Rediscovering my Christmas spirit (Advent Calendar, Day 16)

Renee Rose, known to many of us as both a blogger and author, asked to host a surprise day this year. I agreed, and immediately I proposed a topic to her:

Would you like to honor your mama?

Renee brought her mama home last year to care for her, and they had one last Christmas together. Since then, life has brought many changes. The problem with funerals and memorial services is that they happen too soon, before the shock wears off and long before the real grieving begins. It’s not until we face our first major holiday, until we approach a significant milestone, that we begin to process the depth of our loss.

I am proud, if I have a right to feel proud, that so many of you have chosen Governing Ana as your home for this month. Whoever you are and wherever you are in life, you are welcome and blessed here. Throughout the month we have seen connections made that have even turned into friendships. I hope that some of these connections will last, and that the warmth you have received and given will carry over into the next months and years.

No matter how tender your heart may be during these season, I hope you will find a way to nurture some Christmas spirit. No matter how small, no matter how private…I hope you will find it in your own way.

I grew up in Denver, where Christmas came with snowy mountaintops and white-tailed deer, and John Denver singing “The closest thing to heaven, on this planet anywhere, is a quiet Christmas morning, in the Colorado snow.” I loved Christmastime for the hymns and the luminarias. I truly connected with the spirit of Christmas in a real and meaningful way.

After I left home for college, though, I left organized religion behind, opting instead for my own brand of personal spirituality. My husband and I moved to the desert nineteen years ago, and I haven’t had a white Christmas since. I did not miss it. I’ve always been a bit counter-culture, so we adopted a casual “un-Christmas” sort of holiday–never putting up a tree, taking hikes in the beautiful desert on Christmas day. I blame it on the climate. After nineteen years, I am still always shocked when I realize there are only two weeks till Christmas and I haven’t done any shopping yet. It just never feels like Christmas here–I can’t seem to gear up.

On top of that, I get stressed by the pressure of gift-giving– the worry of whether I picked an appropriate present, whether it’s enough or too much. Who exactly I’m supposed to buy for and who I’m not. It’s not that I don’t like giving gifts– I just don’t like giving them at Christmastime. So I have turned into a scrooge of sorts.  One of my dear friends is Jewish, and her memories of Christmas are all negative because she always felt left out of the hubbub while the other kids celebrated. Her husband celebrates Christmas, though, so she and I often grumble through the season together. For the past 20 years I have steadfastly maintained that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because I like to cook, I love to eat and I don’t have to worry about presents.

This year I am discovering that was a lie.

Christmas does mean something to me.

As I approach my first Christmas without my mom, I notice how fragile I feel about it. I did not feel fragile about Thanksgiving. No–Christmas was the true holiday in our family. In my early twenties, I spent two Christmases living in Central America, and both times, my mom and brother flew out to be with me, perhaps not able to imagine me spending it alone in a foreign country. Or perhaps just wanting their own “un-Christmas.”  Either way, it didn’t matter whether there was snow on the ground, or whether we had a Christmas tree. It was about being together. It was about family, and a holiday with deep spiritual meaning to us all.

I’m remembering other “un-Christmases” we had together as our small family of three– a hotel room on a ski vacation in Steamboat Springs, a hotel room in Santa Fe, the beach in Guatemala, my apartment in Costa Rica. I’m remembering it never mattered where we were, it was about being together.

Last year Ana wrote a post called “Blue Christmas” [Ana’s note: Also a post this year] recognizing that it isn’t always jolly for everyone–that our losses can make holidays painful. This Christmas, I too, honor anyone who feels loss, loneliness or pain. Not to wallow in it, but to honor that rituals and traditions have meaning in our lives, and they are a time to feel. There’s also no reason you can’t create your own perfect version of an “un-Christmas” to free yourself of that pain. Love and light and a huge healthy dose of Christmas magic to everyone.

Thank you, Ana, for inviting (challenging?) me to address my own emotions around the holiday this year.  I love you!!

122 thoughts on “Rediscovering my Christmas spirit (Advent Calendar, Day 16)

  1. TL says:

    Renee this post is beautiful. Loss can make the holidays hard. My grandfather and I shared a birthday, and it used to be special and wonderful. It hasn’t been the same since he passed.

    Loss can be hard, but you are right about one thing. Holidays are about being together and sharing something, not just presents. I’m glad Ana challenged you to write this, and I hope it brings you some peace this season.



    • Irishey says:

      I shared a birthday with one of my grandmothers, and my daughter was born only a couple hours after my other’s grandmother’s birthday (we tease her she still takes her own sweet time!). It is really cool, but it also makes birthdays bittersweet now, and it’s really sad to especially miss your “grandma twin” on all the holidays.


  2. Roz says:

    So beautiful and heartfelt Renee, thank you so much for sharing. I too and glad Ana challenged you to write this.

    Loss does make holidays hard and you are so right. They are about being together and sharing above all else.



  3. Casey McKay says:

    Lovely post. I don’t think it matters how you celebrate or what you do during the season. The gifts- buying, wrapping, anxiety of giving- take away from what it is all really about.

    Reflecting on all of your un-Christmases with your mom, and how special they were, is a nice tribute to her.

