Coping with Grief: Create a Joyful Holiday by Adding Fun New Traditions
When you’re mourning the loss of a loved one, the same holiday traditions that once brought joy can serve as difficult reminders. Whether your loss was very recent or some time ago, the holidays are often filled with memories of those loved ones, and can make missing them feel fresh again. Maintaining those storied customs can be one way to celebrate your memories, but starting new family traditions offer another way for you and your family members to look forward to the holiday season.
Here are ten clever ways to include new traditions in your holiday plans:
1. Switch up your Christmas day menu. While holiday feasts just wouldn’t be the same without your family’s time-honored secret recipes, other parts of the meal might be up for a twist. One fun way to do this is to offer a dessert bar filled with tasty treats created by your guests. In advance of your gathering, invite guests to a ‘bake-off’ and ask them to create their favorite holiday themed dessert. Present all the goodies on a sideboard or countertop after the main meal has been cleared away. Let guests vote on their favorites and give a prize to the winning entry. Non-bakers can contribute in their own way, too. For example, the might bring coffee and flavored creamer or a selection of gourmet hard candies.
2. Visit a tree farm. If you’ve always had an artificial tree or bought a live one from a local vendor, why not try something new this year? Start your family's new holiday festivities off right by bundling up and heading to a local Christmas tree farm to search for the perfect tree. Aside from getting out in the fresh air and enjoying the beauty of nature, many tree farms offer hayrides, sleigh rides, oversized gingerbread houses, and other family-friendly activities. You might even see Santa there!
3. Begin an annual family photo shoot. Plan an amateur family photo op and ask a friend to take a group picture. Each year, take a photo in the same location to build a collection of timeline snapshots you can put on display. You could get creative and incorporate a theme or special color, or encourage family members to wear a silly hat or goofy tie.
4. Share memories of your loved one. Hang a special Christmas stocking in which family and friends can place written stories of fond memories of the deceased. Read them aloud as family on Christmas morning.
5. Help your kids write letters to Santa. This fun tradition helps create that magical atmosphere surrounding the holidays. The fact that kids can write a special letter to jolly old Santa and then actually mail it out helps them retain that innocent, curious spirit that makes the holidays so much fun. If you haven't already done so, consider adopting an Elf on the Shelf. He can get letters to Santa delivered at lightning speed! And you can even shrink your letters to elf-size and keep them as holiday keepsakes to hang on the tree.
6. Give back. Make others' lives merry and bright during the Christmas season. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or senior living community. Or, send supplies and greeting cards to soldiers stationed abroad who are away from their families for the holidays.
7. Create a “treasured memories” vase. Gather a small flower vase partially filled with water and an assortment of floral stones in a basket. Read the following quote to your family and friends: “When someone we love dies, our memories of them become our treasure.” Pass the vase and the basket of stones as each person shares a special remembrance or treasured holiday memory of your loved one who has passed. Drop a stone into the vase for each memory shared. The sharing of treasured memories and dropping of stones can continue until the water level rises to the top of the vase, symbolizing how these treasured memories fill us, even though our loved one is no longer physically here.
8. Set up a Christmas Eve hot cocoa bar. Break out the hot cocoa and step up your presentation a notch. Instead of just serving everyone a mug of plain cocoa, set up a hot cocoa station, complete with mini-marshmallows, whipped cream, colored sprinkles, butterscotch sauce, and candy canes. To honor your loved one, you might whip up a batch of his or her favorite cookie to go along with the hot drink.
9. Include playtime in your festivities. Kids are always ready for fun in the form of a scavenger hunt or family game night. Create a new tradition for children and adults alike by introducing a board game tournament or dividing guests into teams for games such as relay races or a cookie toss.
10. Incorporate a new cultural tradition. Broaden your family's cultural awareness and spice up a typical holiday celebration with traditions from around the world. You might look to your own roots for inspiration, or explore a culture that has always fascinated you. It can be as simple as teaching the kids how to say "happy holidays" in another language or as elaborate as fixing a traditional holiday feast from across the globe.
Change and difficult times are natural parts of family life, so you should allow for some alterations when it comes to family tradition and rituals. That’s often easier said than done, because accepting change can mean having to accept new roles, new responsibilities, and a new perspective. Although it’s tough to change traditions your deceased loved one was a part of, being together and at peace should be the top priority. With a little planning, you can devise new ways to celebrate and enjoy the holiday season. For additional ideas for new holiday traditions, or if you need help coping with grief, please contact one of our compassionate funeral directors today.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.