The holidays have always been a joyful time of year for my family, full of laughter, love, and LOTS of traditions. Just last year my parent's still filmed all four kids walking down the stairs Christmas morning in our birth order (youngest to oldest). We always make Turkey shaped cookies for Thanksgiving, and we always read the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
When Julia died this summer everything changed. The holidays turned from something I would look forward to all year to the time that I was most dreading. It made me realize how painful of a time this must be for so many people. This time of year sheds a light on everything that is going well with your family and also everything that is going wrong.
One thing that really helped was talking about this with a friend who had lost her brother a few years earlier. She said that it helped her family to create entirely new traditions instead of trying to recreate the old. It's devastating either way but with a new tradition there is less of a giant hole that you are trying to fill and more of a sense that you are moving on and celebrating the one you have lost.
We are fortunate to have a large extended family who have been so incredibly helpful and supportive through all of this. They let us know that we could do anything we wanted for Thanksgiving. In the spirit of new traditions, here is what we decided to do:
1) The night before Thanksgiving we had a gingerbread house making party with family and friends.
2) On Thanksgiving day the cousins all cooked the meal for our parents. We all signed up for different dishes and showed up early in the day to cook together. We told our parents to just show up with alcohol and relax! This was a great bonding experience and allowed us to still have a traditional Thanksgiving but with a new twist.
3) The day after Thanksgiving we went to the Malibu Cafe, a great spot in the Santa Monica mountains that none of us had ever been to before. Our cousins got t shirts made for everyone with our mantra "I Keep Dancing" and we all ate good food, played games, and remembered Julia together. After that we went bowling and even did some dancing!
Overall there were still a lot of sad emotions throughout the course of the holiday. And I know Christmas will be just as hard. However creating new traditions helped us grab onto something new and offered hope that life does go on and we can keep dancing through the pain. It's helpful for me to think of life now as a set of new experiences rather than constantly lamenting about what I've lost. Julia is with us in all of these new traditions and I'd like to think that she is proud of how we are trying to embrace life instead of running away from it. Cheers to you Jules!!