Holidays are days that are ordinarily spent with the people we love. Therefore, it is only natural that on these special days, we think of these people, and miss them if they are no longer with us. Grief around the holidays, when practicing family traditions, listening to favorite songs, or eating certain foods, is both normal and healthy. Although holidays tend to be filled with joy and excitement, those mourning the loss of a loved one should also allow time to grieve.
Putting aside time to grieve lost loved ones does not mean that you are putting a dampener on the holiday. Although it may feel bittersweet, honoring the people that we love does not have to be melancholy or depressing. In fact, taking this time to remember the people we are missing on these days can add extra special meaning to holidays, and can even help those who are mourning to form new memories and traditions.
Here are some ways that you can honor your loved one’s memory on or around the holidays:
- Get yourself a gift that you think your loved one would pick out for you
- Take time during a family gathering to share favorite memories of your loved one
- Light a candle or say a prayer in your loved one’s honor
- Make a special dish or play a special song that your loved one enjoyed
- Look at photographs or watch home videos of your loved one
- Spend time doing an activity that you and your loved one did together
- Make a donation in your loved one’s name
You might not feel like doing everything you did in the past when celebrating holidays. This is also normal. Grief is exhausting. You may feel worn out before even factoring in the energy it takes to shop, decorate, bake, etc. during the holiday season. However, the best thing you can do is try. Maybe you don’t feel up to cooking the customary twelve pies, or decorating three Christmas trees, but instead, you could try buying the peach pie you always split with your dad, or hanging up your wife’s favorite ornament on a miniature tree.
It is also a good idea to accept invitations from family and friends. Even if you decide later that you are not up to attending these gatherings/participating in these plans, they can be something to look forward to—the people who love you will understand if you have to cancel. Everyone grieves differently, and that is ok. You don’t have to push yourself to do anything that you aren’t comfortable with, just do the best you can to take care of yourself during the busy, stressful holiday season.