Remix the holidays

7 DAYS OF HEALING : DAY 5

Beginning with the anticipation of Thanksgiving and preparation for Christmas and Hanukkah, there is an invisible societal pressure to be joyful and festive that carries us through the New Year. Cheerful holiday songs fill the airwaves, marketing campaigns advertising the perfect gifts flood our screens, and everyone is abuzz with holiday plans and family gatherings, but what happens when the familiarity of holiday traditions intensifies feelings of sadness and longing? If hiding under a blanket until January or making a mad dash for the nearest airport over attending holiday-themed festivities sounds more enticing, you may want to reconsider and remix the holidays instead.

Don't be afraid to mix things up.
Ditching time-honored traditions in favor of forging new ones may seem counterintuitive and foreign. Perhaps Grandma had a knack for baking peach cobbler reserved just for her. Or no one can play the family piano like Uncle Joe. There may be a question surrounding who will assume the role when it involves preparing those beloved dishes and performing specific customs. Psychology Today describes this feeling as role confusion. Assigning traditions to deceased loved ones immortalizes them and leaves us with fond memories, yet they are hard to live up to. 
After my mother transitioned, I recreated my grandmother's black-eyed peas with hot water cornbread. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't quite mimic the bowl-scraping, lip-smacking goodness I recalled from childhood. The "juice" from the peas was much thinner, and the cornbread was less flavorful than I anticipated. The two individuals I could consult and get to the bottom of where my recipe went wrong had long since crossed over. I was heartbroken. The sadness that washed over me after failing to duplicate a well-loved family recipe highlights how the holidays can trigger unexpected grief reactions. The absence of our loved ones amplifies the reality that we will never be able to enjoy the wonder of the holidays as we once did.
Change your scenery.
Have you ever wondered what it's like to have an international holiday? Unchain yourself from the shackles of a traditional holiday and give into wanderlust. According to AAA, close to 113 million Americans will travel over 50 miles away from home during this holiday season (December 23 through January 2). Abandoning holiday pleasantries and opting to travel is on the rise. People are taking off for distant lands, domestic and foreign, whether that includes a tropical getaway or a reprieve in a small town. The positive emotions, improved mood and increased happiness experienced by a change of environment lends itself to better well-being overall.
Source: NY Post, Photo credit: Grits, Adobe photo stock
"In recent years, there’s been a shift from wanting physical gifts toward giving experiences. The survey data shows just that. Americans are hoping to get away and experience something new with their friends and family and, rather than accumulate more things, they will rather create new memories,” said Henry Perez, business development director at Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts told the NY Post.
Stripping away the formality and rigidity of tradition gives us permission to  remix the holidays and reimagine them in a way that works best for all.
Ready to remix the holidays and don't know where to start? Find inspiration in these relatable stories of grieving individuals that managed to create their own joy after loss. Click here to read more
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Keep holiday tradition alive

What NOT to say to the grieving individuals and how to help.

7 DAYS OF HEALING : DAY 4

At the center of many holiday celebrations are rich traditions passed down from generation to generation. On the other hand, grief poses a unique dilemna that many families face -- deciding to keep tradition alive or forego tradition altogether. According to Healthline.com, a 2021 survey of 2,000 U.S. adults revealed that 36 percent of surveyers didn’t want to celebrate the holidays because of feelings of grief or loss. The holidays feel different when the people at the center of cherished family traditions are no longer present.
Keep holiday tradition alive.
Your family may find comfort in continuing age-old holiday traditions. Familiar customs welcome a sense of safety associated with decking the halls, burning the yuletide log, drinking egg nog, fixing all the holiday trimmings, or whatever tradition your family holds dear. It also helps maintain some normality when the loss of family members permanently shifts the family dynamic.
  • Decide in advance who is hosting and the location where the festivities will be.
  • Come to a consensus on which holiday traditions are too painful to include and which ones to keep.
  • Tell funny, endearing stories about the dearly departed. 
  • Play their favorite holiday songs and sing along if you feel inclined.
  • Enlist a dress code where everyone wears a shade of their favorite colors.
  • Light a candle and say a prayer prior to dinner to honor loved ones who have passed on.
  • Laught and cry together.
  • Leave a seat at the table for them.
  • Display a photo of them front and center for all to see or some other token that symbolizes them.
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There is perfection in imperfection.
An undue need to carry on rituals as they have always been creates an unnecessary pressure that adds additional stress during an already difficult time. Perhaps instead of cooking an elaborate feast, an intimate dinner with a few holiday favorites is more suitable. Fight against self-imposed limiting beliefs that everything must be perfect or the same as the celebrations we remember from childhood. It is possible to find perfection in imperfection
Remove the expectation.
Because grief is not linear, our experiences with grief are vastly different. Everyone will not wish to celebrate in the same manner as you, or not all. Grief doesn't look one particular way and even when delighting in the wonders of the holiday season or sharing in laughter, grief lingers beneath the surface. No matter how close you are, don't presume to know what someone else feels without asking. 
“Just because somebody feels OK about the holiday season doesn’t mean they aren’t grieving,” Megan Devine, a psychotherapist and grief advocate, told Healthline. “Maybe someone is excited about the holiday season because they get to connect with their extended family whom they haven’t seen all year. There’s the idea that grief looks one way, and if you’re not feeling that way, you can feel like you’re failing.” 
Encourage inclusivity for everyone who chooses to get into the holiday spirit, but don't press if a family member declines. Be respectful of the differences in boundaries and needs that exist around the dinner table. Extend the invitation and welcome family to keep holiday tradition alive in the manner that best suits them.
20230211_180609_0000

GET YOUR COMPLIMENTARY COPING w/GRIEF GUIDE!!

For more practical tips to coping with grief this holiday season and beyond, click the button below to DOWNLOAD '10 Ways to cope with grief' TODAY!

Download '10 Ways to cope with Grief' guide