If someone important in your life has passed away this year and this is your first Christmas without them it’s a great idea to do a little planning beforehand to make the day go a bit smoother for everyone. My first Christmas without Mom we didn’t have a plan like I’m about to suggest to you. I didn't even want to put up a tree that year. I did and once it was up I will admit, it did feel more like Christmas time.
Looking back I see that having planned something like this would have helped us include mom in the day and allowed us to actually enjoy the company of everyone who was still there, instead of having the pain eclipse the day.
Consciously create some space in your Christmas day for the person who has died. Take some time where you all share a story about them, and toast them. Make this particular time for them and for sharing some of the things that touched you about them. This particular piece of time is not the time to be sharing pain. Not to say you can’t do that on the day but this very particular time is about remembering and connecting to them.
Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour – let the family know you plan to do this and set the time of day.
The reason to make this particular time just for your person who has died (or people in some cases) is so you can feel like they have been included in the day and you have all had a chance to remember and connect to them. It’s important not to just try and block them out, which is what we do when it hurts too much, but which usually means that the reverse happens – they (or rather the pain related to them) takes over, as it can end up casting a shadow over the whole day. Which you could be pretty sure they wouldn’t want to be responsible for.
And it’s also important to take that special time for them, so that some of the day can also be about you and the other people you love too. One person (or the death of one person) shouldn’t be the only important thing on Christmas day. This is also an opportunity to appreciate those who you do have around you still and share your love and gratitude for them as well (in whatever way that looks like for you). Creating this little space for your person who has died means you can also create space to focus on the other people you love too.
If you want to you might also have a nice picture of them there with you at the table or close by. I would suggest you not put their picture on an empty chair though. Creating a space where they ‘should’ be is to create a little black hole that might upset you when you look at it and suck any potential joy and love of the day in to it. And surely that is not the way anyone would want to be remembered. They wouldn’t want to participate in your Christmas in that way – as an empty space.
Give yourself and your family permission to take the time to enjoy memories of them. And also give yourself permission to enjoy and appreciate the company of those who are still physically here with you.