For many people, this is not the “hap hap happiest time of the year.” They may hang a decoration or two, maybe even wish you holiday cheer; but underneath it all is lingering grief. 2014 was a difficult year. We said goodbye to grandma, my friend’s sons lost their father, and my childhood friend lost her child to cancer.
I think as outsiders we feel helpless to easing their pain because really, we can’t. So maybe this year we try to do a little more: dropping off holiday cookies, running errands, offering a shoulder to lean on. We know that this first holiday without them- quite frankly- sucks.
What we often forget, though, is that second year.
I was a kid when my dad died. I remember that first Christmas felt like everything was just going through the motions. No amount of gifts, eggnog, or caroling was going to bring back what I most wanted. But we replicated the scene: the same trees, favorite cookies…the stage was the same except for the empty chair.
By the second Christmas, though, nothing was the same. Our lives had continued. We’d moved. I was a teenager. We realized some of the old traditions weren’t our favorites, and we were creating new ones. I felt caught between yesterday and tomorrow, and no one else was dropping off extra cookies, or acknowledging the empty chair we still saw.
Whether this is someone’s first year or 40th year without their loved one, they still remember that empty chair.
Sometimes, though, an extra “we’re thinking of you,” a favorite photo, or a shared story can make that chair feel a little less empty knowing that memories continue in other’s hearts as well.
Empty Chair photo credit.