Holiday Traditions After A Loss

OCTOBER 29, 2019  /  ADINA BAILEY  / 

Holiday Traditions After A Loss
There's no getting around the fact that the holidays are difficult when you've lost someone you dearly love. We spend our lives anticipating the holidays because we have created yearly, meaningful traditions with loved ones. It's these very traditions that bring about a deeper grief when a loved one dies because the season is never the same.
I recently was introduced to an article, 16 Ideas for Creating New Holiday Tradition After a Death, that inspired me to consider what we have done over the past five years to make the holidays more bearable after losing my dad at the age of 61. While what I had hoped for was many more holiday seasons with my dad, what I have been given is the opportunity to remember him through traditions.
Every family and grieving person is different, but these are some ways that we've remembered our loved one during the holidays. All of these might not be helpful for you and that's okay. All of this might feel too soon for you, and that's okay too.
1. Buy or make a special ornament
We continue to have a fresh Christmas tree because that's something we always did with my dad preparing for the holidays. After he died, I bought an ornament to hang on our tree in memory of him. Each year, I hang it in the middle of the tree, so I see it easily. The company where I bought my ornament a few years ago,, has several new ornaments related to loss. You can choose one for yourself, or someone who will be facing a difficult holiday season this year. You can also find or make an ornament that represents something that your loved one enjoyed. In my experience, Hobby Lobby has a huge in-store collection of ornaments specific to all types of careers and hobbies.
2. Make their favorite food
For as long as I can remember, my dad made Monkey Bread for Christmas morning. He would cut up the Pillsbury dinner rolls (and we would anxiously anticipate the "pop" when the tube of biscuits opened). This is a tradition my family has continued and it's even more meaningful now that he is gone. I also make sure I buy a box of his favorite chocolate covered cherries. Food makes us feel connected to our loved ones through taste, smell, and warmth.
3. Give them a gift
Giving a gift to someone else in my dad's memory has been a meaningful way for us to remember him as a family. We keep our ears open to needs around the holidays and we decide what the gift will be. We send my mom a card letting her know what we've done in my dad's memory. Some examples of gifts we've given are donating to a family's adoption fund, buying winter coats for a family in need, buying a fresh cut tree for a family with overwhelming medical expenses, and donating money to our local hospice.
4. Serve others
It may take a few years to feel up for this one, but sometimes doing something for someone else in need can help with your own grief. When you serve others who are also hurting, you do not feel as alone in your own grief. In our family, my mom and sister started a project called Chemo Comfies and over the years they have donated hundreds of fleece blankets to cancer centers in December. My dad was always so cold during his treatments. Chemo Comfies already has over 100 blankets tied this season and four cancer centers waiting to receive them. On a smaller scale, last year my teenage son decided to make angel ornaments out of wood to give to our friends who lost a loved one. You can even pick just one person who you know is also grieving and decide to reach out by meeting up for coffee or dropping by with a poinsettia.
No matter if you decide to start a new tradition this year in memory of your loved one, continue a former tradition, or take a break from traditions altogether, give yourself LOTS of grace this holiday season. Not long after my dad died someone shared a song with me written by Mark Schultz titled, Different Kind of Christmas. This song was comforting because it meant I wasn't the only one struggling during the holidays and the lyrics affirmed my feelings.
"There's one less place set at the table
One less gift under the tree
And a brand new way to take their place inside of me
I'm unwrapping all these memories
Fighting back the tears
It's just a different kind of Christmas this year"

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Adina & Maureen
Adina & Maureen

Welcome! We're thrilled you stopped by. Our own joys and sorrows have taught us that a well-timed meal delivered by a friend is one of the best gifts imaginable. In this space, we share our favorite recipes to take to friends, meal-taking tips, and other ways to care for those who are dear to you.

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