Keep holiday tradition alive
What NOT to say to the grieving individuals and how to help.


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, 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.
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.


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!

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