Home > Death, Family, Love > On your first Christmas without her

On your first Christmas without her

Last week I rummaged up one of my old driving compilation CDs. Most of the music on the disc was from 2009 and 2010, but there was at least one song a little older than that.

I choked up a little to the beginning notes of Melissa Etheridge’s “I Take You With Me.” I’d been introduced to the song by 1995’s Boys on the Side.

“This is a beautiful song,” I told my four-year-old son, “but it’s a little sad.”

“Why’s it sad?” he asked.

“Well, to me . . . it means that sometimes you get to be with the people you love in person, and sometimes you just have to know you carry them with you in your heart. You, for example, are always in my heart.”

“And you’re in mine!” he cheered.

“That’s right. Because we love each other so much now, little pieces of that love will be with us forever, so that we’re always together, even when our bodies are apart.”

I thought about that exchange after I dropped him off at preschool a few minutes later. This is my fourth Christmas without my mom. The first was especially brutal, as I thought about all the things my mom was missing that day and all the things she would miss forevermore.

On our first Christmas without her, one last Christmas tree at her house

On our first Christmas after she died, one last Christmas tree at her house

In the years since, it’s gotten easier for me to feel my mom is with me, even though I can’t call her on the phone. But this year, I remember that first year as I think of my friend Chris, who lost his mother earlier this year and is navigating his first Christmas without her.

I’m thinking of him, his mom, and his family, and sending both love and wishes for some joy this Christmas. Some will say, “She’s in heaven now” or “She’s no longer suffering” in an effort to bring him peace, but only time and feeling each and every feeling as it comes can bring that.

So instead of saying, “She is at peace,” I say to Chris:

May you eventually find the peace of knowing that you take her with you, and give her a light in this world as long as you are here.

May her memory be a blessing, as is your presence in my life.

If this is your first Christmas without someone you love, I hope you will find some sustenance in sweet memories, and in the prospect of many sweet memories yet to be made with those who remain.

  1. December 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Merry Christmas,

  2. December 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing your insights–you are accurate in your advice. This is the second Christmas without my mom–it is easier than last year, but not easy. I also appreciate the reminder about ME’s song–beautiful! Merry Christmas!

    • December 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      I genuinely thought this Christmas would roll around and I wouldn’t feel any pangs, but . . . I think there will always be a few here and there on days of shared significance for us. Knowing that and being OK with it feels so much kinder than when I tried telling myself I ought be over it already.

      I hope your Christmas was mostly merry!

  3. December 24, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    a reminder of how lucky i am. and a reminder to me to reach out to those who are facing Christmas without their loved ones.

    • December 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      I almost felt bad when I posted a surprise Christmas morning gift, because I wanted this to be my Christmas message. But that’s these holidays, isn’t it? Sweetness and light along with melancholy and missing. I’m glad for all of it, and thinking next year might be time to spend at least part of the day volunteering as my mom used to encourage.

  4. December 25, 2013 at 6:36 am

    I love you. I love that song also, have it on my IPod. I still miss my heart mother and my dad, I don’t think we get ‘over’ this but you have perfectly defined how our hearts change to encompass love.

    Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family.

    • December 25, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      So agreed about getting over it! I’d heard words like that before I lost my heart grandpa (to use your phrase) and my mom, but I didn’t understand how misguided they were until the last couple of years. It gets easier to feel how they continue, but the sense of missing . . . that never goes away. It’s powerful to think how deeply we touch each others’ lives.

  5. December 25, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    This is so sweet! I was just thinking of loved ones lost over the years just yesterday as My 5 year old and I were searching for a favorite recipe of my mother’s and came across an emailed recipe from a dear friend who lost her battle with breast cancer over a decade ago. She asked why I was crying because it was making her sad, so I explained how I missed my friend but how finding her note made it a little better. P.S. I’m so glad I stopped by after you visited my post! Now I know how old he is!

    • December 25, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      Aw! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I imagine conversations like these, and they always seem so awkward and difficult in the imagining. Then, when the time actually comes and the asker is there guiding the conversation, it flows so smoothly. Sometimes I have these moments where I fall back to how I was before I was a mom: There’s no way he could possibly get that! And then, in the conversation, I see the reality is different than the one I envisioned before. I love the reality, hard conversations and all. ♥

  6. December 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Much as I had to adopt the concept: “Don’t mourn the loss, remember the gifts”. I would have literally lost my mind if I’d given onto the utter depression – I’d done that once after my beloved dog-son died, and it took me over 2 years to shake it off and get back to life. So when my mom went, I did mourn for a bit, but then shifted to remembering all she had done for my family, and the ever-present love that always went with her.
    You never cease to amaze with your wisdom. I hope this Christmas brought you all the love and light you so richly deserve.

    • December 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      I love that saying, although it’s not one I encounter often. Even though it was hard to part, and then part again, I am grateful for all of the experiences. I carry the accumulated sensations of that with me through my days, and it is a sustaining thing. As, my friend, are your words. Thank you. I hope your Christmas was merry and that the new year is kind to you, as you also richly deserve.

  7. Jeffrey the Grumpy Dad
    December 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I “lost” my family in a different way many years ago. It can be a very hard time of year. Hand in there new friend.

    • December 28, 2013 at 7:38 am

      Each year has been a little more easily navigated, thankfully! Thanks for your kind thoughts.

  8. Kelly
    December 28, 2013 at 3:08 am

    Thank you for this pst and these words. I just lost my Dad two weeks before Christmas. I was with him when he passed away, and although so deeply sad, it was the greatest gift I could have received and given, to be with him in that moment, him knowing he was not alone. Forever I will miss him, but many pieces of light and love will remain in my heart forever.

    • December 28, 2013 at 7:40 am

      I was with my mom until a few days before she passed away. I wish I could have been there with her, but there’s something so healing in reading your words . . . and imagining. I am glad you were there, and glad for these moving words. Thank you for filling my heart this morning.

  9. December 29, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Anniversaries – for good or sad events – help us make time to reflect on what has changed and what has stayed the same. I’m very sorry for the loss of your mom but am glad the Christmas season allows you to revisit your love for her in a special way.

    • January 1, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Thank you. I love to think of how memories of her are in these moments I make with son, and how memories of me will be woven into those he makes with his own children.

  10. Eyele-pigeon
    January 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Last Christmas was the 11th without my mum & I still miss her. She was my best friend. I started a tradition with my son 2012 Christmas. A large portrait of my mum sits by our Christmas tree so we share Christmas with her. I feel she is with us. I enjoy our Christmas dinners now & laugh more because my son offers ‘grandma’ some cake sometimes. Bless his heart.

    • January 12, 2014 at 8:21 am

      That is so, so sweet.

      I thought of bringing a picture of mom to my October wedding, but it was one of the many things that did not end up happening on our timelines. Still, I felt her in the sunlight, the breeze, the leaves illuminated as they drifted earthward, in my godmother’s loving smile. Just remembering it fills me with the sense of her. Mmm.

  11. December 13, 2014 at 7:24 am

    This is beautiful.

  12. December 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    It is always easier with time. Sorry about your Mom.
    My youngest brother and two half sisters are still alive. I do have nieces and nephews alive.

  1. October 30, 2014 at 10:42 am
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