Making Christmas Merry After A Death

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I’ll be honest with you: I have a hard time when it comes to Christmas. I don’t mean to sound like the Grinch every year, but I sometimes really struggle with this so-called “most wonderful time of the year.”

I didn’t always see the holidays this way. I have great memories of Christmas from when I was a kid, especially of the holidays with my dad. Christmas was always my dad’s favorite holiday when I was growing up. He loved everything about the season: the cheesy music, the parties, the presents. It’s actually kind of funny that he was so into Christmas, considering he was Muslim and didn’t even celebrate the holiday until after he married my mom.

Nevertheless, it was my dad’s enthusiasm and unique take on the traditions that made the holidays special for my family.

Our last Christmas with my him, though, was in 2003 when I was a Freshman in high school. He died of a sudden heart attack just a few days after Christmas on January 4, 2004. In a way I’m grateful that my last memories with my dad are all happy holidays ones. However, Christmas doesn’t seem to be the same without him.

In the years after my dad’s death, my family did what we could to celebrate the holidays, but it was incredibly hard. A couple years we left town over Christmas break so that we didn’t have to face all the difficult memories at home. Christmas became something that my family struggled just to get through every year, and from my teen years up through college, I was always so relieved when the season was finally over.

This was really hard for my husband Thomas to accept when we started dating, because he loves Christmas. His birthday is in December as well, so the holidays are generally a really fun and special time for him. In our first few years together, Thomas would put in a lot of effort into trying to make Christmas enjoyable for me.

However, I would still say the same things to him about it, such as “I hate Christmas,” or “I wish we could just skip this time of year altogether.” Without realizing it, my negativity about the holidays made him feel like he was doing something wrong. He wanted so badly for me to enjoy the Christmas season as much as he did, but nothing he tried seemed to work.

Thomas finally confronted me about this the Christmas right before we got engaged. While I tried to explain to him that my difficulty around the holidays had nothing to do with him, he argued that it did, because my bad attitude was ultimately ruining the season for him too.

Although he knew that there was nothing he could do to erase the memories and heartbreak that I have associated with this time of year, he insisted that we needed to find a way to move forward from the past together. I could see that he had a point, and as a couple ready to start a new life together, the Christmas season couldn’t just be about the things that we remembered from when we were kids. It was time for us to make some new happy Christmas memories for ourselves.

Truth be told, Thomas and I are still in the process of figuring out how to do this. We’ve been away from our families on the mainland for the last several years, so we’ve had some space to start developing our own traditions. I’m pretty die-hard about my family’s tradition of not decorating our tree until Christmas Eve, and stocking stuffers are a really big deal in Thomas’s family, so we’ve adopted both traditions for ourselves. Some of other holiday practices have come and gone for us, but we are working on it. Each year so far has been different and it continues to get better.

Being with Thomas has given me the opportunity to press reset on some of my sad memories and bad attitudes about the holidays. Although I doubt that this will ever be my favorite time of year, I’m definitely not a Scrooge any more. This year I am truly looking forward to celebrating the holidays with my husband. With a bit of work and a lot of love, Christmas is slowly, but surely becoming special season for me again.

Photography: Flickr/ Shepherds 10

Sofia

lives in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Although she soaks in every ounce of sunshine and Aloha on the Big Island, she will always be a Washington State girl at heart. Sofia loves singing, hiking, coffee, Netflix, and being an auntie to all of her friends' super cute babies. She joined I Believe In Love because she is crazy in love with her husband, Thomas, and believes that true love and good relationships are worth fighting for.
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1 Comment

  • Hey, thanks for this. My husband and I are involved in leadership in a church and were just talking about how, at least in our situation, the church needs to put more energy and thought into helping people who have faced loss process through and deal with the holidays. It can be an incredibly painful time for so many. I’m also a family doctor and have seen over and over how this time of year brings out so much depression and heartache. To say we are celebrating this time of year well I think we need to be intentional about how we are helping others who are hurting to celebrate it as well.

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