Losing someone close to you is a very painful experience. Holidays, anniversaries and other special occasions can intensify that pain, but planning a remembrance or ritual to celebrate your loved one’s life can ease the sorrow of these challenging times and help preserve memories of the affection and life you shared.
The holidays can be particularly difficult for those left behind, but may also offer a unique opportunity to honor your loved one. Placing a special ornament on the tree, setting out a cherished decoration or serving a favorite holiday meal can evoke fond memories. Friends and family may wish to share notes of remembrance placed in a stocking put up for your loved one. A candle might be lit in memory, or perhaps a toast or prayer can be offered in tribute before a meal. Money that would have been spent on a gift could be donated in your loved one’s name to a favorite charity, homeless or animal shelter, or a needy family.
Holidays can be special times to celebrate your loved one. Friends and family may come together to share stories and cherished memories, such as the way they laughed or their favorite stories. Sharing these recollections with younger friends and family members is a wonderful way to honor a loved one who may have passed before the children were old enough to know them. By gathering old photos, you can make a mosaic or a memory album of the times you spent together. Create a calendar from pictures or drawings with poems written to or about them, or simply write a letter to express your feelings.
Crafts offer many unique opportunities to remember those close to you. You might make a quilt from their favorite clothes, inscribe their name on a piece of jewelry, or compile treasured possessions and photos into a scrapbook that will be cherished for years to come. A wonderful way to remember a loved one who enjoyed cooking might be to create a memory cookbook. These favorite recipes can recapture loving memories of family dinners, picnics and holiday meals, especially if you include photos and notes with them.
Celebrating and honoring the memory of your loved one is an important part of coming to terms with your own grief and healing from your loss especially during the holidays. But it is also OK to give yourself permission to not do what has been done for years. It’s all right to take a break from activities like sending cards, putting up a tree or any other holiday activities that may be too difficult this year. Choosing to opt out until next season when you feel more ready to enjoy the holiday may be the right choice for you.
When you are ready to make plans for these remembrances, be aware that we all respond to grief in our own way and have our own methods of coping. Communicate with your family and friends about how you want to remember and honor your loved one. During your grieving process, understand that you may continue to feel sad, angry or lonely for a long time. But you will also gradually experience increased periods of joy and happiness. These are all normal emotions, and feeling happy doesn’t disrespect your loved one’s memory. It simply reflects your progression from mourning to a celebration of the life you shared together as you journey through your grief toward healing, hope and renewal.