The holidays can magnify the absence of familiar faces or routines. Consider creating new traditions that honor the past while embracing the present.

Here are some ideas which may help you with some of those things you might find challenging.

  1. Be honest with yourself and others.
    1. If your friends and family try to change old traditions, such as where the holiday dinner will take place, and that is one tradition you do not wish to be different, let them know.
      While they might think this change will make things” easier on you,” if that is not the case, you need to tell them the truth. If you take the lead and are honest about how you feel, it will make it safe for them to be honest as well.
  2. Give yourself grace.
    1. We have been conditioned to believe that we have to feel a certain way during the holidays. Take that pressure off – feel what you feel and plan to have less pressure with schedules, hosting activities, and showing up for things.
    2. Let others help you. If you have always been the one in charge of holidays, it can be hard to let go and at the same time, physically and emotionally exhausting to do everything you have done in the past.
    3. Invite others to help with specific tasks. Remember that they love you and they want to help. Let someone else bake, clean, or decorate the tree.
  3. Be prepared and communicate.
    1. Before plans and expectations sneak up on you, think about what you can and cannot do this year.
      Friends and family may, with the best of intentions, make plans for you. If you have already decided what is best for you, gently decline plans that are too stressful.
  4. Know who your “safe” people are to talk with during the holidays.
    1. A safe person is one who will just listen. They can hear what you share with them and not offer advice, suggest a solution, or try to fix the situation. Anxiety may be higher – this is a normal response and part of grieving as you are maneuvering activities and emotions that need to be expressed.
    2. Family dynamics may be strained as everyone has their own unique way of grieving. Be prepared to support each other and be aware that not everyone may be ready to talk about the loss or to receive support.
  5. Create new traditions.
    1. There are many ways to do this, and they are as individual as your family.
      • Light a candle in memory of your loved one
      • Make their favorite dessert
      • Write memories on strips of paper and put them in their Christmas stocking
      • Buy a gift in their memory and donate it to a favorite charity
      • Invite everyone to share a favorite memory
      • Play their favorite game or music
      • Buy a special ornament in honor of them

Being in the kitchen and baking homemade sticky buns was something my Mom did every Christmas. After she died I took over the tradition and feel her love poured into my baking each year now. It’s a way that I can connect with her joy in the holiday season.

Make it ok to share your sadness and your good memories.

There are several ways to approach this season of special days. You can try to make them just as they were before the death of your loved one. You can do something completely different. Or you can create a day that combines old traditions with new ones.

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