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Dear Lifelines: Scrooged

Dear Lifelines:

I seem to have lost my Christmas spirit, since there have been changes in my family in the past couple of years. How do I make Christmas meaningful now that my family has changed so much?

Signed, Scrooged

Dear Scrooged,

It sounds like you have had some changes in your life and the adjustments you are dealing with are impacting your thoughts about holiday traditions and family. Sometimes it’s worth taking the time to reflect on how you view the holidays and to define what the important aspects of the holidays are to you. Are there any traditions that you want to carry forward? What do you want to get out of any events or gatherings that may take place? What aspects of the holidays make you feel good? Which ones make you feel down? If you take the time to analyze how you feel and what you think about the past - breaking things down in a list of positive and negative aspects - you might allow yourself the ability to figure out how you want to purposefully carry on or re-create traditions for the future.

Once you figure out your own needs (this is essential), you can begin to consider the needs of other members who might be taking part in these celebrations with you. What are their needs? Are there children involved in the celebrations? What would they like to get out of the holidays? What are their specific needs? You might explore sitting down and finding out what their thoughts and feelings are so that the events can become meaningful to everyone. You can define what you all want and start a new chapter. Experiment, make it creative and above all else, remember to keep a sense of humour and learn from each other. It’s important to recognize that everyone copes differently and grieves at different speeds. Your tone and how you handle the changes will help set the stage for your children and other family members.

When families change through death, divorce or marriage, traditions can adapt. Whatever you define as your family system needs to become flexible enough so you can continue to thrive. For some people they re-invent the holiday by going on a vacation, renting a hotel suite for festivities or meeting in a restaurant for a change of venue for the family gathering. Some people even consider combining festivities with different families each year for variety. The possibilities are endless. You might want to include plans to make your deceased loved one a part of the future traditions in some way. Perhaps you can do a project each year with the youngsters to allow them to talk about their loved one and create a special holiday ornament or craft project that includes their picture, their favourite colour or something special about the deceased family member. Speaking openly about the pain of losing a loved one and how that re-shapes our futures can be part of healthy grieving. Doing a project or activity like driving and looking at the holiday lights and picking out the ones Grandpa would have enjoyed most if he were still alive, might create some space for openly discussing the reality of change.

Best of luck as you re-define your special holiday time.



“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.” Leon Megginson and Charles Darwin

How have you altered your traditions after family structure changes through death, divorce or merged families? Let us know so we can share your thoughts and help others try what worked for you!

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