The holiday season can be challenging to those who are grieving the loss of someone close. Holiday rituals and traditions are important symbols of security and family bonds. Because of this, holidays can be both a reminder of the loss of a loved one, as well as a reminder of special, pleasant memories shared with that person.
For those who are grieving, painful feelings during the holidays are normal. Rather than place unrealistic expectations on themselves to do things the way they always have, grievers should lower expectations for themselves. While it may feel insincere if you try to force feelings of happiness and joy, do allow yourself to have fun. Loss teaches us more than anything about the preciousness of life and not to take it for granted.
We can also allow the holidays to be opportunities for memory, legacy, honor, connection, and healing. Expressing feelings and revisiting memories can be part of the healing process. Some suggestions for honoring lost loved ones might include:
- Draw pictures or make cards of favorite holiday memories with the deceased.
- Create a special ornament to hang on the tree or doorway.
- Write a holiday letter to the deceased and place it in a special place either wrapped as a present under the tree or tied with a bow and placed next to their picture.
- Place a picture of the deceased at the dinner table with a candle so they are part of the holiday feast.
- Cook a favorite dish or dessert the deceased especially enjoyed.
- Honor your loved one by making a toast, creating a memory area in your home, or hanging a holiday stocking filled with notes of special memories.
- Look at photo albums and share memories.
- Donate to a special charity in your loved one’s name.
- Create a “gratitude bowl.” Family members can write holiday memories for which they will always be thankful about their loved one on colorful slips of paper. Share them out loud during a special time during the holidays.
These activities are powerful and healing because they allow mourning while at the same time giving permission to enjoy the holidays.
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