    The Christmas after my grandfather died my mom decided we were spending Christmas away. We went to Disneyworld. I was 8- we got to wear shorts in December, we went swimming on Christmas day, the elves found our hotel room and left little gifts! This is still my most memorable Christmas, and when I got older I realized it was probably my mom’s hardest Christmas. She made her own un-Christmas for us, and put on a happy face while she was grieving and it turned into one of my best memories.


  4. Michelle B says:

    I feel blessed, honoured, lucky, however you call it… I still have my parents in my life, they are healthy although aging, my siblings are healthy and startinggrowing their own little families, and I am myself healthy and happy with my hubby and dog.
    Sure, things have changed over the years. The grandparents were really the “Christmas glue” that brough the entire horde together for the holidays, and their passings have put an end to our families’ traditions.
    Now, distance enters into the equation, so a group phone call is a must on Christmas day, but we all know that that is not the same as being there in person, is it…

    *hug* Renee – here’s to hoping this little group helps you mend that hurt in your heart *hug*


  5. minellesbreath says:

    Renee I agree it is about family, friends and the spirit of love we share with each.
    Gifts can be a part of enriching the experience but a piece, not the whole.
    Doing something out of the ordinary and building new traditions can also bring a new meaning for those who experience or feel loss at Christmastime.
    I will be thinking of you, your family and your mother, and brother this Christmas.


  6. terpsichore says:

    Renee this is a beautiful heartfelt post and I thank you for sharing. You are right about the spirit of Christmas being about family and friends and togetherness. I am sorry for your loss. May you find a way to honor your loved ones in a special un-Christmas this year. Ana, thank-you for welcoming everyone. Love and hugs, Terps


  7. chickie says:

    Hugs Renee! Christmas is what you make it be. I think a huge step in that is just realizing it was a lie to push away those feelings. Now’s the time to start making something of it, deep down in your heart and not just by going through the motions.

    Minelle wrote about the Christmas glue her grandparents were. Same here. When my gammy died, it was over. No more Christmas Eve feasts and Santa visits. No more Italian cookies or tipsy Grammy singing in the kitchen. It was done. Nothing but the drama of my family. 1986 was my last special Christmas.

    I also hardened my heart and didn’t care. I want to make sure the kids have the magic but really it’s empty on my part. I don’t care about the tree or a feast or presents. Call me the grinch. I’m just annoyed by all of it really.

    Last year I realized it’s just an empty festering hole in my heart. Not so much a lie, more that nothing has filled that spot. Nothing can replace it, nothing will ever compare.

    So I get it Renee. I hope that you’re able to create things that can make Christmas magic again!


  8. JC says:

    A beautiful post. I am blessed to still have my close family to celebrate Christmas with. My heart goes out to those who have to celebrate while during with a loss.


  9. octoberwoman says:

    Beautiful post Renee. Since my grandparents’ passings, our Christmases have dwindled in size. We used to have huge family celebrations, with my mom’s two brothers’ families. But now one brother and his wife have their own family dinner at their home while we have ours at my mom’s. The other brother is divorced and travels during the holidays to be with his son. This year there is a new baby in the family, and that seems to have done more than anything else to revitalize my mom’s Christmas spirit.


  10. quiet sara says:

    Renee, a lovely tribute for your mother. Many ((hugs)) to you this year whether you choose a traditional Christmas or an Un-Christmas.



  11. abby says:

    A wonderful post Renee. A big part of Christmas, for me, is the traditions. Seeing my grands so excited over the same things my children and even I used to do around this time of year. Celebrating when a loved one is no longer with us, is difficult, the missing is always there….but so are the memories.
    hugs abby


  12. JoanneBest says:

    My heart goes out to you Renee, we are in the same place, as I’ve mentioned many times (I think talking about it here has been a huge factor in my coming to terms with the loss of my Mom- she was my best friend as well as my Mom) anyway dearest Renee, I feel every word you wrote…Thanksgiving was very hard to pull off as I struggled to recreate my Mom’s Thanksgiving meal and fell short in my opinion (i’m my own worst critic) but it’s this first Christmas without her that’s got me down. She and I would always go Christmas shopping together and as much as I hate to admit it, I haven’t even begun to shop. It’s like I’m frozen and find myself going through the motions of what is expected of me.
    Yesterday I finished putting the lights on the tree and today I shall start the decorations (including the pickle ornament so Ana can see what the heck I’m talking about :D), I know it’s going to be really hard so I’ll be blasting Christmas music to get in the mood, and I have a feeling it’s going to take me a long time, almost every ornament I have was either made by Mom or bought with Mom in Cape May.
    I know I should feel Blessed to have those ornaments she made just for me, little ice skates she knit, a postbox she knit and embroidered my name on, cute little glittery candy canes and santa’s and snowmen and lots and lots of Irish themed ornaments….every ornament has it’s own story so I shall try my best to get through wallowing in good memories rather than mourning, she would not want me to mourn her death but celebrate her life so I have no choice but to put on my big girl panties and make her proud, I know she’s with me always, as your Mom is with you, they live in our hearts forever.
    I too will be thinking of you and your family as our Mom’s watch over us, filling our hearts with love and giving us the strength to make it through.
    Big tight hugs Renee, we’ll make it through and make them proud, and if you ever need someone to talk to, I am here for you, as is everyone else here. I have found this to be the most magical place in the world, everyone here is wonderful and it feels good to know you have a safe place to go where you are accepted with open arms and surrounded by love.
    PS: Until I get the pickle onto the tree, here’s a link to explain a little bit about the custom of the Christmas pickle 😉


  13. Leigh Smith says:

    Wonderful post Renee. The commercialism of Christmas often overshadows the traditions and memories of Christmas’ past. I hope this post reminds us all what is really important and that we embrace those we love and rejoice in their presence in our lives, whether past or present.


