Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Holiday Traditions

When we lose our child, we change. We become different people, with different goals and priorities. The rituals that we once held sacred to do with our children during the holiday season may no longer be important or appropriate. Old traditions sometimes bring more pain than comfort. We can look towards making new rituals and new beginnings with our family and friends. Here are a few suggestions for your holiday celebrations, no matter your beliefs.

If your family has always decorated the home with beautiful ornaments each year, perhaps a new tradition of having family and friends make a paper ornament for you that represents something related to your child. For example, if your child was active in soccer, perhaps a soccer ball with his name written on it. Or if your child was in choir, perhaps some paper musical notes or musical score sheets. If he or she liked a special food, cut something out from a food magazine and place on an original ornament made out of any product handy or bought. You would end up celebrating your child’s life and he/she would always be remembered. You can keep them or try a different theme every year that somehow relates to your child. It doesn’t take the pain away but will warm your heart to know that he/she is remembered and you may also find out something new about your child that you can treasure forever. Whether Christian, Jewish or any other religion, it doesn’t have to be done on a tree. It can just be a collection you display during the entire holiday season.

Invite friends and family to watch old videos so they can see your child’s personality show through. This will also provide an opportunity for everyone to talk about your child and they will feel more comfortable doing it in this setting, as will you.

Helping others during the holiday season is a good way to share yourself and may give you an opportunity to share stories of your child with others. You can help out at a senior citizen home, a hospital, a food bank or a soup kitchen feeding the hungry. Any of these choices will allow you to feel good about yourself and that you are doing something in memory of your child.

Go to the children’s ward of a hospital and bring something to give related to what your child would have wanted or something you have treasured that you can now part with. It could be a stuffed animal, a game, something electronic or some clothing. Whatever it is, you will make a new friend and feel that your item has made a difference to a child. If you feel up to helping out at the hospital in addition to just visiting, hospitals can always use volunteers. Give of yourself and you’ll have a better holiday.

Different charities usually hold events during the holiday season to raise money for the following year. If, for example, your child died of a particular illness, try to participate in that event in any way you can. Give a donation if you feel you can’t do anything else at the moment, or you can actively help to set up booths, sell food, or anything else they need volunteers for. Many charities have something like a walk-a-thon, for example. Not only is that a healthy activity, but you may also meet new friends by participating and be able to share your story with them. Other organizations may hold auctions or raffles and if you are good at getting items to raffle or auction off, perhaps that can be a new tradition for you.

As for me, the Thanksgiving season is the hardest. It was the last time I saw my daughter in a holiday setting surrounded by all those we cared about and loved. It was the first and only time my husband and I actually cooked a Thanksgiving meal. Usually my mom did the cooking and inviting, but she was getting older and didn’t want to take on the chore. As things happen, she died 5 days after Thanksgiving that year, my daughter the following year. So because of those two events, I now go to other people’s homes for that holiday. We are lucky enough to always be invited to a friend’s house or out to eat. It helps not thinking of what I lost far too soon in life.

If you have a tradition or ritual you’d like to share, please let me know and I will share with everyone.


  1. Our youngest son, Seth, passed away in oct. 2008 at 6 1/2 months of age.. So far, before Christmas, I take my two older boys and we buy toys they might have picked out for their baby brother Seth if he was still with us, and we donate them to Toys for tots..

  2. Hello. Great job. I did not expect this on a Wednesday. This is a great story. Thanks!