Yesterday I went to the local home improvement store to get some items for my front yard to make it not look so dreary as autumn sets in and robs nature of its color for a few months. I don’t know why I was surprised, but the store was already full of holiday decorations. I stopped in front of these beautiful sparkling light displays, and it happened… A feeling always sets in this time of year that is hard to describe and hard for many to understand. It is dread. I dread the holidays, and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment during what should be a joyous time of the year.

My mother absolutely LOVED the holidays. She was always excited to decorate their house at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every time I see Christmas decorations, it makes me think of her, and how her joy isn’t around anymore to fill a house physically and emotionally. I want to buy everything to start decorating and be like her, but I can never bring myself to make a purchase. I have two or three rolls of wrapping paper that she bought the year before she died, and I can’t get myself to use the wrapping paper each year as I wrap gifts.

The holidays can be an extremely hard time for people who are grieving. There is a new empty seat at the table where family would gather. Some homes will choose not to acknowledge or talk about it, but it will remain the white elephant in the room, while others will find a way to honor that individual.

Here at Bridges, we start the season with a beautiful candlelight ceremony here in Charleston. The event is open to the public and is in its 30th year. We spend a little time together with music, poetry, and each other. There are luminaries that honor our lost loved ones that surround the small lake in the park. We light candles, we grieve, we hope.

There is very little that any event can do to make the pain of grief go away, especially around this time of year. But, it’s another way we can honor our loved ones and also remember that we are all not alone in our struggle.

In our in-school grief support groups, we will encourage the youth we work with to do something with their families to honor their loved one. Whether that’s making something together, having an empty seat there for them, or even just talking about the individual–we want to be sure it doesn’t become a taboo topic and that the family can talk about the loss openly.

An idea someone had not too long ago, for me, was to take the wrapping paper, cut some of it up and frame it to use as holiday decorations in the future and also a way to remember my mother. I may have to try that this year and even may try to start buying some decorations as a way to honor her memory this difficult season.

For more coping tips while grieving during the holidays, check out What’s Your Grief’s List.

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If you are in the Charleston area, we would love to invite you to our Community Candlelight Memorial Ceremony on November 18th at 5:30PM at Hampton Park in Charleston, SC. You can find more information on the event and reserving a luminary here.