We know it’s hard. We know you’re sad and that the holidays can make all of those emotions show up more frequently. Dealing with the loss of a loved one can leave you and your family feeling alone and without any holiday spirit. While this time of year is all about spending time with family and friends, you may be missing those who are no longer around. It may be important to you to keep the memory of your loved one alive, especially if this is the first holiday season you have spent without them. Below are some ways to keep the holidays feeling merry while still paying tribute to those who are no longer around.
Look Through Old Pictures
The holidays might be a good time to pull out the old photo albums. Taking a walk down memory lane can help bring back happy memories of your loved one and bring your family closer together.
A Memory Box
Ask a family member or friend to bring an empty shoe box to the holiday gathering. Throughout the festivities, have everyone write down their favorite memory of the loved one who has passed away. Little kids can join in by decorating the box or drawing pictures to include. Family members can even bring pictures and other sentimental items to place in the box. After everything has been included, set aside a special time where everyone can sit down and read the memories together. This is a great way to include your loved one in the holidays and also keeps the happy memories alive.
Use Healing Scents
The scents of apple, pineapple and cinnamon are healing aromas that can make your home feel more festive.
Make a Toast
When everyone sits down for the holiday lunch or dinner, take a moment for everyone to make a toast about the loved one they have lost. The toasts can be memories or something you miss or love about the person. You can also speak directly to the loved one you have lost in your toast by speaking to them as if they are there with you. This might make your family feel as if the person is still there in spirit and will keep them part of your holiday celebrations.
Bringing out all of the holiday decorations at one time can be overwhelming and emotional. Starting earlier in the season, bring out one or two decorations a day to acclimate yourself to a different holiday season. If the old decorations are too much, buy new ones. Consider decorating with bells, a traditionally pagan decoration that wards off evil spirits, or with holly, the symbol of hope. Decorating with mistletoe gives permission for friends and family to hug and kiss each other. If you are uneasy about decorating, have someone else do it. A good friend, neighbor or family member might be willing to help.
Make a Donation
If your loved one had a favorite charity or organization, ask your family to contribute a small donation in memory of the person who you have lost. Gather all of the donations and send them to the organization in your loved one’s name.
Visit the Cemetery
Even though it’s cold during the holidays, visiting the cemetery where your loved one is buried can become a new holiday tradition. You can bring holiday decorations, say a prayer, sing a song or share memories. Anything you or your family would like to do will make it feel as if you are sharing the holidays together.
If you haven’t already, sending cards can be a way to inform distant family and friends of the passing of your loved one. This is also a way to inform others that you are grieving this holiday season and may help to avoid any awkwardness or hurt feelings.
Family members can take time during the holiday celebrations to make ornaments to memorialize their loved one. Kids of all ages, and even adults, can use their creativity to make ornaments out of things like felt, glitter, string, light bulbs, pipe cleaners, cardboard and construction paper.
You and your family can choose a charity that was important to your loved one and volunteer your time during the holiday season. This is a great bonding activity to do as a family and will also help your community in the process.
Prepare yourself for what might be an emotional holiday season by thinking ahead. Know yourself and how you may react to different situations. If there is a holiday tradition that you feel will cause you too much emotional stress, change it or skip it. Move the decorations to new places, celebrate at a restaurant instead of at home, change holiday locations or start a new tradition. If you begin to feel overwhelmed as you approach the holidays, tell someone. You may feel like you need to do many different things for and with your family, but in actuality, you can choose one or two things you want to do.
UnityPoint at Home offers Bereavement Services to help with grieving family and friends during the holiday season. If you are struggling with grief, or feel your grieving has turned into depression, consider this helpful information on dealing with grief for all ages.