To cope with grief on Christmas, cherish those you hold dear

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The holidays are usually a hectic time for most Americans. We are often so busy trying to find the perfect present or preparing our home for guests that we forget to pause and take in the beauty of the season.

Of course, Christmas is a time for us to celebrate our faith, but it is also a chance to celebrate our families, our communities and our traditions.

Families often have unique holiday traditions of their own that are passed down through the generations as a touchstone of Christmases gone by. In my family, we have our fair share of traditions old and new, and I bet yours does too.

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For most of the last five years, I have hosted a Christmas Day open house for my family and friends. My sister and I cook for days. I convert a spare bedroom into a playroom for the kids that come.

We all wear silly hats and usually someone tries to get us to sing Christmas carols. This is a family tradition that many of us have panned as we have gotten older.

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I love hosting Christmas. My home is filled with joy year after year. But sometimes I think of how I came to host Christmas in the first place. Then things turn bittersweet.

In 2013, I moved into a new house. The same year, my uncle died suddenly of a stroke before the holiday season. We are a close-knit family and were devastated by this loss.

We started to dread Christmas that year. Everything was a reminder of my uncle’s absence. Because my new house was a clean slate with no memories attached to it, I offered to host Christmas dinner as a way to distract from the pain of grief that would have otherwise been more present if we had celebrated as usual.

It was still a tough holiday that year. I distinctly remember bursting into tears when I heard the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song on the radio because my uncle used to sing it to my sister and me when we were little. But as time passed, the grief subsided and it is easier to hold his memory close without feeling as sad.

I am sharing this story not because I think it’s special, but because I know it is not. All of us, at one time or another, struggle with grief during the holidays. It’s a natural part of the cycle of life.

Sometimes we can feel alone in our grief. This Christmas, if you are trying to cope with loss, this is a reminder that you are not alone.

Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. And remember, you can honor those who are no longer with you while cherishing those who still are.

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