Creating New Holiday Traditions After Losing a Loved One
The season for family get-togethers, parties, and New Year’s celebrations is right around the corner. And while it’s a time of merriment for many, for those who have lost a loved one, it can bring up painful reminders.
While we all grieve differently, the creation of new holiday traditions and rituals can provide the bereaved with the opportunity the find meaningful, lasting ways to remember their loved one. And it allows those who have passed to play a new and continuous role in holiday celebrations going forward. New traditions can be simple things you decide to do on your own or bigger rituals that you create with your family. Even better, create a tradition that can be handed down to future generations. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Make a favorite holiday dish: Choose your loved one’s favorite dish or recipe and make sure the dish is present at your celebration year after year. This could be a favorite entree, side dish, dessert, cookie, or beverage. Whatever you loved one enjoyed, incorporate into your holiday feast every year.
Play favorite tunes: Create a CD of holiday songs that remind your of your loved one and play it during your celebration. Or, have a sing-along after holiday dinner.
Have a candle ceremony: On the night before the holiday or on the night of the holiday, gather your family together and give everyone an unlit candle. Ask someone to light their candle first and share a fond memory of the deceased. After the first person shares their memory, ask them to light the candle of the next person and that person then shares a memory, and so on. Once the last candle is lit, say a prayer or sing a hymn together to end the ceremony.
Say a special blessing: If your family traditionally says a blessing before the holiday meal, add a quote, verse, poem, or saying that reflects your loved one.
Give to charity: Each year, choose a charity to give to in your loved one’s name. Allow everyone to offer suggestions and then choose as a family. If you don’t want to just make a monetary donation, look for shelters doing “adopt a resident” programs or opportunities to buy gifts through an angel tree.
Go to a place where you feel close to your loved one: Start a tradition of visiting your loved one’s grave or another place where you feel close to them on the holiday.
Make a holiday memory/gratitude box: Leave a box, slips of paper, and pens out, and ask those you’re spending the holidays with to write down their favorite holiday memories, memories of loved ones, or things for which they are thankful. Ask them to put their slips in the box and read them over dessert.
Create remembrance ornaments: Buy a new ornament every year in memory of your loved one. This could be an ornament that you think is pretty, a photo ornament, or an ornament that symbolizes something about your loved one. If children are affected by the loss, invite them to help select the ornament or let them make an ornament themselves.
Put up a tree for your loved one: Consider buying a small tree specifically for the remembrance ornaments. This will give people an opportunity to enjoy the ornaments and reminisce. You could have a specific tradition for decorating and lighting the tree.
It’s healthy to acknowledge the passing of a loved one and could be easier when in the company of family. It can bring up old memories of your loved one that can be used as part of the healing process. Sharing memories in meaningful ways may even turn into your new tradition.