  14. Tracey Horton says:

    This will be our 10th Christmas without my mom and even though you make your own “new normal,” you still feel like you’re pretending without them.

    You make new memories with your significant other, spouse and/or children that they will carry with them when we are gone also. You smile and laugh and eat and cherish wo you are with but there is a sadness or melancholy in the background. You push through and fake it until you feel it.

    And one year you realize you can say “remember when mom…” Or “remember that year grandma…” and you didn’t cry as you said it! You come to the realization that you are passing on traditions and memories and not passing along sadness but the joy that comes with reminiscing.

    Some of us are there with you–either with a recent loss or an aching in our souls for a love lost a while ago. Know others will shed tears this year on Christmas Day with you.


  15. Celeste Jones says:

    Thanks for a lovely post, Renee. It’s funny, because usually I am pretty scroogey in the say you described, but this year I am feeling upbeat and even a bit optimistic about Christmas. Christmas is sort of a hot button that brings up so many things and most of them are not the subject of Hallmark Movies.

    If you’d like a white Christmas, you’re welcome here any time. 🙂


  16. Joelle Casteel says:

    hugs, Renee. So glad I managed the post on my blog that included you 🙂 yeah, holidays aren’t always easy, especially when there’s expectations of how they “should” be. I still haven’t talked to my mother- she doesn’t know of my plan for the visit to protect myself from her. Although my mother-in-law does and she also knows that I’ll be one of the people taking her to her home on Thursday, and then welcoming her (and my brother-in-law) into my home “in the spring” or “in 6 months”- whichever becomes the necessity.

    I surprised my teen the other day by having “Merry Snoopy Christmas” playing from my computer. That’s the one positive holiday ritual that I follow, although things have been so hectic that I didn’t start playing it after Thanksgiving, as was the ritual.

    but “un-Christmas” what a thought. I don’t know, maybe it’s that I’m a UU, but to me, any holiday is fair game to make as fits your family, as long as it keeps with the spirit of the holiday 😀


  17. Janey says:

    My Parents were divorced since the time I was two. I never grew up with my Dad living in our house, but my mum would let him visit rather than him take me out and us both freezing in some cold park on the weekends he was with me. At Christmas she would let him sleep over for a couple of nights on the sofa. The excitement of Christmas was doubled because I knew my Dad was in the house and would be there when I woke up. Even as an older teenager having my Dad there was a big attraction. He loved to get me surprises we both loved the time of year.
    He died in the summer when I was 26. I wasn’t yet married. He didn’t meet my children and he wasn’t there for Christmas any more. The first couple of years were really hard. Not needing to think about what to buy him, seeing jokey presents for dads and not being able to get them. After that I thought about his joy and laughter at Christmas and I decided that I would enjoy it for him. He would hate me to mope! Plus now I have a family to make it special for too. I would love to have him included in our family Christmas’ but he can’t be in person so I bring him there still every year in my heart.


  18. kaki says:

    It so hard when mom dies in any family. I lost my younger sister, both parents and mother-in-law within five years. It seems moms are the home base for all holidays. After my mom and my mother-in-law passed away the rest of the family doesn’t get together for the holidays like we used to. Christmas Eve I still get together with some of my sisters and their family and carry on our traditions but it isn’t the same and it is the only holiday we do but everyone is so rushed.

    It does get easier as time passes and it nice to be able to get to the point where you can say things about those that are gone without crying. Too bad I couldn’t get through writing this with tears.

    I can’t believe how time as flown by. I planned on reading and commenting everyday but some days I only get a chance to read part of the post. I am going to go back and read them when I am caught up with preparations.


  19. Ruth Staunton says:

    I’m blessed to still have both my parents and my 85-yr-old grandfather.However, having 2 blended families since both my parents remarried after their divorce, having my stepdad pass away 6 years ago, and my sister also having a blended family, our Christmas traditions have evolved A LOT over the years. It’s hard at first, but eventually it becomes the new normal. Hang in there.


