Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rethinking Your Holiday Traditions

After your child dies, you may want to rethink how you go about your holiday traditions. What you once did may no longer apply or feel right to you.

If you have surviving children, you may want to keep some of your traditions so that they can remember and talk about their sibling, remembering good times they all had as a family during this joyous time of year. If you are now childless, you may want to start new traditions you feel comfortable with. Either way, changing the way you celebrate the holidays may boast your spirits tremendously.

For those with other children, you can find out from them if they have any suggestions for something new to do during this time of year or something that would honor the memory of their lost sibling. One parent I know asked her children what they would suggest, and the overwhelming ideas she received from her children were to help out in some way at a senior care home. One of the children felt that many seniors feel very lonely during this time of year and wanted to go there and entertain them and bring gifts on Christmas Eve. Another child thought about spending Thanksgiving and Christmas evening with these seniors and bringing them desserts. The parent loved these two thoughtful ideas and knew that her child who died would also have approved. She called the home in her area and they were delighted with the suggestions. Since then, it has become a new yearly tradition for this family.

Another family thought getting away and into a new environment for a few days during the holiday season would help their heavy hearts when the season rolled around. The first year they decided to go to a mountain resort where they could ski and have a good time together. Even though the child who died never left their mind, they found that it was easier to talk about what had happened and how much they missed and loved the sibling. In succeeding years, they have gone to Disneyland, a resort where it is warm enough to swim and sun, and who knows where they will go this year. Going away is not meant to help you forget the child. You will never forget, nor should you. It is only meant to lift your spirits a little during this difficult season.

My favorite story is about how an entire family gets together and dedicates their Christmas tree to the sibling who died. At the top is a picture of the child and the tree is filled with ornaments each child makes dealing with some aspect of the sibling. For example, if active in a sport, a miniature tennis racket or football can be made or bought. Pictures of activities the child participated in, their favorite jewelry, food or car (miniature, of course) and more…all of these things are placed on the tree and then the lights are added. Each year additional ornaments are added and good friends asked to contribute something they remember about the child. It could be an ornament or just a poem, saying or activity they write about. In this way, the child is always remembered and part of the holiday.

It is very difficult for those parents who are now childless. I know of one group of parents who try to get together at a fun location somewhere in the U.S. for the holidays. There they can feel comfortable sharing thoughts and feelings and talk about their children, since they all have this one thing in common. Other parents spend the holidays with good friends and relatives. That is what I do and although I miss not having my child there, and on the way home tears may come to my eyes, I know she is not forgotten by these special people who make me feel comfortable being in their homes and talking about her when appropriate.

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