My family is in NJ today celebrating the life of my great-uncle, Al. Those who knew Uncle Al would undoubtedly agree that he was one of the most kind, compassionate, and generous men ever to touch this planet. He was a loving, devoted husband to my great-aunt Kathleen (they celebrated 63 years of marriage in October), a thoughtful big brother, wonderful uncle, admiring father and doting grandfather. In many ways he was a second grandfather to me and my brother from afar. He will be greatly missed by so many.
I will carry fond memories of our visits with Uncle Al in my heart forever. His passing has left me thinking about finding reasons to celebrate even in times of sadness and grief. Today, my mom and uncle will reunite with their cousins who they ran between backyards with as kids. The church will be overflowing with love and memories of good times shared. The feeling of loss will be great, but the feeling of love will be even greater. They will celebrate Unlce Al's life.
The days leading up to the holidays will be particularly difficult for my extended family. They will be full of reminders of his loss and examples of things Uncle Al can no longer enjoy in the physical world. Here are some of my thoughts on finding joy even in the saddest moments:
1. Surround yourself with friends and family. You may want to retreat and this is perfectly acceptable -- everyone handles grief differently -- but I encourage you to surround yourself with the ones you love. Those who know you best are going to understand how you are feeling and they want to be there for you. Let them in.
2. Be compassionate and take care of yourself. Allow yourself to feel sad. Give yourself permission to grieve. If it means you stay under the covers until noon, that's OK. Take some time to think about the little things that make you happy -- maybe it's crafting, or knitting, or watching a funny movie, or taking a walk with a neighbor or friend, or even taking a warm bubble bath -- whatever it is, begin to include these nuggets of happiness into you daily routine.
3. Find ways to remember and celebrate those who have passed. Acknowledge your loved one through prayer. Reminisce about things he or she enjoyed most about the holidays; did he have a favorite song, meal, or tradition? Listen to his favorite holiday music, prepare her favorite meal with love, and carry on that tradition with your loved one in mind. Acknowledging and honoring your loved one will invite his or her spirit to be with you in those moments. And, lastly, tell stories, share silly antics, and goofy moments you remember about your loved ones. It will keep their memories alive.
May the spirit of your loved ones be with you this season and may the memories of your time together bring you comfort and peace.
With love, P