Someone you love has died and now the holidays will never be the same. It is important to acknowledge this.
I say this because I see people go into the holidays passively. They don’t acknowledge that things have changed and assume everything be as it always was. They have no real plan and are not prepared at all, they just put their heads in the sand and just try to ‘wish’ the holidays away.
Others have a more aggressive approach, think if they try hard enough to maintain old traditions that it will be the same. They grit their teeth and say “We are going to do this just like we always have” as they push through the holidays.
By acknowledging that this death has changed the holidays, we can let go of being too passive, and create a deliberate plan for how we can care for ourselves during the holidays. We can also relax and not be too aggressive…demanding that the holiday be as it always was.
The truth is, even if you manage to rebuild your tradition to the closest approximation possible, there will still be sadness.
The creation of new traditions and rituals provides you the opportunity to find meaningful and lasting ways to remember loved ones.
Also, it allows you to stay connected to those who have died, allowing them to continue to play a role in holiday celebrations going forward.
I am going to provide you with a few ideas for creating new holiday traditions after the death of a loved one.
Hopefully, you can create traditions that can be handed down to future generations.
Choose your loved one’s favorite dish (or recipe) and make sure the dish is present at your celebration year after year. For example, when I was growing up, my sister always made the gravy. She was taught by my grandmother and after my grandmother died, she continued to be assigned to the gravy. She told me later that there wasn’t really any magic to it, just stirring in a particular manner, but we loved the ‘special’ gravy. This kept my grandmother’s traditions alive long after she had passed.
2. Memory notes:
This is an awesome idea. Every year, place a special piece of paper at everyone’s seat at the table, along with markers. Ask holiday guests to write down their favorite holiday memories, especially those that involve family members who are no longer present. After dinner you can put all those memories in a jar or basket and read them as you are serving dessert. It is a wonderful way to connect with those who can no longer be with us. Also, you can save the notes and pull them out the following year.
3. Candle ceremony:
At the holiday event, give everyone an unlit candle. The first person lights the first candle and shares a memory. They can share a memory of their deceased loved one(s), a memory from past holidays, or a time during the year when they felt their loved one’s presence – you decide! After the first person shares their memory, they light the candle of the next person and that person shares a memory – so on and so forth. Once the last candle is lit, do something to close out the ceremony (for example: sing a song or say a prayer).
4. Add an extra plate:
Add an extra plate (maybe even a photo) to your dinner table to symbolize your loved one’s presence in everyone’s hearts and minds.
5. Let regrets burn:
In addition to the memories and traditions you keep with you, you may also be holding onto things like regret, guilt, and feelings of resentment. This year consider starting a holiday tradition of lighting a fire, writing down your regrets from the past year, and then throwing your regrets into the fire to symbolize a fresh start. It is very therapeutic!