I love traditions, always have. I love knowing what to expect on a certain day each year: the food, the activity, the people. It makes life exciting and fun as well as brings a certain feeling of stability and balance. Most of my fondest memories are somehow connected to a holiday tradition.
However, when an integral person in your life passes away, traditions change. Whether its your spouse, a parent, a child, a loved one, you may feel like your a ‘man down’ and dread the upcoming event surrounding your beloved tradition. And for me, losing a spouse stopped almost every single tradition I had.
Since the age of 18 (when I met Cameron) I somehow ended up spending every holiday with his side of the family up till I was age 38 (when he died). Wow, twenty long years. Some married couples switch off years and attend each other’s family’s houses for holidays but for us it just worked out that we didn’t. My family was in a different state which made it difficult for traveling and work and kids so we just celebrated with his family. Let me repeat that: every Christmas, Easter, summer and winter festivity, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc. I had known what to expect for each holiday or event and knew what fun we would enjoy. I also knew what to expect for my children and the memories they would have. I knew the crowd, loved the people, I knew the food that would be served, the smells that would fill the air, and I looked forward to every second of it.
When all of that ended, it was crushing. I felt like holidays would never have the same kind of joy in them without Cameron. I felt like my children would never be able to fully enjoy a holiday because their father wasn’t there being part of it. Our family without Cameron felt so small and was missing something so large that could never be replaced.
As our first Christmas approached after Cameron’s death, I was so nervous. I started having anxiety every time I looked at the calendar and worried each day as it neared. I searched a few websites to see how other people handled it and discovered the theme “it is what you make of it”. I had to prepare myself beforehand so that I could set an example for my children. I set out to have the BEST Christmas there ever was in our circumstance. On Christmas morning I happily woke the children up, we opened presents together, and laughed about what dad would have been doing. We had breakfast burritos that we all loved and together we just had fun. We didn’t sit and cry, we laughed and spoke of memories about their dad. It wasn’t the same, but it was exactly the way it was supposed to be.
Did I shed some tears? You bet. Yes, Yes, Yes. I missed him so much and missed his family too. But we were going to be okay! Each holiday that followed, the kids and I would decide together what we wanted to do and how we could make it fun. We created new traditions. Life would NEVER be the same so we had to change it for the better, and we did.
Now, getting remarried….
Blending two families with different ways to celebrate (or not celebrate) was going to be approached the same way. Matt and Amy would switch off for holidays as her family was close by. Even after her death, Matt still attended family gatherings and holidays. So now that Matt and I were married some would think we would stop attending his deceased wife’s family’s holidays, but we didn’t. In fact, I hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas for Amy’s family in my home! What beautiful memories can be made by allowing your family to grow and include everyone. At first it seemed a bit awkward and like I was taking Amy’s place but that’s just impossible. You can never replace someone. I am just a new family member and thankfully with their attitude of “there is always room for one more” my children and I fit right in.
We are going on year 3 of our new marriage and we are continuing to create new traditions for our blended family. I love, love, LOVE, that the children are now saying “are we decorating gingerbread houses again this year? That was fun” or “I can’t wait for summer so we can go to the beach house like we do every year”.
Matt and I together have started our own family traditions and they are beautiful. Our life is not like we had in the past because we are different now and yet it’s perfect.
It is what you make of it! Yes, I could sit and mourn the fact that my life has forever been changed but I’m not. We are living and we must move on. You have a choice to be miserable or look forward and make the best of it!
Pictures below are Christmas with Amy’s family, our annual Gingerbread House decorating party!