With so many holidays around the end of the year, this season is a natural time of reflection for many families. We may fondly (or not-so-fondly) remember past holidays, and we may also be looking for ways to create new memories this holiday season.

With many special days and holidays, the focus is on giving, gratitude, and family. For the grieving, special days and holidays may come with an extra bite. Unfortunately, our world often suggests that there is a “right” way to express grief. Those who have experienced a loss might be praised for “staying so strong,” or might be encouraged to “keep a stiff upper lip” or perhaps to “remember he/she is in a better place.” Especially around holidays, grieving people may feel an obligation to those around them to act as if nothing has changed.

Perhaps, instead of acting as if nothing has changed, you might find it helpful to celebrate the holidays while acknowledging that this year’s celebration will be a bit different. Perhaps you can find a way to incorporate your loved one(s) into your celebration. Last month’s post offered some ideas for coping with grief on special days and holidays, and this month, we will explore ideas for honoring and remembering the special people who have died.

Remember that love does not end with death. Nor do your expressions of love and connection have to end. Those who have died continue to influence our lives in various ways, and it is possible to find ways to incorporate those people into our holiday plans. Perhaps we might hang a special ornament in their memory, or stuff a stocking full of memories. Maybe an empty place can be left at the table, or a charitable donation can be made in their honor. At a holiday gathering, you might decide to share some photo albums and talk about your loved ones’ lives. There is no right or wrong way to remember your loved one(s) this holiday season, and these additional ideas may help, too:

  • Look at family photo albums
  • Plant a flower or tree in memory of your special person
  • Make pillows or blankets out of your special person’s shirts or sweaters
  • Have a party on your special person’s birthday or on special days throughout the year to celebrate his/her honor.
  • Do something your special person enjoyed in his or her honor
  • Cook your special person’s favorite foods and have a meal in his/her honor
  • Go on a memory photo outing. Photograph your special person’s favorite places and put them in an album
  • Donate a gift, money, or flower in your special person’s name
  • Visit the cemetery where the person is buried
  • Write a letter to your special person telling your thoughts and wishes
  • Wrap a keepsake of your loved one(s) or a framed photograph of him or her and give it as a gift to a family member or friend
  • Share stories about your loved one(s) at dinner or family gatherings
  • Light a candle in his or her honor

The holidays can bring a renewed sense of grief that may be surprising and difficult to understand. We encourage you to reach out for support if you feel it might be helpful. Remember that support is available now and throughout the year. Visit our website for more information on individual counseling and support groups available to children and adults.