I am sorry to hear of your family’s loss. Grief is a complicated thing, experienced differently by every member of the family.  Holidays are also complicated, even when everyone you love is still living. You put the two together and you have complicated complications.

Loss of a parent or loss of a long-time spouse are certainly two of the most difficult kinds of losses we deal with in our lifetimes.  It is certainly understandable that your father is having trouble generating any desire to “celebrate” at such a painful time. It is also natural and understandable that you and your siblings would want to honor your mother’s memory by carrying forward the traditions that were important to her and to the family during her lifetime. So what to do?

You have several choices.  Given that you are a young adult and that your siblings are probably fairly close in age, I would guess that you have celebrated the majority of your holidays at your parents’ home. So one question is where to hold the holiday events:  holding them in the family home will obviously evoke more emotion than celebrating the holidays at one of your sibling’s homes or at another relative’s home.

If your Dad were to be willing to be part of these gatherings, would it be more acceptable to him to have them in the family home or in the home of other family members?  While he may not be receptive to this question now, he may be open to the question in a week or two and asking him is very respectful.

Second, it would certainly be thoughtful for you and your siblings to offer to do the “work” of the holidays so that there is no additional pressure or stress on your father. Discuss with your siblings what you would each be willing to do and ask your father what is most important to him—a family meal?  Decorating a tree?  Or just seeing other members of the family?  Do your best not to be too attached to what he might want or might not want.  Stay flexible in your own needs and expectations of him and also of each other.

Of course, the challenge of the holidays is certainly not only your father’s challenge. You, too, are no doubt going through your own intense grieving process and the holidays will likely make this process even more intense. One or more of your siblings may also feel too overwhelmed to play a large part in the holiday preparations.  It is helpful if there are other relatives or close friends who are willing to step in and help. Maybe another family member or close family friend would be willing to shoulder the majority of the load for this year by hosting at their home and handing things such as meals, house decorations, etc.

I suggest planning something meaningful but not too elaborate this year. Keep it fairly simple. Of course, it helps a lot with the energy of the holidays if younger children are involved. They bring a lightness, energy and joy to every holiday.  You can borrow from their freshness and innocent happiness to help you navigate your own way through the holidays.

Just know that this first holiday season after your mother’s death will be the most difficult year to move through.  Be gentle and patient with yourself and with one another.  Try to make it a time of both fond remembrances and openly expressed feelings about your mother’s death. Let it be whatever it needs to be this year and move forward into this New Year knowing that all of you have done the best you could to move through a difficult time.