  20. Holla Dean says:

    My sympathies go out to you Renee, and to everyone else who has lost someone special. I know how fortunate I am that I still have my parents. At the same time, I know it can’t last forever. Both my parents are in their mid-eighties and are reasonably healthy given their ages.
    We lost my grandparents twenty years ago and it did change the holidays somewhat. We still gather in a large group on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but it’s a little different. My mother used to do both dinners and everyone came to her house. Now she can no longer handle cooking two big dinners and she’s moved into a small condo.
    Christmas Eve is at my daughter’s house and Christmas Day is at my brother’s. The menu has changed as well. No longer able to bake the variety of cookies and holiday treats, my mother buys them from a local German bakery. A few of us make some of the cookies, but I live 2000 miles away and not everything ships well, so I’m more of a helper elf when I arrive. And the fine strudels and Hungarian goodies my grandma used to make are no more.
    My thoughts are with you Renee, and all the other commenters who have a hard time with the holidays. May your holiday season be as happy as it can be. Make new memories, and cherish the old ones.


  21. Terry says:

    Hi Renee
    Thank-you for sharing the story of your family’s un-Christmas. I am sorry for the loss of your Mom and the sorrow you are feeling being without her for the first time this Christmas. A woman who can pick up and visit her daughter to celebrate the holidays and bring a bit of home to a foreign land is a special person.

    Many people in this group have talked about very close family and friends that make Christmas time a joy instead of the commercialized nightmare the “world” has made it become lately. The first Christmas after my Dad died was doubly hard because his birthday was Dec 23rd and my Mom was fighting the ovarian cancer that would end her life just over a year later. The big Christmas celebrations with all my cousins stopped as we all grew up, moved away and lost the older generation that had been the driving force to keep us together. The last Christmas dinner with my Mom will probably be the final time some of her family recipes will ever be made. I mourn for the people I loved so much but I’m so thankful that I was a part of a family that helped mold me into the person I am today.

    I look at the face of my 8 week old grandson and wonder what Christmas memories he will treasure from his childhood to come. I am blessed because I plan to have a place in those memories of his. I hope I can give him a glimpse into the past by sharing my stories so that he will know the true meaning of Christmas.

    I wish everyone the love and joy that Christmas brings but I understand that it is also a time of great sadness. I hope that some of the posts written on this blog may help lessen those feelings. Thank-you Ana and all the others for the smiles, laughs and tears the Avent Calender have brought to us all.


    • Renee Rose says:

      Oh wow, Terry, that first Christmas after your dad died sounded incredibly difficult. Thank you so much for sharing. I love that you’re thinking about the memories you’ll leave with your baby grandson!! Merry Christmas!


  22. Kelsey Summer says:

    Renee, I can feel your pain in your post. My husband lost both of his parents within 2 years of each other. The year he lost his father he withdrew some during the holidays, but when two years later his mother was gone he had absolutely no Christmas spirit. I couldn’t get him excited about anything during the season. It was really hard on him and still 3 years later he has a tough time. He tries for the kids, but he says he just doesn’t feel it anymore. Christmas really does make you remember those you have lost. I feel for all of you who have lost a loved one in the recent (or distant) past.


  23. Ami says:

    Hello Renee, I too have had, in the past, my share of sadness at Christmas time. My mother died quite suddenly when I was thirty, in the lead up to Christmas. If I hadn’t had two very small kiddies at that time, I would have felt worse than I did. In fact, it was seeing my Dad’s sad face that made me feel sad myself, as he never got over losing her. However, my mum has never really left me. I feel her close by all the time. I can almost see her and my grandmother, arm in arm, just out of the corner of my eye sometimes. And now my dad is with her, I know they are not far away, it’s just that I can’t see them properly.

    We have a family tradition. I mentioned it here a few days ago. We always set an extra place at the dinner table at Christmas for people we love who are unable to be present. Everyone is able to think of a loved one, either friend or family and picture them there around the table. It also signifies a place for a passing stranger, or some people believe it is set for the Christ child himself. There is also a handful of hay placed on the table to remind us that Christ was born in a manger, and came from a humble background.

    We don’t have Thanksgiving here. Of course we were the ones the pilgrims were possibly quite happy to leave behind, as well as being thankful for arriving at their new home safely. So therefore we all look forward to spending Christmas with our families and friends. Unfortunately over here at least, Christmas has become very commercial and somehow the spirit has been lost a bit. But we still like to visit the little old church in the village for the midnight service, when it is just lit by candles, and listen to the small children from the school sing carols, even if we don’t have any snow, and everywhere outside is cold, wet and dreary. And afterwards we gather at the back of the church and drink mulled wine and eat mincepies, and I think God must chuckle at us.

    Last year our family had a discussion about presents, and we only bought small tokens. They had to be £5 or under, but they had to be useful or beautiful. We had great fun and it wasn’t nearly as stressful because we only had to shop for the one present. This year we have gone back to normal, but I did so enjoy last year. Perhaps we will do it again in the future.

    I wish you and yours a very happy Christmas full of joy and love. I firmly believe your mother will be as close to you as my mother is to me, even if we can’t see them.

    Hugs and blessings,


    • Leigh Smith says:

      Your traditions are beautiful.

      I thought I was the only one who sees things out of the corner of my eye. I have a whole parade sometimes. lol


    • Renee Rose says:

      I would love to have a $$ limit on presents, just to help me with expectation, so I don’t have to try to figure it all out!!

      I love your idea of setting an extra place, but I think we’d all be blubbering mess. I’ll see if I’m brave enough to try that.

      I know you’re right, that she will be as close to me as your mother still is to you.
      thank you!


