Creating New Holiday Traditions in Times of Grief

With the holidays just around the corner, it can be the happiest time to see family and friends creating memories. For some, it can also be a somber time where it can be hard to find a reason to celebrate the happiest time of the year. When I lost my Grandpa and then my Dad within the span of two years it seemed like two huge pieces of our puzzle were gone. These two made holidays what they were in our family. We felt the need to gather when it came to my Grandpa and Dad, they were the life of the celebration. How do we start to move on? 

Jeff Wilson who became close with my Father the last few years of his life was also our funeral director. When my Dad passed away it was towards the end of September right before the holiday time. As we sat down with Jeff, he went over the details of my Dad’s service, but then he brought up something that would always stick with me that I continue to pass on to people that have also lost a loved one. New Traditions. He told my mother and me that we would have to start creating new traditions when it came to the holidays. I never really thought much of it until I looked at what the holiday season looked like for my family. More than anything my Dad loved Thanksgiving. It was a time for the family to gather around the table and enjoy one of the best meals of the year. My Dad was always in charge of preparing and cooking the turkey. We watched football and played board games throughout the day and it was always so much fun. My Grandpa made Christmas important to us grandkids. He made sure Santa paid us a visit and always played with all of us. When I heard Jeff say, “you need to make new traditions," I did not know how they were going to match up to the ones we already had that made the holidays so special with my Dad and Grandpa. 

Unsplash; Arun Kuchibhotla

My Mom and I¬†started coming up with different things to do during the holidays that could turn into ‚Äúour traditions.‚Ä̬†For Thanksgiving, I started making the entire meal.¬†I felt it was important that I learned not only how my dad used to cook the turkey, but also how my Grandma cooked¬†all her side dishes.¬†Last year was the first time I cooked everything, including dessert.¬†It may have only been my Mom, Grandma, and myself, but it was nice to cook for all of us¬†and let them see that I can carry on a new tradition of preparing the big meal.¬†For Christmas, it was just¬†my Mom and me.¬†We decided to do matching Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve and watch movies.¬†Another year we decided to get each other hot cocoa mugs and do a hot cocoa¬†movie night.¬†Something we have done every year now is getting a new ornament for each other to put on our Christmas tree. Something that we do for every holiday now is¬†set a place for both my Grandpa and Dad to honor them at our table.¬† ¬†

These might be little things, but to us, they are ways that get us through the holidays and make it fun. What matters is that we are together with the people we still have and that we can still remember the ones that helped us shape our traditions. I am thankful that with these new traditions we can make the holidays still a bit special even though the time is always the hardest every year. As the years go on, remember to create new traditions with others. Take old traditions and make them new with the people you love. Turn what might be a hard time into memories that will last a lifetime.