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Remembering a Loved One During the Holidays


Holidays can create feelings of dread and anxiety in those who are bereaved. The clichéd images of family togetherness and the often unrealistic expectations of a season filled with picture perfect, joyful gatherings can cause tremendous stress for those who are not grieving – let alone those in the midst of the painful, isolating experience of loss. How does one celebrate the holidays when a loved one is so sorely missed? Creating new rituals and new traditions that pay tribute to the memory of the deceased is one way to survive, and perhaps even embrace, the holidays when a loved one has died. Here are some suggestions of what you can do:


  • Decorate a wreath with pictures and items that were loved by the person who died and place the wreath at his or her grave.


  • Wrap a favorite keepsake of the deceased or a framed picture of your loved one, and give it as a gift to another grieving family member. Write a card letting the recipient of the gift know why you chose to give them this particular item. They will adore the gift and the sentiment.


  • Tell the stories behind the ornaments on the Christmas tree and the role of your loved one played in making those memories. Create a special ornament labeled with the name of the deceased and hang it on the tree.


  • Decorate a candle and light it at meal time in memory of your loved one.


  • Make a book of pictures and memorabilia about the deceased. This is a good activity for children as well. Are all of your photos digital? Shutterfly, Snapfish and Walgreen’s (and many others) have great deals on photo products this time of year. Whatever the decision and after you receive or make your album you might want to share it with others who would appreciate the photos.


  • Make a donation to a favorite charity in the person’s honor. Create a scholarship to keep the memory of the deceased alive and announce it at a holiday gathering of family and friends.


  • Purchase a holiday book – perhaps a favorite of the deceased and donate it to your local library or school. Ask your librarian to place a label in the front cover inscribed, “In memory of (your loved one’s name).”


  • Bring your loved one’s favorite food to share at a holiday dinner. Mention their name in the blessing over the food or propose a toast in their memory.


  • Share anecdotes and favorite stories about the person who died. Show some old videos. The pain will be there and tears may fall, yet memories will bring warmth to your soul. Sometimes others need permission to talk about the deceased. Let them know you would rather keep the memory of your loved one alive than pretend nothing has changed.


  • Encourage grieving children to draw pictures and create gifts inspired by their memories of the deceased to give to other family members.


  • Decorate and hang a cut-out star in your home with your hopes and dreams for the future. Thinking about tomorrow is part of your healing.


Then once you have remembered your loved one, make sure you remember yourself. Take care of you! Be gentle. Do what you can do---no more and no less.


If it is too hard to be in the same place where you spent holidays together with your loved one, opt for a change of scene and go somewhere new. If you cannot afford a vacation, go to a restaurant, or a friends or family member’s home that doesn’t’ have painful associations with the previous holidays. Although you cannot erase thoughts and memories of the deceased, it may help you create a new holiday experience.

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