  24. thelongbean says:

    A very heartfelt piece which I expect you found difficult to find the right words. I can feel for you as My sister and I lost our father just over 2 years ago, and we are lucky that my mother is still with us after a paramedic revived her following a heart attack and stroke this autumn.


      • thelongbean says:

        I sill stay in Greece for Christmas. For the last 30 years I have been apart from family at this time of year, initially because of work and then it was just too difficult to travel. As we all got used to this, we have not got together for the holiday period.
        My family know if there is an emergency I will get there as quickly as I can, at this time of year it might take over a week (no ferries due to high winds), whereas in Summer it could take just 24 hours.


  25. Mary Sue Wehr says:

    Lovely post, Renee.
    I always liked Christmas time and could never understand why some people dreaded the holiday. But, as I grew older I learned that for some people who’ve suffered the loss of a loved one, the holiday season is an extremely difficult time. There’s an empty space and songs like ‘Silent Night’ or ‘Away in the Manger’ just make it seem worse. At least for me. Children and animals still suffer needlessly. Being nice and giving one day out of the year doesn’t change that. We need to love and support each other every day and understand if someone isn’t happy during this time.
    I still like to decorate, especially outside, but I’m not so sad anymore when the holidays are over.
    I did have the pleasure of connecting with some really wonderful and helpful people here and I hope our friendship grows throughout the coming new year. Merry Christmas everybody and I wish you all a happy,healthy new year.


  26. jadecary says:

    Beautiful post, Renee. I still feel raw this time of year over the loss of my mom, and two very close friends of hers that made up our eclectic extended family. You said it perfectly. It isn’t the where, but the who. I will appreciate those who are important to me, and we will remember together the ones who are no longer with us.

    May you and your family have a wonderful holiday full of all the joys and love togetherness brings.


  27. angieia says:

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post. My husband is bitter at Christmas time. His parents live in Arizona and his sister lives 3 hours away. His mom will call and whine that we should come there for Christmas and his sister has her own family and doesn’t want to get together. He is upset that no one wants to spend Christmas in Iowa. His mom says it is too painful to come back since her mom died a few years ago, plus she doesn’t like the cold. We have a hard time leaving since we own the family business and have to be here to take care of everything. His mom knows it is hard to get away in the winter. My mom only cares about everyone coming over to her house and making a big production out of it. The kids just want to get it over with. I do what I can to make everyone happy.

    Thank you for letting me get this off my chest. It really bothers me and I never truly feel like I should get into the Christmas spirit, because something will happen and I will feel bad about being happy.

    I am so glad that Ana is having her Advent calendar. I look forward to seeing what the new topic will be and no one can take away the happiness I get reading the posts and the comments.

    I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!!


  28. Thianna D says:

    I prefer un-holidays. I left organized religion and christianity 17 years ago and every year, the emphasis on this one holiday tends to rub me raw. I wouldn’t have anything to do with it at all if my mother didn’t ‘insist’ (*cough* GUILT) that I get presents for the family.

    I lived in southern AZ for 7 years and will admit I hated it. Too much heat, too little snow. We got a dusting in Tucson maybe a couple times and I would laugh at the people who would go “Oh, look at the snow.”

    Though being able to smoke a turkey in December had its uses 😀

    Happy un-holiday to you 😀


    • Irishey says:

      I second Ana’s sentiment, Thianna! I’ve enjoyed your comments here. I have a much better appreciation for that, and you, for participating in this seasonal activity that rubs you raw. Personally, I think the gift buying can rub anybody raw after fighting crowds and seeing the prices of everything. Even shopping online and using coupons, discounts and sales – sheesh. Lol! But I do love giving presents to my children and parents – if I can figure out what they really want!


  29. Natasha Knight says:

    Christmast time is always a little bittersweet for me. I think it just kind of goes with the holiday. It’s not sad exactly, just a little more mellow in a way. I think having young kids around helps because I find myself wanting to make it very special for them, wanting to give them good memories and I see my parents on the other side of that who don’t want to do a Christmas tree and actually stopped doing one once the three of us moved out. This year my mom e-mailed to tell me my nephew went to her house and dropped off a small tree that lights up on battery power because it was time for her to cheer up.

    I don’t think anyone can take the pain of loss away and in a way, they don’t have it. It’s part of it all and it’s definitely easier for me to say that than to sit with that loss and feel it. I like how Tracey said it on FB – at some point, you find yourself not crying when you remember someone who has passed and you realize you’re passing on traditions and joy and not just the sadness alone.

    What am I saying? I don’t know but I won’t turn this all into a huge blog post myself. I think gathering here is nice. It’s a connection and a support even if it’s not physical. It’s maybe even better for it.

    Lots of love.


  30. Blondie says:

    Renee, thank you for sharing. I am so sorry about your mother. Yet your times together have brought you good memories to live with forever. I pray that you see your mom this year in your children’s smiles and laughter. I pray that you have a Christmas filled with love and surprises. You are such a good person, wife, sister, mother and daughter. Thanks again for sharing with all of us and reminding us that Christmas can mean many things.


