Saturday Morning Message: New Traditions

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

The picture this morning is of an arrangement made by my sister-in-law to celebrate the season. I light it every night during the holidays to honor the life of my son, Bryon. When a loved one dies, it can be hard to face the upcoming time and keep the same traditions. To simplify your life, think about the customs you would like to keep and ones you could let go just for this year. You might even consider starting some new traditions. A few  things I do are write fewer cards and put up fewer decorations. A new tradition we have started is to buy a wreath. We hang it by the front door and call it Bryon's wreath. We put some special decorations on it to celebrate his life.

Carol's Wreath

For a creative solution to putting up a Christmas tree, read "The Richard Tree: Never Forgotten"  written by Ester Allgower, surviving mother of Marine Corps Cpl. Richard Allgower .  

Taking things one season at a time is helpful because you may find it too painful to say you will always maintain a certain tradition. Just think about this year. What can you do to make your life easier? What tradition would you like to add to show your love for this person who will always remain a part of your life?

To help generate ideas, I am sharing some holiday suggestions from the article "Handling the Holidays" by Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CHT, CT, GMS. Darcie was a good friend and a longtime supporter of TAPS.

In the article, Darcie provides these tips:

  • Change something. Everything has already changed so don't be afraid to change some traditions. But don't toss out everything this year. Keep some traditions. You choose which ones. Leave the word "ought" out of this holiday season.
  • Hold onto your wallet and charge cards. You can't buy away grief, but you might be tempted to try.
  • Don't deny yourself the gift of healing tears. Understand that heartaches will be unpacked as you sift through the decorations, but so, too, are the warm loving memories of each piece.
  • Share your holidays with someone, anyone! Ride the ferry, visit a soup kitchen or nursing home, spend an evening at the bus station. There are lots of lonely people who could use your love and caring.
  • Work at lifting depression. Take responsibility for yourself. We cannot wait for someone else to wrap up some joy and give it to us. We have to do that for ourselves. Think of things you enjoy and give yourself a treat. (Cookies can be therapeutic!)
  • Hang the stockings. Or place a wreath on the grave. Do whatever feels right for you and your family.
  • Light a special candle. Not in memory of a death, but in celebration of a life and a love shared.
  • Learn to look for joy in the moment. Get a pair of rose-colored glasses and change the way you look at things. Joy happens when we look for it.
  • Buy a gift for yourself. Wrap it, but don't hide it! Just when you think you are going off the deep end, open it up and enjoy.
  • Buy a gift for your loved one. Wrap it up and give it away to someone who might not otherwise have a gift. Pass on the love you shared together, and it will never die. 

I hope you find the ideas presented in this message to be helpful. Consider replying to me to share what you actually did this holiday season and those responses will appear in a future Saturday Morning Message.

What would make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful to you? It could be asking a question you have for other survivors or sharing a song that is meaningful to you and lifts you up. It could be something that you would like to see added to the weekly message. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed, you can email me at For next week, please send replies to the weekly question by the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 19. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have. 


Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

James, father of Andrew, sent this week's question: Do you have a holiday-related or other story of your loved one that you don't seem to get to share but would really like to share with others? James wrote, "A common thread I've found with TAPS survivors at seminars is that, in addition to so many other things that eat at us, we seem to have  few, if any, opportunities  to talk about most aspects of our loved one (or loved ones) who we have lost.  Too often, few, if any, others are  willing to really listen to comments or stories of your loved one. In addition, that desire to express those stories can often be even stronger now. However,  it seems that avenue  is normally shut off for us for so many reasons. I would like to answer that question, and I would REALLY LOVE to hear the answers of others." 

♫ Song for the Week 

Live theater brings pleasure to my life. Last Sunday, I went to a reading of a new play that is being developed about Paul McCartney and John Lennon. In the last part of the play, the actors were talking to each other about Paul's mother, Mary, who died when he was 14 years old. The reading ended with a dark stage with "Let It Be" playing. Caryn, mother of Nathan,  sent me this song awhile back. I wrote to ask her what made this song meaningful to her, and she replied, "The song is a reminder of Nathan saying 'No worries, Mom; just let life unfold because the love and white light is always watching over me!'" I thought that made it the perfect song for this week. 

Answers from Survivors 

From Tabitha, spouse of Michael:  I've started a few small traditions. Some may seem a bit off to most people, but they work for me.

My husband and I always said good night to each other, no matter what. When he was on a temporary duty assignment in a different location, it was a big argument - no matter what. Now that he's passed, I don't feel right going to bed without saying good night. I've actually made up a little phrase, "Good night, honey. I love you. I miss you. Wish you were here."

I am a believer in tokens and signs. When my husband passed, I looked and looked for the perfect sort of thing to bring to every visit to his grave. I ended up selecting rose quartz. Its meaning is "true love." So, every major holiday, like Christmas, I visit him and leave a rose quartz piece. To this date, most are still there.

On really big holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, the kids will join me. They liked the idea of a token and were ecstatic when I got some for them. I got them little silver hearts with trees. This represents the family and the love they still have for him. It helps them to come visit his grave, and when they can't visit they ask me to leave one of their tokens behind. That way their dad knows they were thinking about him.

It's only my second Christmas without my husband so I haven't really developed new traditions or more in-depth traditions. But, there is always more time for that. For now, this is what I am able to do, and I know he understands.

Other Items and Events of Interest

Arlington Cemetery family at headstone

Join us on Memorial Day Weekend, May 28 to 30, for our 27th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar! We will be live streaming all of our general sessions with guest speakers.

Important Note: In-person registration is still open, but we are in a waitlist situation due to COVID occupancy restrictions in the State of Virginia. 

If you have any questions, email or call our Helpline at 202.588.TAPS (8277).

Learn More and Register


▶▶  Connect With Your TAPS Family 

You can discover all the opportunities to connect with your TAPS Family on our website at the TAPS Event Calendar.

About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication contributed by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer-based connections for support and encouragement. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive place where we can openly share in a nonjudgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable. Content submitted for the SMM is edited for space considerations and may be used in other TAPS publications. The loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please call 202-588-TAPS (8277).