Yearly Archives: 2012

Re-Creating Holiday Traditions — Ideas for Families Facing Loss and Transitions: By Tina Barrett and Melanie Trost

For families in transition, the holidays often represent one of the most difficult times of the year.  Inevitably we are surrounded by reminders of “the holiday season” in public places, on TV and on the radio.  The lights, music, gifts and evergreen may seem out of sync with internal feelings and/or may trigger painful memories.  As tempting as it may be to deny the existence of the holiday season, avoid it completely, and somehow emerge in January, this fantasy is futile. So the question becomes not how to avoid or deny, but rather:

How can we help ourselves through the season, explore short-term and long-term priorities, and gradually learn to make holidays meaningful once again?

Clarify priorities and reduce stress:

  • Inventory your holiday preparation. What is important? What is not necessary? Eliminate unnecessary pressures on yourself and others.  Shift the focus to things that are really important to you and your family.
  • Resist overextendingor over-committing. Be realistic to avoid feeling that you have failed.
  • Inventory your holiday traditions. Do you have family traditions? Is it important to carry them on this year or is this a good time to begin some new ones? Reevaluate, consider, and discuss ways of keeping traditions you find meaningful in ways that may alleviate some of the pain. Attempt to merge traditions in blended or newly formed families.

Focus on what is most helpful and most meaningful for your family at this time.

Give yourself permission to create meaning in your own way.

  • Give special consideration to activities that are significant to both you and your family.

o   If Christmas or Hannukah hold religious significance for you, allow time for honoring that significance in your activities.

o   Create a ritual to honor someone who has died or someone who is not able to be with you this year.

§  Hang a stocking in which everyone can place notes, poems, photos, drawings.

§  Light a candle during meals or significant gatherings.

§  Include an activity in that person’s honor/memory (snow angels, sledding, reading a treasured book aloud…).

§  Have an interactive card, mural, or chalk board where people can jot down passing thoughts, feelings, sentiments.

  • Don’t hesitate to do whatever makes the holidays more meaningful and more bearable for you.

o   If you thrive on the busy-ness and the meaning of bringing a large group of family and/or friends together to get you through the day – then by all means, DO IT!

o   If you want to hang a stocking of a deceased loved one, then do it!

o   Where is it that you feel most alive – most content – most centered? In the outdoors? In yoga? In a church service? Dancing? Drawing? Baking with the kids? Knitting with friends? Sledding? Meditating? How can you integrate this into your holidays?

  • Allow yourself to do things differently if it would be easier.

§  Go to a different church or attend an alternative gathering.

§  Open presents at a different time (i.e. Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning)

§  Have a small dinner instead of a large one.

§  Have dinner at a different time and invite the family for dessert in the evening.

Take care of yourself.

  • Create space to honor your grief and your pain. Do whatever helps with this: talk, cry, write, look at photos, play music, visit special places. Remember it is ok to cry.
  • It is ok to talk with others about your loved ones and your experience. Others may not bring up painful subjects believing that they are protecting you. If you desire, break the silence and mention it yourself. Assess your support, work to clarify your needs, and allow yourself to lean on others.
  • Take time to be with others and love them, but also give yourself permission to spend time alone. Carve out space to grieve and validate the changes  – time to cry, time to contemplate.
  • Find a creative outlet. Write, draw, dance, sew, photograph, design, build, sing…
  • Let go of pleasing everyone else, and do some things that are especially meaningful to YOU.Think about blatant self-care. What could bring you even the tiniest bit of comfort, peace or beauty? A daily bath? A walk with a dear friend? Reading silly books or magazines? A precious flower? Polishing your toenails? Listening to favorite music? Visiting a museum, library, café or other special place?

Recognize that our greatest joy may come in doing something for someone else.

  • If you are a parent, try especially hard to bring your children into the planning of the holiday and make it positive for them. Include them in your grieving activities. Listen to them, talk to them, be with them. When asked directly, kids often have clear ideas about how they wish to acknowledge people they care about who are not present during the holidays.
  • Great pleasure can come from helping others. If you have the energy, sort out old clothes and household item and donate them to a shelter, group home, or thrift store. Think about making cookies for someone who has been especially supportive to you. Write a note to someone who has been on your mind and loves mail. Donate a can of food to the Food Bank.

Ideas compiled by: Tina Barrett, LCPC and Melanie Trost, LCSW of Tamarack Grief Resource Center incorporating ideas from Johnson, W.Y. (1991). The Holidays: A mixture of love and pain. Thanatos, p. 28-29. Specializing in bereavement camps, Tamarack Grief Resource Center honors and strengthens individuals and families throughout their journey with

Questions or comments can be sent to Tina Barrett, Executive Director of TGRC at:

Annual “A Taste To Remember” Dinner

Make your plans now, as tickets are going fast:




Tickets: $100/person; $180/couple

Sponsor: $1000/table of eight

6pm: Welcome and Cocktails; 7pm: Dinner

Five Great Chefs— Five Great Courses

(Wine specially chosen for each course thanks to “Wine Guy Mike”!)

