How to Bring the Spirit of Lost Loved Ones Home for the Holidays
How to Heighten the Spiritual Presence of Lost Loved Ones
For people who have lost people they love, myself included, the holidays, in some measure, can be tough. Nothing would delight us more than to spend even a miniscule amount of time in the presence of those who have gone before us. I wish I could tell you that I have, in my possession, a magic snow globe, fairy dust, or a high-powered rocket that can break through the barriers of heaven—or a prayer that never fails to bring my loved ones home. As amazing as that would be, it’s simply not the case. However, by designating a time of day to rehash our memories and showcase the way they were, we can enhance the feeling that their spirits participate in some of the festivities with us.
Immediately after the loss of people we love, we need time to grieve. The length of time it takes to be able to hear or speak their names without weeping or feeling intense anxiety differs among each of us. Within the first year, emotions might be too unpredictable to shine a spotlight on the spirits of our loved ones. However, at some point, most people want chances to share their thoughts and memories. They want to hear the memories other people have of their loved ones. Not speaking their names doesn't keep them off our minds during the holidays or any other day. Why shouldn't we devote a portion of our holiday to bring their spirits home? Below are some ideas of ways to feel more connected to them.
Memories Bring Photos and Drawings to Life
In the days leading up to the holiday, gather (and print out, if necessary) photographs of your loved ones. Choose three or more to place in frames. Photographs taken while you were present or ones that depict an essence of character through action or facial expressions work wonders. Trim the frames with festive holiday articles or with personal items that belonged to the person or people you lost. Strategically place the photos throughout areas of the home where they might spend some time if they were there. For example, my mom spent much of Thanksgiving morning in the kitchen, therefore, I place a photo of her on my counter. Later in the evening, she rested on the far, right side of the couch, therefore, I place a photo near that end of my couch. If you have no photos of your loved ones, fear not. You can frame some of the pictures in my next exercise.
Angels Among Us
Start a New Holiday Tradition: Drawings and a Game to Include Lost Loved Ones
Who doesn’t love new holiday traditions? And, what better way to celebrate the people we lost than to attempt to capture the essence of their being? In this exercise, you’ll need an 8 X 10 sketch pad and a drawing pencil for each member who wants to participate. Construction paper and crayons would also do the trick. Don’t worry; nobody has to have Picasso credentials to make this work. Stick men or women will do just fine. Some people might want to make a game out of it. Throw every participant's name in a hat or bowl and include the name of the loved one. Have everyone draw a picture of the person whose name they pulled, either alone, with themselves, or with others. Ask a question or two such as what would this person do or say if (she stubbed her toe, a squirrel got in the house, you ate her last piece of pie, etc.) … ?”, and write these things on pieces of paper to place in a an additional hat or cup for each person to choose one from. After they choose, everyone draws a picture of person whose name they pulled with facial expressions and words said person might say. Save the drawings to display in the house or keep them as a memento. In addition, everybody could make a handmade ornament and write a word or a phrase that brings back a memory of the deceased person.
Sharing Memories of People We Love and Lost
Another thing that helps illuminate the spirit of people we love and lost is to share our favorite memories with each other. If you plan on making a fun game out of drawing the pictures, it might be better to have a little memory session beforehand. Sometimes while we share our memories, the extent of our loss hits us all over again. This might have people weeping and playing the game might help get everybody back into the spirit of the holiday and bring out some laughter and joy. If somebody in the party doesn’t have a memory and they want to participate, have them make one up. For example, you could say, “Gramma brought you to a carnival. What ride did you two go on?” Even though the memories aren’t real, the images they inspire help us feel a little more connected than if we have no images to refer to. This leads me to the number one thing I do to help bring my loved ones home for the holidays. I time travel.
Where the Magic Is
What is a memory, anyway? It is nothing less than a vehicle into the past - a way to time travel. The best way, I have found, to make my adventures feel as real as possible is to take some time to recall every little detail I can about a specific place in time. Photographs, sometimes, aid in this process. If you can reinvent an odor, like baking cookies or spraying perfume, that helps too. What I do is, I choose a memory from my past and match the time of day it occurred with the time of day I am experiencing in the present. For example, I have only one Thanksgiving morning I spent with my Mom and Dad that I remember pretty well. Therefore, I time travel or remember every detail I can about that morning before I get out of bed on Thanksgiving Day. Instead of simply remembering bits and pieces of the events that occurred, I imagine myself back in that moment and then I let the events unfold in the order that they originally did. The entire memory last approximately 5 minutes; however, all day long I feel like they played a part in my holiday.
Below is a link to an article I wrote in my column with The Times. The article tells about my experiences with the death of my mom, a dream I had that changed my whole outlook on death, and it tells about how much I lost by losing my mom, and then, my Thanksgiving morning time travelling adventure ensues in the last two paragraphs.
Prior to the dream, my anger toward God for taking my mom away soared; however, the dream made me come to an understanding that death is only the end of life as the living know it; it is not the end of life for the dead. They go on living in a much more beautiful place and the happiness and peace they feel is far greater than anything we experience on earth. I felt that God allowed me to grieve for six months because I needed to grieve for my loss and then he showed me my Mom's gain in a way or place that I might understand how much better eternal life is when people have good hearts, compassion, and consideration for others.
If I could go back to the period of time immediately following her death when many more good memories were so vivid in my mind, I would write down every little detail so my future self could have more time traveling visits with her.
© 2017 Helen Laxner