Our first family Thanksgiving after my grandfather passed away was strange, to say the least. My entire extended family arrived at my aunt’s house, making an effort to be together for my grandma. First, a toilet exploded, creating a huge mess in one of the bathrooms and forcing us to shut off the water to the entire house. Then, the oven broke mid-way through cooking the large turkey my aunt had purchased for my two dozen family members. When we sat down to eat off of paper plates and cups to avoid dirty dishes, the back of my uncle’s chair snapped off, and he almost tumbled on to the floor. We decided that this was my grandpa’s way of making sure we all knew he was there, still creating havoc.
All incidents aside, that Thanksgiving was the first major holiday my family celebrated after my grandpa had passed away. For me, it was the first holiday I had ever experienced after the passing of a loved one. There was an awkward fog hovering over everyone, and no one really knew what to do or say. Of course, every family experiences grief during the holidays in different ways. Luckily, there are funeral professionals all across the United States ready and willing to help families cope with the death of a loved one. Here are a few aftercare ideas you can use to position yourself as a grief support resource in your community.
1. Host a Holiday Remembrance Event
Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, the holiday season can be difficult when you’re missing a loved one. Many funeral homes host yearly remembrance events to help families grieve. These events have featured personalized candles and ornaments, and often utilize nondenominational services.
2. Create an Honor Tree
If your funeral home has the space, consider setting up an honor tree. Honor trees, which can look like traditional Christmas trees, feature ornaments with the names of people in the community who have passed away. You can invite families you have served to stop by and place their loved one’s name on the tree, or you can put them up ahead of time. At the end of the season, offer the ornaments to families as cherished keepsakes to help them remember their loved ones.
3. Provide Community Grief Support
Grief is a difficult and nonconforming emotion. There are many ways that community members can express grief, but sometimes they may worry that what they’re feeling isn’t “normal.” Bringing grief experts and counselors to your funeral home and promoting their services to your community can be beneficial for families and your firm.
4. Provide Volunteer Opportunities
Sometimes the best thing for grieving families to do is volunteer. Consider working with local non-profits to set up holiday volunteer activities for community members. Families can benefit from doing good in numerous ways, especially if they are helping in their loved one’s name.
5. Send Journals to Client Families
Journaling is a great way to help families who are grieving during the holidays. Try working with a local vendor to create small journals to send to past client families during the holidays. It has been proven that writing in a journal daily can help you manage stress and anxiety, as well as clear your mind and help you discover your emotional triggers.
A great first step to starting a holiday aftercare program is to learn more about Dr. Jason Troyer’s Finding Hope series, which features short booklets crafted especially for different grief scenarios, including the holidays. Click below to read an excerpt from one of the books and order yours today.