A Cookie on Christmas Day

Christmas or New Year composition with cocoa, marshmallows, gingerbread cookies and christmas decorations

“May we do something from my culture today?” our Japanese daughter-in-law asked us last Christmas day. “On holidays, we take food to the cemetery and leave it on the graves of our relatives.”

And so we did. We loaded up the cars and drove to the cemetery where several of our family members are buried. She carefully swept away any debris on each grave marker and gently placed a cookie. It was an ancient ritual of honor and respect. It was for her a connection with family members she had never met.

Grief rituals at this time of year can provide a moment to disengage from the holiday activity and create a focal point for our feelings of loss. If you do not have a grief ritual from your family, faith community, or culture, take the opportunity to create one. A ritual is simply an activity that creates a sacred opportunity to reflect on your loss. This activity may be done privately, in a family group or with others who share your loss. There are countless ways to pause and acknowledge those you mourn.

On Christmas day this year and for the years to come, my family will gather at the cemetery, place a cookie on each grave, and remember those we love.

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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