  31. Kitty says:

    this will be my only chance to comment today.
    death and holidays r hard.
    my grandmother died on the 4th of july it’s been more than 15 years, and i still think about her every 4th. it was grams that had us doing or night ware and oyster stew traditions. those first few years i could not face it.
    it took about 3 years before we could get beyond it.
    im still ba hum bug about the 4th thou.


    • Renee Rose says:

      Aw, my mama had an oyster stew tradition on Christmas Eve! I never quite understood it, as my grandparents were German immigrants living in Iowa, but it seemed that’s what they did every Christmas eve!


  32. Irishey says:

    Hugs, Renee. This post is a wonderful way to honor your mother’s memory and your own emotions in a way that, hopefully, will help heal the pain and grief of not having her with you this Christmas.

    I am touched to see you giving of yourself, sharing your memories, thoughts and emotions about your mother and Christmas. I also see you receiving with an open heart all the support and love being extended to you. Sometimes, being open to receiving these things is more difficult than giving them to others, yet you are doing so with grace and compassion.


  33. Marybeth says:

    Renee, I am so sorry to hear about your mother. I don’t even want to imagine how hard it will be when my mom goes. But, that is the cycle of life. I’m glad you have little ones to help fill the void. Their delight in Christmas and the traditions is a wonder to see.


  34. 00sarah says:

    There is so much more to Christmas than just presents. It’s about being together. Being with loved ones. Sharing with those less fortunate. Service. Which reminds me of this quote that I found this weekend. “We all enjoy giving and receiving presents. But there is a difference between presents and gifts. the true gifts may be part of ourselves – giving of the riches of the heart and mind – and therefore more enduring and of far greater worth than presents bought at the store.”

    Holidays are so difficult after the loss of a loved one. So maybe you do something on that day in remembrance of her. Maybe you just keep on keeping on.

    Thoughts are with you during this bittersweet time. 🙂


  35. P.T. Wyant says:

    I haven’t decorated a tree for the last several years and I miss it. I think I’m going to really make an effort to do it next year. (All of my favorite Christmas memories revolve around trees.)

    My mother was always big on decorating for Christmas. When I moved out on my own I don’t think she thought of it as losing a daughter so much as gaining another house (well, apartment) to decorate.

    After my paternal grandfather’s death (exactly one week after my birthday) I didn’t go home much and my own decorating sort of trailed off. Like I said, though, I miss it and want to get back to it.

    (My un-holiday seems to be my birthday — my grandfather died the week after and my dad died the day/night before. I’m starting to get a little superstitious about it.)

    My roommate and I have a tradition of “24s” — starting on December 1st we give each other a small gift (candy bar, $2 or $3 silly thing, etc) every day until Christmas which is when we exchange the main gifts. Sometimes I think that that is more fun than the big exchange.

    And this year I’m coping with the news that a friend of mine committed suicide on Friday, so everything feels strange. I hadn’t known David long, but he was a sweet gentle soul that is going to be missed on this plane.

    But I’m still going to bake (if I ever get around to making a grocery list *sigh*) and I have ornaments to make for an exchange on Wednesday. (If not for the last minute a lot of stuff wouldn’t get done…)


  36. Michael says:

    Touching post, Renee. It doesn’t matter how one celebrates Christmas as long as we are connected with the ones we love. That goes for anytime of year, not just Christmas. We put special emphasis on holidays so that often intensifies emotions whether they be happy or sad. You sound like a strong person so you will get through this first Christmas without your mom by remembering her and all the precious moments you had together along with your brother. I hope your online family here and elsewhere help ease your burden. Ana’s is an amazing place populated with special people as I am finding out to my delight as I make new friends. Like you, I love Ana, but shhhh, don’t tell Season. Actually, Season is overjoyed with our new friendship with Ana and is very happy we have connected.


  37. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    Renee, your post brought back memories for me. Both my parents passed far enough from the holiday for me not to associate their deaths with it, but my mother was born on December 6, so my thoughts always go to her on that date.

    When my parents divorced, my stepfather already had two girls from his previous marriage. One refused to have anything to do with him after he divorced her mother, but the other clung close. She had three children, so Christmas was a major event at her home when the kids were young. Even though I was my mother’s only child, Mom often went to visit with my stepdad’s daughter during the holidays, even after my stepdad passed. She said it was because Christmas meant so much more to them than it did to me. That wasn’t true, at least not in my mind, but I didn’t correct her. To do so would only add to her guilt that she’d chosen to spend her holiday with a child other than her own. She did, however, spend her last Christmas with us.

    I think she knew her time was short, but she never let us know. I still recall that Christmas with a bittersweet remembrance. Though nearly twenty years have passed, my memories of that week remain crystal clear. I consider Christmas a magical time, so I like to associate it with fun, happy thoughts when I can, but I also take a moment to reflect on those I’ve loved and lost throughout the many years, and sometimes those thoughts come with tears, like today.

    Virtual hugs to all on this day of shared memories.


