As I look at my calendar, July 4th is just around the corner. One of the things I talk about often is how holidays and milestone days can bring up associative memories that remind us of our loved ones who have died.

The 4th of July may not be a holiday that holds those kinds of memories for you, or it may. One thing to remember is that everyone has his or her own unique memories. Your family may have had a reunion each July 4th, and this year everyone is reluctant to bring up the fact that a family member has died since last year. Maybe some family members are even reluctant to attend this year because of their discomfort. This is how family traditions change when family structures change.

What if the family member who died is your mother, or grandmother? How do you feel about attending the yearly family gathering, whether it is around a holiday or not? Are you looking forward to remembering your loved one with other family members who share your memories? Or do the memories cause too much pain?

Whatever your answers to these questions, remember that there are as many different responses to them as there are people in your family. What would it be like to have a conversation about everyone’s feelings and allow each person to feel like the way they are processing their grief is okay? If this isn’t a practice that is common in your family, you can take comfort in the fact that most of us have no idea of how to have these kind of difficult conversations.

Here are some thoughts to help you. These are applicable to any holiday or milestone.

What is difficult about this holiday?

  • Take some time to write your thoughts and feelings about this holiday. Get in touch with your thoughts. Sometimes, as a holiday or milestone day approaches, we are caught up in the anticipation and we can lose sight of our feelings.

What do you need this year to navigate this holiday with a little more ease?

  • It may be a change of scenery for a few years, or not participating in certain activities. It’s important to ask this question every year, as your feelings may change from year to year.

How can you honor your loved one during the holiday celebration?

  • Do you want to include their favorite food or drink in the celebration? Or will that be too hard?
  • Is there an activity you would like to include to remember them? Do you want to take time for everyone to share a memory?

What do you want to tell your loved one this year on this occasion?

  • You can write a letter to your loved one, and invite anyone else attending to write one as well.
  • Decide what you want to do with the letter.
  • Do you want to read them aloud, or burn them in a fire?
  • Everyone may have a different answer to that question.
  • You can also share your thoughts in smaller groups. Find something that works for you and your family.

How can you share your thoughts with other family members?

  • You may want to communicate some of these ideas with family members before the gathering.
  • Let everyone know that you acknowledge everyone’s wishes.

Having difficult conversations may allow your holiday traditions to change in a way that keeps everyone connected. How many times have you heard a story like this? “After mom died, there was no reason for us to stay connected, she was the glue that held us together.” That doesn’t have to happen in your family. Yes, your traditions may change, but you can create a change that meets the needs of your family, and pave the way for deeper family connection. If there’s a family member who is not ready to be a part of this kind of conversation, you can keep the door open for them to join you when they are ready. You may discover new bonds forming as your family navigates difficult changes.

You are opening the door for blessings and grace to arrive and assist you on your way.