The holiday season is an emotional time of year, with a strong focus on family and tradition. For people who have experienced a loss, it can be a difficult period to navigate. That’s especially true if it is the first holiday season without a loved one. Creating new holiday traditions can help with the grieving process. As these new traditions evolve, they can serve to honor and memorialize a lost loved one, enshrining that loved one in the family story.
Turn Focus Outward
For the recently bereaved, it may be too soon for the usual hosting of family gatherings or making the rounds visiting family and friends. That is fine. After all, you can return to those things when the loss is less raw, when the pain becomes more manageable.
Instead, consider adding the tradition of volunteer work. Visit senior citizens in nursing homes, spend a bit of time with shut-ins or seek out someone who is also dealing with a loss and help each other through the holiday season. Support a cause that was important to your loved one, with either money or time.
Helping others helps shift your focus from your own loss in a positive, productive way. Later on, as you work your way through the grieving process and return to your more traditional ways of celebrating the holidays, bring this new tradition forward with you.
Incorporate New Ideas
Many cultures have different ways of honoring their departed families. Indeed, there’s much that we can learn from other cultures and incorporate into our own holiday celebrations. Several cultures have an annual period of remembrance. These remembrance gatherings are more about celebrating lives than grieving their loss. Traditions associated with these gatherings include preparing the favorite foods of the departed, along with other traditional dishes, and gathering together to share stories about departed family members.
In some cultures, they gather at the person’s resting spot to share the meal and the memories. Other cultures gather at the family home. The place doesn’t matter as much as the tradition of celebrating the lives of the loved ones, keeping the threads that weave the family tapestry strong and making sure they live on in the memories of the next generation. Create similar traditions for your holiday season.
Blend In The Old
The loss of a loved one never goes away, but it does become easier to bear over time. During the early stages, every memory can be painful. However, as time goes on, that changes. The ancient Christmas star he put on top of the tree every year or the special china she always set the holiday table with brings more comfort than sorrow. Return some of those old traditions to your holiday season when you’re ready and make sure the children know their stories.
Stories have been with us from time immemorial. Oral histories passed down from generation to generation, family traditions, recipes and legends are all a part of who we are. They strengthen the connections between the different generations in a family. Record the story of your departed loved one, his or her childhood, struggles, triumphs, hobbies, interests, favorite foods, music and books. Encourage family members to contribute their memories. Add the sharing of that story to your holiday traditions, whether via preparing a favorite dish, sharing favorite corny jokes or holiday memories.