  38. Katie says:

    What a beautiful post to honour your mom’s memory, Renee. The holidays are definitely bittersweet after the loss of a loved one, and at the same time, they can also be a chance to come together with those that you love, and who love you back and remember and grieve some together. I’ve found that it is our friends and family that lift us up in their love after a loss, and carry us through. We do the same for them. It helps. 🙂

    My younger sister passed from cancer a few years ago during the Christmas season. I mentioned somewhere around here that we used to wait until my mom put stuff out under the tree and then go around and shake boxes, trying to guess what was in them. That first Christmas and the ones right after that brought tears as she no longer was there to do that with me. Now I remember her and smile every Christmas Eve, when the last present is laid out under the tree. I miss her.

    Time is a great healer. And though I can tell you that we never really get over losing someone that we love, we learn to live with it. When Rob’s father passed away, we began placing only pink glass balls on the tree, instead of the variety of the same that used to be there. Then we add all of our special ornaments. When we look at that tree now, it feels as though he is with us. It makes us smile. One day we find ourselves crying less and smiling at the memories much more often. Time and love is the key I think. Sending you a big hug, Renee. 🙂 I will be thinking of you this holiday season. Thank you for sharing about your mom, Renee.

    ❤ Katie


  39. Katy Beth McKee says:

    Beautiful. Lost my mom in August 87. It wasn’t until my 2nd son was born the end of November 90 before I really had a chance to catch my breathe and grieve.

    Christmas 2000 was the worst though. Lost my dad the end of June. Had a full term still birth the end of July. And I found out just before Christmas I was actually pregnant again which we had not planned on and I was really worried. I was just totally out of energy. I felt bad for my other 4 kids ages 18-3 but I just couldn’t deal with. My older guys did everything. They got down the decorations, put them up, had Dad take them to Dollar Tree for the annual stocking stuffing shopping trip, and when it was over took it all done as well. We got our miracle the following August. Gave birth to our only little girl who despite the knots in her cord other than being a breech and delivered early she was completely fine and has been keeping us on our toes ever since.


  40. Renee Meyer says:

    Renee, thank for sharing your heart with us. My parents are still with us and I know that I am blessed by that fact even if we do not do Christmas (or anything) together. I am sorry for your loss. Our family has cared for my husband’s parents and uncle for the last fourteen years. All three relatives traveled the troublesome road of Alzheimer’s. The last one – my mother in law passed away this August. This will be our first Christmas in 14 years without any of them around. Although many people have commented on how much easier life is now for our family, they don’t realize there is tremendous loss. It is easier, there is less stress but we miss them too. Over the years we found that even in the depth and despair of the disease known as Alzheimer’s every one of them remembered Christmas songs and hymns. They could be clueless about their own identity. But start playing Christmas carols and they would sing along. This year when we find we are struggling with tears while listening to Christmas music, we are also remembering how Mom, Dad, and Uncle Bill would sing along and clap. Our family is working hard at creating new Christmas traditions while incorporating the memories of those who have gone home. This year we are focusing on people both family and friends instead of gifts and expectations. I hope you are able to find peace, and magic this Christmas season. Hugs…


  41. sassytwatter says:

    Renne this was a beautiful post. I could feel the emotions pouring through in your words and memories. Your Xmas celebration is just as it is intended to be about family screw all the other stuff. I hope yiur wonderful family memories help you through your first holiday without your mother. Sending many happy thoughts. Thank you for sharrying.


  42. pieclown says:

    Renee, I now what you are talking about. Christmas was my mom’s favorite holiday. She would have my step dad and I go out in Oct to put up the lights. We did not turn them on until Thanksgiving. But she wanted to make sure they were up, before bad weather came. This is a low light for me outside. I was sick much of of November and am still not 100%. Do what you can to honor your mom.

    pie pie 4 now


  43. Sherilyn says:

    Renee, thank you for sharing your memories of your Mom, as well as your grief. I know you and Joanne and Renee Meyer are all looking at the first Christmas after losing someone. Such a hard time! I do understand; at the end of 2010, my daughter lost her first child and my father died. My son’s wedding the August before was the last time we were all together. When his son was born, seven days after my father passed, we were all in separate places: my brother in Atlanta; my stepmom in New Mexico; my son and his family in Washington; my daughter in her home 30 miles away. I don’t think any of us has ever felt so alone. That Christmas was bleak.

    The next year, my stepmom came up here to Colorado and my son, his wife, and their one-year-old came up to spend the week before Christmas so we’d have time together. My daughter gave birth to her daughter while everyone was here, so it was a lovely time. That is, until we all came down with the virus my grandson had brought with him! So much for togetherness! My hubby and I were deeply grateful to have two bathrooms! We did manage to reunite briefly for my grandson’s birthday celebration. That Christmas was….different!

    Last year, we all talked on the phone. We Skyped with my son and his family, by then increased by another son. Christmas felt better, and none of us was hugging the porcelain throne. It was good.

    This year remains to be seen. My biggest problem this year is trying to find something to want for Christmas for my husband’s sake. Discovering the candy cane at Adam and Eve yesterday helped with that somewhat; my candy cane addiction is a family joke. Although that candy cane will be between my husband and I only! I’ll Skype with my son and his family (a new granddaughter joined the party at their house back at Thanksgiving) and talk to my stepmom on the phone. My daughter will bring her granddaughter over and we’ll call my brother. Our family has renewed its bonds and we’re whole again, despite my father’s empty chair.

