Planning for Pain & Family Fun

When planning for the holidays, plan for pain. Plan for grief to join in the family fun.

Plan for the gathering and gifting. Check the lists, hang the stockings, and mail the cards. Then plan what you will do with the holiday grief. Do you have a plan for your pain?

Last year I created The Sadvent Calendar. You can read more about it here but basically The Sadvent features 31 days of self care based actions, reflections, creations, and affirmations that help you count down to a heavy date or get through a tough month. I needed a way to make it through another holiday season without my son Cullin and The Sadvent helped.

The Sadvent Calendar

One of my favorite Sadvent activities from last year was creating a family advent countdown using scrapbook paper, stamps, glue sticks, scissors, and a paper box with 25 drawers that I found at Hobby Lobby.

I spent many holiday-grief-filled hours creating our family advent countdown but I didn’t let the kids help at all. Lines had to be drawn and cut perfectly. The stamps needed just the right amount of pressure applied, and the paper lined up just-so.

I need to control little things in life because I feel out of control with some big things in life. Thanks grief.

Cullin’s Mama

Each drawer was curated with one chocolate per kid and a mini ornament but the tree trinkets became predictable after day three, and the chocolates were eaten before the ornaments were hung.

This year I want our family advent to be less stagnant and more engaging. We need more action, more chocolate, and my kids need to be able to have some ownership in the advent and their own holiday grief.

  • Borrowing from The Sadvent’s use of categories, I created 5; Movie, Outing, Game, Baking, and Creative Grief Crafts.
  • My family needs a 25 day countdown so I thought of 4 holiday movies, 4 games, 4 outings, 4 items for baking, and 4 creative grief activities.
  • My participating children (ages 11 & 4) will get to choose the fifth movie, game, outing, baked good, and healing craft for our family advent.

Day one of the advent, we will create a plan for pain as a family. We’ll make a list of what helps us through the moments when we most miss Cullin. When pain arises during this holiday season, we’ll choose and try our grief relief strategies.

Last year, I needed to take care of myself, but this year my family needs some extra time together. This holiday season we will watch movies, go on fun outings, play games, bake and create, but we will also have a plan for the pain of grief to emerge right in the middle of our fun family time.

What will you do when grief steals your joy of the season? Will you create a self-care advent? Does an engaging family advent sound like something that would help you get through the month? Do you have a plan for pain?

Cullin’s Mama, Ginny

O’ Cullin Tree

O’ Cullin Tree, O’ Cullin Tree, your leaves are so…..sparse. Broken and bent. Unraveled and twisted.

This year the kids and I decided to retire our “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree and buy a new one to hold the special ornaments that we hang in honor of our Cullin. We found a four foot tall, white tree that stands about as high as he would in his Christmas jammies.

Our pitiful little tree has held up our most precious baubles, as well as our spirits, during some of the heaviest times for the past six Christmases. Adorned with his name, Cullin receives ornaments from his siblings, complete strangers, and me each year.

My mom has the same tree. Or had. Her “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree also broke this year. The kids and I were upset, but mama was just sick about it. “Good grief.

The weight of the ornaments, the wear and tear of storage, and time have wilted the already fragile trees. For all of these reasons and more, our Cullin trees mean the world to us, so I thought up a way to salvage the pieces.

When you ache, create.

  • I took the end pieces of the fir branches that fell off and stuffed them into an empty ornament bulb.
  • Then I cut a sliver of Linus’ blue blanket that normally wraps around the base of the “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree, tied a knot, and placed it in the ornament.
  • I added a fake red berry to represent the red ornament that Charlie Brown placed on his tree.
  • Finally I tied a string on top and hung it on our new Cullin tree.

“It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”

Linus

I love learning from life, but grief has been my least favorite teacher. If my children and I have learned anything from grief, it’s that though we may feel broken and bent, unraveled and twisted, we can still choose to pick up the broken pieces and salvage them in creative ways.

Cullin’s Mama