Author and Spiritual Teacher Iyanla Vanzant on Losing Loved Ones on the Holidays: “Make it a Celebration”
Best-selling writer and acclaimed spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant knows what it’s like to mourn a loved one over the holidays.
“On December 25, Christmas Day 2003 at 10:18 a.m. my daughter breathed her last,” Vanzant told Inside Edition Digital. Her daughter Gemmia was 31 when she died of cancer. “Christmas Day. And Christmas was his favorite holiday.”
The author noted how difficult the holiday season can be when someone you love is gone.
“So first year,” she explained, “I started getting hysterical around Thanksgiving knowing that Christmas was coming up and it would be my first Christmas without her, and I couldn’t do it.”
By second year, Vanzant says she turned her grief into a celebration.
“I made a different choice,” she said. “And we don’t think that even though the person may have left or we have an empty chair. Or that people who we don’t necessarily want to be with are coming to sit at our table, we don’t think we let’s have a choice, but you can choose how you move through each experience.”
The holiday season can leave many people sad and vulnerable, especially those who are grieving. But Vanzant has some advice on how to get through this.
“For people who have that missing seat at the table, do whatever you know they liked,” she suggests.
“If they love Easter eggs, put Easter eggs under the Christmas tree. If they love baking or anything, bake it and put it in their name and share the happy memories and happy. Choose to make it a celebration rather than a sad memory.”
She also suggests not feeling stuck in old traditions that no longer serve you.
“For people to be able to step out of the usual programming, to be able to step out of dysfunctional traditions, to be able to step out of self-denial and say, ‘This is what I do,’ and be okay with that? Yay. Oh, the joy. Oh, the rapture. That’s a good thing.”
To honor her daughter, Vanzant has relaunched a body care business called Master Peace, which was founded by Gemmia. This helps carry on his legacy.
“As a mother, carrying on my daughter’s legacy and being a demonstration to her daughter, my granddaughter, of what it’s like to come in, to carry a vision, it’s humbling,” a- she declared. “It is a lesson in humility that the Creator entrusted me with such a lofty calling.”
And as difficult as this season is, Vanzant wants to remind people that they can get through the tough times.
“And whoever you are and wherever you are, you have been prepared by your challenges, your struggles, your experiences,” she said. “You have been prepared for this moment, whatever it is.”