This column is dedicated in loving memory of my father-in-law, Harry “Link” George. We remain thankful that he was ours and for the legacy of service that he left for all of us to carry on.

Every year when the calendar turns to November and the countdown to the holidays begins, I seem to enter a particular season of thankfulness.
From the time the leaves begin to change color, I enter what I affectionately call “Hallowthankmas” season, and it has always been my favorite time of the year.
Like many, I like to take a moment each day to reflect on at least one thing I am thankful for.
You have likely seen similar reflections on your social media feed and perhaps have your ways to countdown to what is the most anticipated season of the year for many. My season of thankfulness feels a little different this year, and I suspect that many of you, particularly those who have experienced the loss of a loved one in recent months, might be feeling the same.
In September, our patriarch, my beloved father-in-law, unexpectedly passed away, and so I find myself feeling a lot less thankful this year.
How do you celebrate holidays when you are missing a vital piece of your family? Perhaps you have an empty nest for the first time or are separated from loved ones by distance or changing family dynamics — so your holiday traditions are changing.
That, too is a loss — and can make your regular season of thankfulness and anticipation of the season different.
Whether you are just trying to survive the season, you can get through the holiday season by permitting yourself to grieve your loss and finding new ways to celebrate the holidays.
• Find a New Tradition or Honor Old Ones: Grief and gratitude are not an either or situation — and you can be both during the season. You can set aside a memorial place setting for your loved one(s) or honor them by making their favorite dish or playing a favorite song at dinner, You may also opt to switch things up entirely with a new family tradition. Some families may skip the turkey at Thanksgiving or go to a tropical location instead of staying home for Christmas. Only you can decide what feels appropriate for you and your family, so plan according to what your feelings dictate. If the tradition was something that meant something to you, find a way to honor it while recognizing it won’t be the same.
Our first year without our beloved turkey carver for my family means my husband will take over the duty with the same sense of humor that his father approached the role with each and every Thanksgiving.
• Evaluate What You Enjoy Most, and Eliminate What Doesn’t Give You Joy: One of the most significant sources of stress during the holiday season is the expectations we inevitably impose upon ourselves to put on the perfect holiday for those around us. Whether you have an empty nest or an empty seat at the table for one reason or another, you may find that some of the traditions you have held long and fast might not be ones you care to continue.
Times of grief and change can serve as catalysts for self-reflection about the things that bring us the most joy. Marie Kondo tells us to eliminate those material things in our lives that do not bring joy, but I am sure her mantra also applies to rituals and traditions, too.
If you have a smaller guest list to cook for — and always got super stressed about getting up early to prepare the turkey, green bean casserole, and sweet potato pies for guests — use this as a chance to simplify and tweak your traditional menu.
A roast chicken and bakery shop pie might be just the perfect menu for a more intimate and enjoyable meal with those who join you at your table — and you can fill what is missing from the menu with meaningful time with those you love most. I promise they always came for the conversations with you — not the casserole!
• Home Alone: If this season finds you celebrating the season alone, you may find the motivation to deck the halls to be challenging to find.
Perhaps the idea of dragging out a seven-foot Christmas tree for just your eyes is too physically or mentally daunting, or the idea of watching “Its A Wonderful Life” just doesn’t sit right with your heart. You can still honor the season and the things that you do enjoy. If the warm glow of a tree makes you happy, throw some twinkle lights on the mantle or hang a wreath on a nearby door to add some simple holiday cheer to your living space. If you want to avoid the holiday tunes and shows altogether, take the time to do something else that you love to do — treat yourself to a new book or outfit, take a weekend away with a friend (or try a solo getaway) or use the time to learn a new hobby.
• Find Ways to Give Back: As families shrink and grow throughout the decades, some traditions end, and new ones begin.
If the old traditions are too much to handle, consider starting a new tradition.
Missing a loved one who is in Heaven? Volunteering at a shelter or buying a meal for a family in need is a great way to help others in need — and heal your heart just a little bit in the process.
If your nest is empty or you cannot be with a loved one, give your time to a local charity in your area. Non-profits are driven by volunteer support and your gift of time, particularly during the holiday crunch, is an invaluable asset.
It can be as simple as running in your community Turkey Trot or reaching out to your church or food bank for ideas on things they need. Those endorphins may just elevate your heartbeat in ways you never thought possible!
This column is dedicated in loving memory of my father-in-law, Harry “Link” George. We remain thankful that he was ours and for the legacy of service that he left for all of us to carry on.
(Editor’s Note: Kristine George is a freelance journalist who resides in Easton.)