Creating New Rituals at the Holidays

arspilka December 24th, 2009, 9:53 AM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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PC190020 webUnder the best of circumstances, the holidays can be a stressful time, but when you are grieving for someone, holidays take on greater meaning. Like any anniversary or birthday, holidays are rife with memories. If you are working with the bereaved, or you yourself are grieving, this time of year can be downright excruciating.

Memories of joyous family gatherings may be supplanted by a profound sadness, a feeling that those times are gone forever, but there are ways to cope with these losses.

You can incorporate the one you love into new rituals and traditions.

  • Consider taking the money you would have spent on a gift for your loved one and use it to make a donation in his/her memory.
  • Having a large family gathering? Make your loved one’s signature dish, and reminisce about every time she made it she always had flour on her nose, but she looked so cute no one ever told her.
  • Write a letter thanking your loved one for all he/she taught you.
  • Buy something for yourself he/she would have liked you to have. (Exercise a little restraint here. “Mom always wanted me to have a diamond tiara!” may be a grief response that needs to be worked through.)

There are terrific resources put together by the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Bereavement Staff at VNSNY. The amazing thing about grief counseling is that eventually we will all give and receive it at some point, and learning how to help others now will allow us to help ourselves in the future.

Be well.


  • I like the point in your last sentence. Are you aware of any books on the subject that would be good to read?

  • Thanks for commenting, Michael. I will speak with the Bereavement Manager at VNSNY and see what he recommends. I’ll be sure to pass on what I learn.

    Be well.

  • Beautiful suggestions, Abby!

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