Keeping Family Traditions Alive after the Death of a Loved One
When you lose a beloved friend or family member, you do not just lose a person—you are losing all the things that person brought to your life. From the laughter they shared to the moral support they offered every time you needed it, someone who was important to you is likely to leave a large hole in your life once they are gone.
This is especially true during holidays, life’s milestones, and all those times that family traditions came into play. Maybe your grandmother made her famous squash casserole for every Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps each summer was spent enjoying time at a favorite aunt’s rustic cabin. You might even be missing the simple joys of coffee and conversation every morning with the neighbor next door.
No matter what shape your traditions take, it is important to keep them going long after you experience a loss. Not only will you be able to work through your own grief in this way, but you can create lasting traditions that can be passed along to future generations.
Define Your Traditions
The best way to keep family traditions alive is to first explore what those traditions are. Some traditions (like opening presents on Christmas Eve or spending the Fourth of July at the lake) are easy to define. Others are much more subtle. Start by making a list of all the things you loved to do with the deceased—no matter how big or how small—and move from there.
The next important step is to store these traditions someplace where they are accessible for the future. Keep a calendar so you do not miss important dates. Put the traditions up on a social media page or website so others can contribute to it. Write them down or print them out somewhere that your children and your children’s children will have access so they can build on the traditions as they move through their own lives.
Of course, some traditions might not be possible to continue following the death of a relative (if, for example, their house was sold as part of the estate), but you can re-create them in ways that bring you and your family joy.
Set Aside Money and/or Vacation Time
In our fast-paced, expensive way of modern life, some traditions might seem inaccessible. For example, you and your siblings may have made sacrifices to come together for the holidays every year for the sake of an older parent who could not travel but still wanted everyone under one roof. It can be tempting to set this tradition aside after your loss, but do what you can to keep it going.
Set money aside for a family gathering every year, even if it is somewhere new and overlaps with your usual vacation time. Meet over video chat if you cannot be together face-to-face. Come up with a way to honor your loved one in a location that you all want to visit. These sacrifices might not be easy, but they are almost always worth it.
Sometimes, the smallest gestures mean the most. An activity as easy and inexpensive as carving a pumpkin at Halloween can keep the family spirit strong. Stringing popcorn over the tree costs pennies and can mean everything to the young and young at heart. Any gesture that reminds you of your loved one is worth the effort—and worth doing every year to keep them in your heart.