We look forward to the traditions and rituals that the family has developed over the years, creating its own mini-culture that may look, on the surface, like that of the neighbours but is so preciously unique to our little corner of the world. We love to light the lights and deck the halls; select that special gift for each who will be gathering around the tree; and shop for the turkey and all its trimmings. Hectic but fun!
If we have lost dearest loved ones, however, our feelings can be quite mixed at this time of year – on the one hand we have great joy for yet another season of celebration of the here and now, on the other there can be a deep ache in the heart for those who will be missing from the Christmas table. Our grief, which may have been somewhat at bay for much of the year, can swell up again at Christmastime as we are faced with a stark reminder that a loved one is not sharing this year’s festivities with us. Indeed, if this is the first Christmas without that cherished person, the holiday season can be an emotional roller-coaster ride.
To help ourselves through our grief, many of us develop new rituals and traditions to honour and celebrate the life of those in the family who have passed on. We might display that worn reindeer that Dad carved for us so many years ago; hang the special Christmas ornament that Aunt Sally gave us the Christmas before she passed away; bring out Mama’s favourite platter to hold the turkey; or raise a glass to our friend Bobby who was like a brother to us all. Or we might simply light a candle on the mantel for each member of the family who has left us or say a prayer of thanks for the richness of the life that was shared with us. However we choose to remember a loved one, it is an act of reflection, full of gratitude and grace. It can bring great comfort to the soul.
Each Christmas season, the Alberni Valley Hospice Society’s “Celebrate a Life” tree offers an opportunity for the citizens of the Alberni Valley to take a moment of refection to honour the memory of loved ones who have passed on. Each individual snowflake hung on the tree, carrying its message of love and remembrance, is a tribute to the unique soul who is held so close in someone’s heart. We also offer brochures with suggestion for other practical and creative self-care alternatives that may help you through this period of bereavement.