle on Christmas Eve or something unique that reflects the person we knew.
Maria Bailey, who lost her mother just before Christmas last year, says: “The first cookery book my mum bought me was Mrs Beeton's Family Cookbook and, that Christmas, I made Mrs Beeton's mince pies, which she loved. I still have the book and I'm still using that recipe now. Dusting it off makes me think of her straight away and smile.
“Last Christmas Day, I wore her favourite bright red Christmas jumper, which was like wearing a hug from mum. On Christmas Day, the day after her funeral, we all raised a glass. This year, two of my children have put her tree and decorations up in their bedrooms, which is a lovely nod to her.”
Others have found their own way to remember:
Hayley says: “When I was 13 my mam died two days before Christmas. It will always be a difficult time of year for me, but I make sure I do what I can to remember her: a glass of wine, a candle and I ask friends and family for their favourite memories of her.”
Ceri remembers: “I gave my Grandma shortbread from Liberty every year for Christmas, and this year – my first Christmas without her – I'm still going to buy it for her. It’s a small tradition that we both loved, and feels like a nice way to keep her memory alive.”
Alice says: “We have a star on the tree for my mum and put Christmas flowers on her grave.”
Joey explains: “We have a memorial candle that we light on Christmas day next to a photo of my dad, and this year we have a brand new decoration, which goes outside, with a large bauble saying ‘best dad ever!’”
Jason remembers: “The Christmas after my brother died, I went outside in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep, looked up a the stars, breathed slowly, smiled, wailed quietly and thought of him.”
Lorna says: “I remember my mum and dad by attempting to make the food just like they did. My trifle will never beat my mum’s though.”
It’s not all about how you remember, of course, but rather about not forgetting. Maria, who is the founder of the collective, Grief Specialists, has this advice:
- Don't shy away from talking about the person who died and sharing past Christmas memories. Others are probably thinking of them too and may welcome the chance to talk.
- Going for a Christmas or Boxing Day walk where you can share memories is also helpful. Being in the fresh air can help you be in the present moment, especially if you or your family are finding Christmas overwhelming.
- You may find comfort from laying flowers on their grave, or going to a special place to remember them.
- Light a candle or raise a glass when you sit down for your Christmas meal. Some find it a comfort to lay a place at the table.