What a joy it is Christmas! These were my mom’s words every time December came. This time of the year had a special magic for her, and she used to look forward to it. My memories go back to my childhood when we lived in Nicaragua. The Christmas tree was silver and decorating it with blue and silver ornaments was a ritual full of excitement between my mother and us, her three daughters. She decorated the entire house with Christmas motifs and put a beautiful nativity scene. My mother kept this unique feeling for the Christmas season all her life and transmitted it to each one of us.

This year, when December was approaching, I felt my heart heavy because I knew that this Christmas would be very different. Like so many of my dear clients who have lost a loved one and it is their first Christmas without them, I found myself dreading the proximity of this holiday. I was not thinking about Thanksgiving because this celebration was not crucial to my mother; I was thinking of Christmas. I was in a swing of emotions, and ambivalent about how to navigate the season. Was I going to ignore it so I would not think about it, or was I going to embrace it and create moments of magic honoring my mother?

I opted for the second possibility because it was what came from my heart. I don’t like to ignore any emotion, because I know that I will have it internally even if I do not want it, which prevents me from processing it and letting go. I decided to face it with an open heart and celebrate it in a different way. I opened my heart to the possibility of welcoming Christmas amid the pain of not having my mother physically by my side. I created rituals with her to have magical moments; moments full of peace; moments dedicated to the meaning of Christmas. Every time my heart felt like crying for not having her by my side, I allowed myself to do so and be sad.  However, I didn’t stay there. I would once again fill my soul with her spirit of joy towards this magical time, to continue honoring her.

Finally, December 24 arrived, when we celebrated Christmas Eve with a family dinner. I experienced a mixture of emotions in my heart.  I felt a great nostalgia for the physical absence of my mother and, at the same time, a beautiful feeling to be able to share with my family because it was also a way of feeling love, support, and solidarity. In the middle of the celebration, we had a special moment to share how we felt, and I took the opportunity to name my mother in a very emotional way. I wanted to emphasize that even though she was not with us physically, her spirit, like my father’s spirit, would continue to be present in our family because the relationship with our loved ones does not end; it is transformed.

This Christmas was different. I did not hear those words filled with joy; I did not see those sparkling eyes filled with hope and expectation; I did not feel her loving hug. However, my beloved mother was present at every moment. And it was precisely this love, this union, this constant presence, that filled my heart with peace and joy, and I could say from the bottom of my soul, “Have a blessed Christmas!”

I accompany you with my heart if this was also your First Christmas…

Remember, our loved ones live in our hearts.


Ligia M. Houben