Dealing with family traditions can take one step at a time.
Many families have traditions especially around holidays. Some go caroling or host tree trimming parties at Christmas. Some feed the hungry at Thanksgiving. My family always made a big deal out of costumes and we usually had a party on Halloween. It was my son Cory’s favorite holiday and it meant a lot to continue the tradition after he died. It wasn’t easy but it felt necessary for a good many years. My dear friend Judy wrote this beautiful example of one family’s tradition and how hard it is to carry on after a loved one dies.
“Sometime along the years, making ice cream became a highlight on the Fourth of July. And soon enough it was absolutely necessary to eat homemade ice cream while watching the fireworks. It was tradition! So…what do you do when some of the traditions were started or favored by a person who has passed? This year on the Fourth we kept up with traditions as best we could for Michael’s sake. He was big on tradition and it was he who made sure all the ingredients for the ice cream were on hand. One year the ice cream maker stopped working part way through a batch, and he went right out to buy a new one. This year I was out on the back steps with bags of ice, rock salt and an ice cream maker whirring away, trying my level best to keep up with traditions while sobbing and missing Michael more than ever. Our son Patrick usually puts on the fireworks show and he did a great job of it. But instead of saving the best for last, the “grand finale”, he told us there would be a red one and then a blue one and then we’d call it a night. Many fireworks are left for next year. He did all he could do. And we were fine with that. So…I learned from this that we don’t HAVE to do things the same way every single time to demonstrate what? Our commitment to family traditions? Our respect and love for the one who isn’t with us anymore? Habit? Shirley, maybe for us it was simply too soon. Maybe this was a good baby step to getting back into it. Are we failing to give our love and respect to the dead if we give up or alter the traditions they loved? Do we need to ease into it? Does it really matter? Maybe some things are meant to change, but it would be nice to figure out a way to incorporate the old with the new.”
Judy and her family did what was best for them. I applaud their sense of commitment and listening to their inner voice about creating a boundary to protect themselves. Especially Patrick who knew when to pull back.
What does your family do about traditions? Mine like Judy’s scaled back and eased into a new normal. There was enough to keep the tradition alive and well in honor of Cory’s love for Halloween but not so much that it was overwhelming. Years later, it turned out to be one of my youngest daughter’s favorite holidays too. We hosted the parties and it was fun again. She is in her mid-twenties now and still loves Halloween and costumes. I love to see each year what she comes up with. I guess it became easier and more fun again for me because Keili was enjoying Halloween almost as much as her brother. Although, I have to admit that after all these years I still get teary over Easter egg dying though.
So, if you just ask yourself the same questions Judy did…you will find a balance. There is no right or wrong answer. And please do not drive yourself crazy trying to keep traditions exactly the same too soon…or in some cases maybe ever. It is entirely up to you…just think of it as going up the stairs…one step at a time.