Course 1 Chef Abe Risho, Silk Road

Kobe beef encrusted in chili, cocoa & espresso, seared rare and sliced thin over avocado aioli; accompanied by fresh sea scallop ceviche with tamarind & citrus, over papaya-ginger salsa, topped with a plantain crisp.

Course 2 Chef Sean Ehlert, The Missoula Country Club

Tomato bisque with a mozzarella bruschetta.

Course 3 Chef Beth Higgins, Two Sisters Catering

Spring salad with prosciutto bacon, roasted grape tomatoes, and a poached quail egg.

Course 4 Chef Noel Mills, James Bar

Moussaka—Greek casserole made with local braised lamb, sautéed eggplant and a rich béchamel sauce.

Course 5— Posh Chocolat and Big Dipper

Big Dipper Specialty Sorbet and Posh Chocolate Truffle


 “This was amazing—one of a kind meal—there’s nothing like it anywhere else, it’s unique.”

– Patron at the 2011 “A Taste To Remember

Special thanks to our table sponsors:

Ruby’s Inn and Convention Center • Big Sky Commerce • Diana Nash

Community Medical Center • Title Services of Missoula • Hospice of Missoula • Partner’s In Home Care



Get your tickets NOW to the Annual A Camp To Remember Benefit Dinner on January 19, 2012, at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake!

2012 ACTR Benefit Art(Above: Some of the paddles and fine art pieces to be auctioned off at the event.)

ACTR Benefit Dinner: LIVE Auction items—in auction order

Tamarack Grief Resource Center’s Annual Benefit Dinner and Custom Art Paddle Auction at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake


Kalispell, Montana – January 5, 2012 – On Thursday January 19th, starting at 6:00 pm at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, 1380 Wisconsin Avenue, Whitefish — Tamarack Grief Resource Center (TGRC) will hold their annual “A Camp To Remember Benefit Dinner”.

Current sponsors for the event include: The Whitefish Credit Union, Johnson-Gloschat Funeral Homes, and North Valley Hospital.

Tamarack Grief Resource Center is a nonprofit that serves bereaved children, adults, and families in western Montana. Specializing in bereavement camps, Tamarack Grief Resource Center strengthens and honors families throughout their journey with grief.

“Everyone at camp has experienced a profound loss, a piece of you is broken,
and camp helps you put it back together.”

– Youth Camper, A Camp to Remember

“This is TGRC’s major fundraiser for the year in the Flathead Valley and we look forward to a full house again this year,” said Barb Myers, TGRC Board of Directors and event coordinator. “All the money we raise goes directly to the programs serving children, teens, and adults. Tickets are $75 per person, and while they last, tickets can be purchased at Wheeler Jewelry, 139 Main Street in downtown Kalispell, the Red Union Salon at 118 Central Avenue in Whitefish, or by calling me at (406) 249-2196.”

There will be a no-host cocktail hour and music starting at 6pm, a sit down dinner at 7pm, a silent auction throughout the evening, and the prestigious live Paddle & Art Auction beginning around 7:45pm.

Each year, through the generosity of local artists, original artworks are created on wooden paddles, along with unique fine art works and auctioned off at the event. This year’s artists include: Nancy Dunlop Cawdry, Carol Hagen, John Rawlings, Matt Springer, Marsha McDonald, Hal Sundvahl, Lisa Schaus, Kelly Agar, and Lorinda Smith. These paddles are one-of-a-kind art pieces that become collector’s items for one’s home or business. They are being displayed around the valley before the event.

We are delighted to have Whitefish’s own, Richard Atkinson, as the auctioneer of the Prestigious Live Art & Paddle auction again this year. You can bid for paddles at the event, or by phone if you can’t make it. Please call 406-249-2196 to set up your call-in auction number.

TGRC is funded through the support of community members, families, businesses, foundations, and program fees. No grieving child or adult is turned away for lack of money.

You will never know how much your presence in our lives has helped to support
and heal our grieving souls.”  
– Parent of campers, and program participant

TGRC’s flagship program, A Camp To Remember, held every summer for the past 15 years serves children ages 8-16 who have lost a loved one. The camps are held on Flathead and Georgetown Lakes and mix the joy of a summer camp including swimming, arts and crafts, and active games with opportunities for remembering and honoring the loved one that has died.

Other programs include family camps, women’s retreats, teen retreats, school-based support groups, community workshops, professional seminars, and consultations. For a full review of TGRC’s programs, camp dates, and other information please visit our

This year’s event will have a ‘fancy campfire attire’ theme and you are welcome to come dressed for a very special campfire evening! The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is offering a special rate for attendees who would like to “take the elevator home”. Please call 406-863-4000 for a Lodge reservation.

During times of loss, individuals can benefit from connections with understanding others as they reconstruct their lives. Tamarack Grief Resource Center is dedicated to fostering this support and understanding throughout the grief process. TGRC is committed to offering grief camps and retreats in collaboration with area hospices, hospitals, and related organizations. With nearly two decades of experience designing and implementing therapeutic camps and over 50 grief camps and retreats conducted, TGRC has become the region’s most comprehensive grief resource center specializing in bereavement camps.

TGRC Headquarters
516 South Orange Street
Missoula, Montana 59801
(406) 541-8472