    I am so sorry, Renee, Renee, and Joanne, for the pain and aloneness you are feeling this year. I know it doesn’t help to be told that it will get easier. Right now, the best I have to offer is all the love and companionship we have here. Consider yourselves held close in all of our hearts and please know you are not alone, not really. Big hugs for all of you. That holds true for everyone here who is not enjoying the holidays.

    I do want to say something about the guilt that seems to be going around here. There is nothing, nothing, nothing wrong with not feeling joyous and thrilled with Christmas. At least in the USA, most people don’t. They feel stressed, guilty, and sad, mostly, according to various studies. There is nothing wrong with how you, any of you, feel. Not one single thing. Quit nagging yourself about how you “should” feel and just feel. That’s all you have to do. The people who love you most will accept it, In fact, most of them are feeling guilty because they can’t shoulder some of your sadness for you. Just be who and what you are, because that’s who they love. *Stepping off the soapbox*

    Ana, thank you again for the community you have created here. I feel so honored and grateful to be part of this very special place.


  44. DelFonte says:

    Renee, thank you for sharing your personal memories.
    My husband lost his own mother and this will be our second christmas without her. As those about us grow older and leave us, whether we’re prepared for that or not, it is always hard. Christmas brings many emotions to bear, some harder to face than others.
    My christmas for many years was always religious – it is not now because my beliefs have changed. Nowadays, I feel the original message of goodwill to all has long been forgotten – christmas is so commercial. Many simply see decorations, presents and food and nothing else. One thing christmas should never be is about loneliness and I think of many people who will be solitary on christmas day and I hope we will take the time to remember them.


  45. Emily Tilton says:

    Such a wonderful post, Renee. Thank you so much. I’ll be thinking of you this end-of-Advent and Christmastide, and of your indomitable spirit. One story to share: a few years ago, my spouse had a broken ankle just before Christmas. It was terrible, because my spouse loves to do things for others in the holiday season more than anything else in the whole world. That Christmas, though, will live in our memories forever, because of how different it was from every other, and how everyone else had to do so many things that my spouse always does (and has, since then, always done!).


  46. Leah says:

    Rituals are so important in a person’s life be they a traditional white Christmas or a desert hike. Your post hit me because I’m not a huge Christmas person, but I know there will be little things that I miss when the kids are grown or a family member is gone. I so feel for you this year without your mom. How special that she would fly around the world to be with you.


  47. Sue Lyndon says:

    Really enjoyed your post, Renee. I’m pretty scroogy too and can relate to a lot of what you said, particularly the stress over giving presents…I always feel like I never get it right. And the overall stress of the holidays sometimes makes me want to curl up and go to sleep and not wake up until Jan. 1st. I am making a point to do better this year though and so far it’s working! 🙂


  48. Penelope says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful post, Renee. Your words, and so many of the comments that people have made in response, are so moving, and comforting.

    I’m truly sorry for your loss, and I hope that the pain lessens with time. I know that the love you feel for your mother never will.


  49. Ria says:

    Hi Renee, So many above have expressed my sentiments. Both my parents are gone but their sacrifices, love and teachings remain with me. What helped me was turning to my family and friends who are still with me. I pray that your loved ones are close by and that you share your time and thoughts with them.


  50. M. Palmer says:

    Hi to Renee… I was so sorry to hear about your mom. But she (and you) were so lucky to spend that time together. As bittersweet as it was, what you shared during that last Christmas was a gift that could never be replaced.

    Any loss – no matter how big or small – can make the holidays hard. Although it in no way compares to the magnitude of losing a parent, a year ago we lost our beloved Golden Retriever Sunny, unexpectedly and horribly, two weeks before Christmas. She was more like a family member than a pet and her loss devastated us…. it was impossible to be in the Christmas spirit after she was gone. But Christmas comes whether we are ready or not, and somehow, even in the midst of sadness, we were able to find some joy in the season.

    My thoughts will be with you, Renee, during these next couple of week. ❤


  51. Erzabet Bishop says:

    I totally agree. Sometimes this time of year can make a person crazy. Or lonely. It’s holding onto the little things that centers us and makes us whole. Like this. Like finding myself with all of you every day.

    Much ♡♡



  52. bellabryce says:

    And my prayer for the lovely Renee is that you come to know that Christmas is all about the birth of one man who will wipe away your tears anytime you call on Him. (((internet cuddle to you, love)))))

    [I was quite touched by Ana’s words, ”would you like to honour your mama?”]


  53. catrouble says:

    Hey Renee…thank you for sharing such beautiful memories. Holidays are such a rough time after you’ve lost someone. You are so right…the spirit of Christmas is about family, friends and being together.

    Sending lots of prayers and positive energy that you find a way to get you and the rest of your family through the rough times with possibly some new traditions.

    Hugs and Blessings…


  54. syd waldman says:

    This time of year can be very emotional for folks who are living through grief of a loved one for the first time. If you know someone in this position, reach out and let them know you are thinking of them, sending support, friendship and love. It will boost both of your spirits.
    Be well….Merry Christmas.


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