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How My Holiday Traditions Changed After Losing Loved Ones

I've Lost 3 Relatives This Year, but I Plan to Carry On Our Holiday Traditions in Their Honor

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This year hasn't been an easy one for me or my family. In fact, it kind of sucked because throughout the year we've lost three close relatives: my grandfather, my grandmother, and my aunt. While I'm thankful it's not something my family has had to deal with until this year, it's not been easy — especially now that we're in the midst of the holiday season.

When my grandmother passed away this past January, it was very hard on me because we were very close. I was just starting my second semester as a senior in college, so as the months passed and I got crazy busy, it became easier to cope with. Then, in August, my aunt passed away. About two months later in late September, my grandfather got sick and passed. I was heartbroken and angry that three close family members of mine were taken from me in such a short span of time. Back in January when we lost my grandma, I went right back to class, wrote papers, and studied for exams. I did my best to not think about all that was going on — it worked then because I had plenty of things to do before graduation. But after losing two more family members? It wasn't so easy to distance myself from.

I'm not really a person that likes change. I get easily frustrated when plans deviate or change last minute, so I knew the holidays, with their abundance of yearly traditions, would be hard for me this year. On top of that, the holiday season is my favorite time of the year. It's when I get to see family members I never see otherwise, eat some of my favorite foods, and celebrate how thankful I am for my family. I didn't know how those celebrations would change, or if our family would still get together, and it broke my heart.

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In years past, my family would gather at my grandma's house to celebrate and feast on Thanksgiving. It was the only tradition I've ever known, and facing it without our matriarch terrified me. This year, we went to my cousin's house instead. I thought the food would taste different since it wasn't made by my grandmother, but it tasted just like any Thanksgiving meal: delicious. Sure, things weren't exactly the same, but I was surrounded by the family that I've always celebrated with and that comforted me, even when the losses made me sad.

During Christmastime, we would have two Christmases: one with my mom's side of the family and one with my dad's side. We would have my mom's side over at our house and my dad's side at my grandma's house, where we'd share a meal then pass out gifts. While there, we'd participate in the one Christmas tradition I never want to lose: the magazine exchange. My grandma would go out and get 15 to 20 magazines covering different topics. Someone would write numbers down and put it them a basket, and we'd all take turns drawing a number. Then, we'd go in numerical order to see who got to pick a magazine first. My grandma would do her best to get at least one magazine that everyone in my family would enjoy reading. It was something I looked forward to each year, so I plan to carry on the tradition this Christmas. I'll buy some magazines and pass out numbers — just as my grandma would have done. It's a tradition that I want my future family to continue to do, and I know my grandmother would be proud that we're keeping this tradition alive.

There has never been a year where I didn't spend the holidays with the three people I've lost. But I still plan to try and enjoy the holidays the best I can, because I know that's what my family would want: I'll still listen to Christmas music, help decorate everyone's homes, and anticipate the joy of Christmas morning and all the fun activities that I have planned with my family. I know that all three of my family members will be with me this holiday season, and for all the seasons to come. So while I'm bracing myself for the differences, I know that in the end, it'll still be the holidays I love and enjoy because I get to spend it with the only other people who really understand what I'm going through — my family. This year has been full of grief, but I'm so thankful for the support of those around me. There's never been a more perfect illustration of what the holiday spirit is about.

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