You are currently viewing Welcoming Grief and Gratitude in Family Traditions
  • Post category:Blog

Welcome, welcome, welcome… In my family, everyone was welcome. We opened our home and welcomed international exchange students. Extended family events were all-inclusive and, in some instances, come as you are. We certainly came as we were – sometimes right from the barn where we’d been riding or caring for horses. Regardless, the door was always open – and whatever the occasion, there was always room at the table and food enough for add-ins. 

This open-endedness extended beyond our immediate and extended family to friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, significant others. 

We were a “the more the merrier” type of family. 

So, when my parents died, I was a bit astonished that it was hard to feel included anywhere. Just when my sisters and I needed to be included, we weren’t. We were grieving and could have been welcomed anywhere. I think we would have be grateful and delighted.  Instead, there was a sense that we were supposed to take up the gauntlet and invite everyone to gather. We needed invitations and there were none. 

As the oldest child/adult of the next generation I really struggled with this – a sense of pressure to create the events my parents had traditionally offered alongside the terrible grief. I very much felt it was expected of me. Withing the internal and external pressure, I somehow knew that I did not have the bandwidth to step it up and host. 

I learned a lot of early lessons about mourning losses that season in my life. 

It taught me that my grief and the grief of others was nearly invisible. There was a “chin-up, carry-on” attitude about it all. Spoken or unspoken I felt a huge pressure to step up. Internally though, my own grief was so huge that I couldn’t put one more pressure on myself. 

I’m thankful for that now. For the inner knowing I grew into about what was and wasn’t my responsibility. That I could simply lean back and allow. I could allow others to take responsibility or not. I could allow for no family gathering or for not being included. I could allow for the loss of certainty around the way things had always been done. I could also allow for curiosity to arise – to be curious about what I wanted holidays to look like going forward. 

Don’t get me wrong, it was hard. It was sad. It was very different from what I’d experienced before my parents died. While they made room for everyone, not everyone would or could make room for my sisters and me. I don’t imagine it was intentional all those years ago – that we weren’t included. It was that those who would have invited us were also grieving the deaths of my parents. Aunts and uncles, my parents’ cousins, extended family friends. They were mourning and living their own lives as best as they could. 

I learned that we can never know what loss looks like to anyone else. 

Even our own grief experiences are different, specific, painful, and revealing all at the same time. The best we can do is listen to ourselves and others – in a way that honors the experiences any one of us is having in any given moment. 

How do you navigate the expectation to carry on traditions and gatherings after a significant loss? Reflect on how the pressure to maintain what was can sometimes overshadow the need to heal and adapt.

If this resonates with you, let’s chat!​

A watershed moments coach can come alongside your experience of grief and loss providing support, encouragement, education about the nature of grief and insight that can assist you as you mourn. Collaborating with a coach is an investment in finding your way forward after a significant life change.  Connect with us for a brief introductory conversation where we will explore whether we are a fit for your current grief needs.  Click here to schedule a no-charge, 20-minute conversation where we will learn more about one another.