Friday, November 20, 2009
Room for Yourself: Creating Traditions in Grief
Reflecting upon the traditions that may have pooled together in your childhood , how many have remained?
If you have melded families together then traditions have probably been remixed and sprinkled with others as children grow, as "artifacts" of past holidays are passed to the younger generation. Tradition may be what is celebrated, how it is celebrated and where it is celebrated is just as important.
Traditions may be not where you go, but what you prepare for food or make or what items you place seasonally in a place of recognition for significant remembrance or ritual.
Some families may not celebrate wedding anniversaries, some may always gather together for them. Some families may each and every year go to the Nutcracker to kick off the Christmas season even though not one of them can dance!
Grief in itself, can mark such a time , such a rememberance, counting the days or months from the event that changed our lives. It can resemble the young mother whom says her infant is 12 weeks old or envision its arrival as 3 months. Marking our grief may also begin a tradition for some. Is it a tradition that uplifts you or that holds you down? Looking at our progress rather than our past can prove empowering. Do you mark each day, each month with gray laden notches on a stick or place that stick, that you thought was dead into crystal clear water and watch the small thread like roots reach downward in the translucent vase and small sprouts of green rise upward. Your growth is always possible, each day, each moment. In grief, recognizing the growth in ourselves may seem impossible. Finding a way to celebrate our progress, creating a new tradition for ourselves can be fulfilling and as fun as the young child looking forward to the stockings being hung by the chimney with care.
What can you envision as a "reward" or festive tradition on this grief journey for you? A few suggestions follow that may buoy you up or add to ways you support yourself.
Get pampered. A manicure, pedicure, massage or a wonderful close shave and facial for the guys. TLC never hurt anyone
Go to a hotel. Rent a movie, get room service and buy yourself a new silk robe.
Picnic Hamper. Have a local deli create a surprise picnic for you. Let them know what kinds of things you like. Grab a old sheet or tablecloth and book, invite a young child to be your guest. Remember the bubbles .
Scent and Sentiment. Find a new small votive candle you enjoy and accompany it with a short poem or affirmation. Place them into a beautiful box or silky bag. Each month hunt for another candle or phrase to place in the container of your choice. This monthly scavenger hunt is fun. On your celebration day, you may again delight in your discovery. If you are like me, I often forget what I have bought!
Reach outward. There are many organizations where you can celebrate your progress by a monetary donation and help others progress as well in their dreams and independence. Two of my favorites are Heifer Project and Kiva. With your donations to The Heifer Project you can purchase baby chicks, goats, sheep and other livestock. The individual receiving such a animal agrees to nurture and raise more animals to donate to others. The circle widens in sharing and growth. The other organization called Kiva, allows you to select the individual or individuals you wish to support with a loan. Others will often join you to support such a loan. The individual receiving the loan has a certain time table in which to repay you. As you are repaid, you can elect to receive the money back or to reinvest it with someone else of your selection. It has been a rewarding experience for me.
Take away and add on. If a family tradition is daunting for you consider taking part of it away and adding on with something else. It may be that you do not "hold" New Year's Day dinner this year and celebrate at a restaurant. Maybe the giant Christmas tree is replaced with a minature one this year and you shop for new ornaments for it . Maybe this is the Easter that you go on the cruise you have dreamed about, with your choice to be involved in multiple activities or to be on deck with a book and blanket.
Expect the unexpected but expect that you deserve to celebrate your journey marker in grief in style and comfort. Forget about "surviving the holidays" and "surf the holidays" riding high on the waves of your journey!