Yes! I have officially made it through all of the "first" holidays without Sammi. Being on this side of the holiday season, I can reflect and look back on everything, and I can definitely say that the anticipation of the holidays was the worse part. Leading up to each holiday, I tended to think about all the holidays of the past, and started to wonder what this holiday season would be like. How should you act that first holiday? I wondered if I should change the normal flow of the day, or if it was even ok to keep it the same and be happy.
Now that I have survived them, I can say what worked best for me. I kept a lot of our normal traditions, but I did change a couple little things, in order to create new traditions without Sammi. My other daughter is getting older and I actually gave her, her Christmas present early, and I made sure my soon-to-be-step-daughter was at her mother's house Christmas morning, so we were able to rearrange our Christmas Day schedule. We all slept in, casually had breakfast, then opened some presents. We visited some friends and family in a drive by/drop in fashion, then had immediate family come by at 5pm. At 6pm, we video chatted with our Florida family, and tears were shed when we unwrapped a personalized memorial wind chime for Sammi.
The biggest suggestion I have for anyone who has experienced a loss of a loved one, is allow yourself to feel. Allow yourself to feel all emotions. It is ok to cry, it is ok to laugh, and it is ok to feel everything you want and need to feel. It is healthy to have a moment where you break down and cry. It's also healthy to start laughing at yourself in the middle of that emotional break down.
This Christmas was one of the best ones I have ever had. I went into it with low expectations and I made myself stay relaxed. I made sure I was surrounded by family and loved ones all day, and that I allowed myself to remanence, miss, and feel. This easy-going vibe is what allowed me a day with no anxiety, and allowed me to be thankful for each and very moment I had. After all, that is really what it is all about; living the life that we are blessed with, in honor of those loved ones who no longer can.
Everyone says that the first year after losing a loved one is hard, and all the "firsts" are definitely proving to be big triggers for emotions. For me, it seems that the anticipation of a holiday ends up being worse than the actual holiday. The "first" Thanksgiving, the "first birthday, and the "first" Christmas without your loved one there will be the hardest. The week leading up to Thanksgiving was roller coaster of emotions. The few days before her birthday, December 13th, I was introverted and reflective. I tried to hold in my emotions and continue to go on with my life that day, but my face ended up exploding in tears that night as I blew out her birthday memorial candle. Now, with Christmas just around the corner, I have made plans to change our normal Christmas morning routine, and plan on trying to avoid anything and everything that may send me into an emotional spiral of grief on that day,
But is that what I should be doing? There is no right way or wrong way to grieve, but allowing yourself to feel is healthy. I have learned the hard way that locking in and pushing your feelings aside only bottles them up for a later, and greater release. So what is a good compromise for Christmas? How can I allow myself to grieve her absence from the present holiday, but still make good memories with my living loved ones to look back on and cherish down the road?
After losing my daughter, Sammi, at the end of June, I was faced with having to choose what to do with her. Sammi was a free spirit here on Earth, so I didn't feel a normal burial would be what she wanted. I also knew how infrequently I visited the graves of my other family members, so I decided on cremation. With being able to do cremation without the aid of a funeral home, I had to decide on whether or not to do a funeral, or do more of a memorial service.
Sammi lived a short 21 years, but she touched so many lives, and was know to shine a light so bright. I felt a Celebration of Life service would suit her best, and also fall into my budget better. But where to have this service? I called around to local fire halls, hotels, and community buildings, but ultimately was able to find a church through friends in my network that agreed to hold the service. By doing this, I was able to have a pastor speak, and also make sure that we stayed on schedule. They didn't require a payment, but we did make a donation to the church afterwards. They were also kind enough to print up programs for us at no charge.
Sammi was an organ donor and was able to donate 4 of her organs, so the Living Legacy Foundation printed up the Memorial Cards for us at no cost as well.
Friends of the family, as well as Baughers Restaurant (a place where several family have worked over the years) volunteered up their time and food to put out a large spread for the Celebration. I was very grateful for this, and all the leftovers. It helped to keep our family fed throughout the week.
I wanted to give some of Sammi's friends Vial Necklaces with her ashes in them. I ordered two styles: one for the females Mealguet Jewlery Stainless Steel Glass Openable Container Vial Tube Urn Keepsake Cremation Ashes Memorial Pendant Necklace, and one for the males Zysta Stainless Steel Clear Acyrlic Open Container Tube Pendant Pendant Necklace with 19 inches Chain.
I was really in no shape to go into a store, so I utilized my Amazon Prime account to get the rest of the items for the Celebration of Life, and also for a balloon release the following day. I actually put a small amount of her ashes in each biodegradable balloon before we filled it up with helium. It was a very cool idea, but let me warn you! Some her ashes blew back out when I took the balloon off the helium tank. If you are someone who would not be able to laugh at this, do not try it!
Here are some of the other items I purchased for the Celebration of Life and the Balloon Release:
I had also spent a lot of time creating videos for the Celebration. If you click on the "Sammi" page of this website, you can view all of the videos that I made.
Overall, I was very happy with the way everything turned out. I really wanted to honor the life of my daughter, and I know she was there watching us and was proud of how much I pulled off in such a short amount of time. I couldn't have done it without the amazing support of so many people, and if you are going through a loss of your own, be sure to ask for help, and accept help that is offered to you.