Creating New Traditions: The First Holiday After the Loss of a Loved One


Red Cardinal

You had always looked forward to experiencing the sounds and scents of the holiday season with family and friends. The traditions you created together decades ago brought you happiness. But after losing a loved one, listening to holiday music, baking cookies and shopping for gifts are much harder to appreciate. The parts of the season you once enjoyed now bring sadness.

“Dealing with grief can be more difficult during the holidays,” says Brian Medkeff-Rose, M.Div, M.A., of Homeland Hospice.

He believes one must avoid the pitfalls of “what if” thinking and learn to celebrate joy in the midst of sorrow while remembering your loved one. Medkeff-Rose recommends exploring changes in traditions and developing meaningful rituals.

“Creating new ways to remember your loved one can be a healthy coping technique when grieving,” Medkeff-Rose says.

Ways to Remember Your Loved One

From photo collages to planting a tree, there are many ways to remember your loved one and new traditions to start. Some ideas to consider:

  • Lighting a candle in your loved one’s memory
  • Creating a memory book of photos of your loved one
  • Donating a gift of money or time to those less fortunate in your loved one’s honor
  • Wearing a photo pin of your loved one
  • Starting a memorial scholarship fund in his/her name
  • Writing a poem or story about him/her
  • Visiting a place you both liked to visit
  • Hanging a special ornament on the tree in his/her memory
  • Playing his/her favorite music
  • Making a quilt or pillow from his/her favorite clothes
  • Creating a memory box of items that were special
  • Honoring his/her favorite tradition

Medkeff-Rose emphasizes that what works for some may not work for others since coping with loss is a deeply personal experience.

“Everyone is unique and grieves loss differently and there isn’t a time table,” Medkeff-Rose explains. “You shouldn’t feel guilty if you feel a roller coaster of emotions or laugh and have fun. You can certainly allow yourself to be sad, but it is OK to allow yourself to feel joy.”

Employee Spotlight: Rev. Dann Caldwell


Dann Parents HCBorn and raised in the beautiful Susquehanna Valley, Rev. Dann Caldwell has been a part of the Homeland family since 2013.

“Both of my parents are a part of the Homeland family as well,” Rev. Caldwell says. “Each is receiving care at Homeland Center in uptown Harrisburg.”

As one of Homeland Hospice’s spiritual counselors and chaplains, Rev. Caldwell is a calming presence and offers guidance to patients and families throughout the end-of-life journey. “I am here to offer hope, comfort, and compassion, and to address patients’ questions and concerns, as well as assist them in exploring the legacy they will leave behind.”

Rev. Caldwell is a graduate of Central Dauphin High School, Lycoming College and the Princeton Seminary. “I received my Bachelor of Arts in psychology and sociology from Lycoming and two masters’ degrees from Princeton – Master of Divinity and Master of Theology.”

“Throughout high school and college, family members and friends suggested that I go into ministry,” he recalls.   “These continued confirmations gave me a sense of what my calling in life was to be.  They put me on the course of helping ministries, counseling and chaplaincy.”

Ordained as a United Methodist Minister nearly 30 years ago, Rev. Caldwell has served in several local churches, as well as secular and community agencies as a chaplain.  Additionally, he provided counsel and spiritual direction to those undergoing drug and alcohol treatment.

In Rev. Caldwell’s spare time, he enjoys swimming – and for a special reason.

“I have muscular dystrophy so, when I am in the water, it gives me freedom of movement and buoyancy that I am not able to get on dry land,” he says.  “It is so energizing and refreshing.  I try to swim as much as I can, when I can.”

Rev. Caldwell is also an avid singer.

“Many people don’t know that I have been singing since I was eight years old,” he says. “I was actually paid to sing at that young age by the St. Stephens Episcopal Cathedral Choir in Harrisburg. Singing is a true passion of mine.”

And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Rev. Caldwell and his mother and father frequently perform together at Homeland Center’s monthly Wednesday morning prayer services. “I received my ear for harmony from my mother. And, the fact I am able to sing with my parents – well it’s making more memories to hold on to,” Rev. Caldwell says.


See other News and Events from Homeland At Home

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We exist to serve hospice patients in the communities where you live, to provide hope and compassionate care, ensuring they receive quality end of life care through the many therapies and extra services we offer:

  • Nearly 50,000 hours of in-home relief services are provided annually to our patients’ families & caregivers.
  • 3215 complementary therapy visits are delivered to patients each year.
  • 780 people (and growing) are in our bereavement program.
  • 15 unique support groups are offered throughout the year.
  • More than 300 compassionate volunteer hours are provided each month.

With your contribution, you help our caregivers touch the lives of hundreds of people and make certain that patients and their families are not worrying about the expense that can come with a terminal diagnosis. They can focus fully on their loved one and make every moment meaningful. Your gift will make an immediate impact to a hospice patient in need.

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“…grief is the price of love, but moving forward is to honor the one we have lost; through Homeland Hospice’s guidance, I have been able to move forward. It is not easy and I still struggle, but because of your bereavement program, I am assured that I will make it.”

                                                                                          ~ from a grieving husband

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