Losing a loved one is hard and tough on any day of the year. Yet, the grief is ever more evident during the holiday season. In the months of November and December, family traditions and memories always reappear. When a person who is normally a part of this special time is no longer with you, things change, and usually happy times are just a little bit sadder. However, there are ways to remember your loved one during the holidays. If you are grieving for a special person this time of the year, try these ideas to honor their memory.
- Display old family photos and photo albums throughout your home. Once people start browsing the images, it will be no time before the reminiscing starts and old stories are told. You can do the same with home videos. Remember the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, where Clark is stuck in the attic, finds reels of home movies, and decides to watch them? You can do the same thing with your family and friends (just maybe not while stuck in an attic). It may be tough to watch, but you will also be in the presence of your passed loved one again.
- Add some decorations that originally belonged to the person in your home. This is my family’s first Christmas without my grandmother. Every year, we would gather together and put up her tree in the living room. I can’t even remember a year not doing this tradition. Last year, we decorated the tree without her, since she was in a nursing home at the time. But, knowing that she was still with us and would be enjoying the tree once she came home, made it a little easier. This year, my family will be trimming her Christmas tree in her honor. Yes, it is going to be emotional, but looking at all the family ornaments will give us a chance to feel her comfort and relive memories of beloved past Christmases.
- Volunteer at, or donate to your loved one’s favorite charity in their name. Options include churches, places of worship, local food pantries, shelters, nursing homes, etc. Think about a place your family member supported and gave their time to. Another option would include purchasing a gift your family member would have liked and donating it to a charity that could use it or pass it on.
- Sending out family holiday cards may be too much to do while you are grieving. Instead, try writing a few cards for our military members and sending them to the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes. For more information, visit org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/holidays-for-heroes.html.
- Make the person’s classic holiday recipes. Think about dishes or desserts they also made or ate during this time of the year. Then, recreate them for your family. You don’t have to be a gourmet cook or baker to fulfill this way to honor them.
- Light a candle in their memory on the days you think you’ll miss them the most, such as Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
- Lastly, give yourself time to miss the loved one. They had an important part in your life and should have a valuable part during the holidays. Make sure they don’t go unnoticed and their memory is still alive through either big or small actions.
If you aren’t in the mood to be around people or complete your annual family traditions, there is no reason to feel guilty! It is important to put yourself and your family’s health and self-care first. Simple acts can be difficult, especially in the first year of losing someone. Hopefully, however, it will get easier as the years go on. The key to remembering loved ones during the holidays is to follow your own path and do whatever you need to do to make the holidays a little less stressful.