The holidays are a time for celebrating with our loved ones, but for those who have lost loved ones, the seasonal get togethers can exacerbate our grief. The holidays serve as another milestone marker that grievers have met like the first Friendsgiving dinner without a best friend, first Christmas morning without a parent, or first New Year’s Eve without a midnight kiss from your spouse. It’s important to honor lost loved ones during the holidays in our special ways.
Everyone is different, and for some people it might be best for their grief process to simply “get through” those first holidays. Even if they don’t openly acknowledge their loss, there is undoubtedly a glaring spotlight on their loved one’s absence.
Others may need to celebrate in ways that put their lost loved one front and center. Either way, grievers are all doing their best to navigate the “happiest time of the year” with a broken heart.
I am preparing to go through my second holiday season since losing my husband. Last Christmas (10 months after he passed), I knew I wanted to hang Taylor’s stocking on the mantle with the rest of our family. It felt right, and I needed to see his name embroidered above a smiling Santa Clause. This year, I am mulling over wether or not I will hang it up again. I don’t know if hanging my late husband’s stocking will feel right, but I do know I always want him to be a part of our family celebrations.
I know I am not the only one considering how to include and honor their departed loved ones during the holidays, so I have put together just a few ideas to share. I hope everyone can find inspiration in what feels right this year.
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This one is personally not for me, but others might find comfort in still setting a place for their person. Did he or she have an “assigned” place at the family table? Consider setting it with the rest of the places or pull the chair aside.
You may also consider adding his or her name with the other place cards, tucking it into your centerpiece, or pouring his or her favorite drink and setting it out.
Hang up your loved one’s stocking if it feels right. Decorate the tree with his or her favorite ornaments or maybe you even have a child’s handmade ones. Use them! It will always be hard, but physically putting out something brings your person a little closer to the holiday celebrations.
I had pillows made from my husband’s western shirts for my girls to sit on as a booster at our dining table. It’s a subtle piece of him that is with us at every meal.
Try making simple ornaments, T-shirt quilt, or decorations from someones clothes or other special things left behind.
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Support a Good Cause
Take a day or just a couple hours to honor your loved one by participating in an activity her or she loved or supporting an organization that was close to their heart. Did your loved one like to ice skate? Grab your friends and family and skate together! Did Christmas lights excited your person? Load up with some hot cocoa and drive around with your family for a light tour. Take an evening to volunteer at a favorite non-profit or collect donations for charity to gift in your loved one’s name.
One of the most prized possessions in our house are the memory bears I had made from my husband’s old worksheets and jeans. I used a shirt for each of my girls that he is wearing in a favorite picture with them. The picture is framed in their room next to the matching bears. I even had some made for all of our siblings last Christmas and as baby gifts for a couple of his best friends that welcomed little ones after he passed.
You can easily find someone who makes these by searching your local social media groups or simply make a bowtie or other accessory yourself if you’re in a pinch.
The most important thing to remember is to do what feels best for you and your grief process, keeping in mind that it might change year to year just as your emotions change day to day as you journey through new territory.