Losing a loved one is never easy, but the memories of family members who are no longer living often help survivors deal with the loss. Certain events or occasions can be especially poignant, particularly if the lost loved one played a key role in that event in the past. Christmas is often one of those times, since it is typically a truly family-centric holiday. Keep the memories of your loved one alive at Christmas by recreating a favorite tradition or starting a new one.
Honor Established Traditions
Don't give up on long-standing family traditions just because the loved one who started them is no longer with you. Honor the memory of your family member by continuing to observe the traditions. If Grandma always enjoyed singing carols around the piano, continue that tradition with her grandchildren, and sing her favorite holiday songs. Gather the cousins together to bake Aunt Susie's special Christmas cookies for the family to share. Encourage the oldest son to lead Grandpa's Christmas blessing at the holiday meal, or, if Grandpa always read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the little ones on Christmas Eve, the oldest grandchild could take over this role.
Decorate With Memories
Consider displaying decorations associated with your lost loved one during the holidays. Let grandchildren hang Grandma's special glass ornaments on the family tree or arrange her nativity set on the hearth. Children who have lost a parent might want to put out a picture in a holiday frame that shows them with the parent at a past Christmas. Grandpa's carved reindeer might occupy a place of pride on your front porch. Use that inherited set of holiday china for a Christmas lunch with the family.
Turn to Religious Observances
For families of faith, Christmas can be an important time to combine holiday traditions, family memories and religious observances. Light a candle at Christmas Eve services in memory of a lost loved one. Another option involves giving a charitable donation in your deceased grandparent's name or purchasing food and gifts for a needy family in the memory of this lost loved one. Sing a favorite family hymn at home on Christmas Eve or read the family member's favorite passages from the Bible before the holiday meal. Talk to the pastor about making a monetary donation in the lost relative's honor toward the building fund or perhaps a new stained glass window.
Make New Traditions
Begin a new family tradition in memory of your lost loved one to keep this individual as part of your holiday celebrations for years to come. Ask family members to send their favorite pictures of Grandma at the holidays and then create a Christmas photo album for everyone to share. Set up an additional small tree and decorate it with ornaments made or given to others by the lost loved one. After gathering special Christmas recipes from family members, make a family cookbook to give as a gift to all the children and grandchildren.
- Horizon: Healthy Ways to Keep a Loved One’s Memory Alive
- Valley of Life: Holidays and Grief: Incorporating Those We Lost into Traditions
- Care2: Honor Loved Ones: Make a Memory Candle
- The Compassionate Friends of Atlanta: Sharing Ideas for the Holidays
- Huffington Post: Grief at the Holidays
- Grief Share: Building Memories at the Holidays
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