So, the holidays are coming up and you’re not feeling it this year due to the loss of a loved one. I know it’s painful, and I know it isn’t going to feel the same as it did last year or the year before. But with planning and intention, you truly can enjoy your holiday while remembering your lost loved one.
I get it. Remembering lost loved ones at the holidays is never easy. If your family traditions included your deceased loved one, it can be especially hard to find joy over the holidays. That’s why I’ve put together this holiday season guide for remembering, honoring, and feeling close to your loved ones.
Most Importantly, Plan Ahead
Planning makes all the difference in the world. Yes, it’s still going to be a hard day, but you can make it say something for your loved one and enjoy the day too. The holidays aren’t about who is there and who isn’t. They’re about people sharing time together. Focus on the living and the memories they’ll share, not the person who might not be there because of death or distance. Remember that this is what your loved one would want you to do.
Ways to Remember a Loved One at Christmas
We all know that celebrating Christmas without a loved one can be extremely difficult. That is especially true when that friend or family member has passed away. Unfortunately, some people who are grieving decide to forego the holidays altogether. While no one would blame you if you choose to do that, it might be safe to say that your friend or family member would want you to continue living – and that includes celebrating the holidays.
Should you decide to do that this year, here are a few ways to remember someone you love at Christmas.
Light a Candle
One of the most common ways of remembering someone during the holidays is the act of lighting a candle on Christmas Eve. You don’t have to be overly religious to do this. In fact, you don’t even have to go to church. Lighting a small candle and saying a simple prayer, at home, has the same meaning.
Plant a Tree
Due to winter weather conditions, this won’t work for everyone. But, if you live in a warm climate, why not plant a tree in memory of the person you’ve lost? A pine tree is the most obvious choice, because of the season, but any other type of tree is suitable as well. Of course, if you do live in a colder climate, you can always buy the tree in a pot and plant it when the ground thaws for spring. Either way, this is an excellent way to remember someone while helping Mother Nature to boot. By turning it into a yearly tradition, more trees will grow and more people will enjoy them.
Did your loved one have a favorite charity or interest? If so, consider making a donation in his or her name. It doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary in nature. Since it’s Christmas, think about purchasing several small gifts. Wrap them and donate them to a charity such as Toys for Tots or your local women’s shelter. If the idea of donating to charity really appeals to you, think about doing it all through the year. It’s a fantastic way to help others and keep the spirit of your loved one alive indefinitely. These don’t need to be large donations, by any means. When you give to charity, even the smallest gift is appreciated.
Go Out to Dinner
If your family usually eats Christmas dinner at home, maybe it’s time for a change of scenery. Make it special by making reservations at your loved one’s favorite restaurant. Go one step further and ask everyone to order one of that person’s favorite foods. Chances are the dinnertime conversation will revolve around fond memories of your loved one, in no time at all.
Here’s the truth: grief and the holidays don’t mix. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find ways to enjoy your holiday – you absolutely can – but your grief will be there, and it will be painful. The best we can all do is plan ahead as much as possible so we can spend as much of our time remembering those who have passed as we would like, and remembering what they would want us to do.
While these suggestions might all appeal to you, just take the ones that feel right and use them as you like. This can be a great way to incorporate the memory of someone you love into your Christmas celebration.
One of the most crucial things to remember, any time of the year, is that everyone mourns differently. The process typically depends on things like religious beliefs, relationship to the person who died, age and overall family bonds.
If this is the first Christmas without your loved one, expect things to be difficult at times. The only thing you can do is take it one day at a time and to try not to be hard on yourself or others. Concentrate on the wonderful memories of the person or people you’ve lost. Things generally have a way of getting better, over time.
Ultimately, though, it is my hope that the holiday becomes one in which you not only act in honor of your loved one but that you also act in the loving memory of your loved one. Just do the best you can and know that you’re not alone. What would you add?
While I’m not technically alone over the holidays, Julie, MM, Boy & I have found that we’ve had to do more parts of Happy Hallowthankamas on our own, with aging parents that include narcissists as well as enablers.
Thanksgiving? Narc mom and enabler dad opted to do the buffet restaurant, because they were upset Julie wasn’t enthusiastic enough about dishes, and we banned my mother from our premises. Yet this was a tough option for me as I am recovering from binge eating disorder, and buffets were temptation traps for a really long time. But this had a silver lining: instead of waiting hours for a table that we could all sit together at, we chose 2 separate booths. Narc mom grumbled hard about the kids not sitting with her and Dad at their booth- never did she consider that maybe they weren’t interested. I have changed my relationship with food just enough that I was okay and didn’t binge.
Julie’s mother has been too invested in traditional Thanksgiving– even when we hosted, she had to bring side dishes. She insists on my sister-in-law making her a small meal for the two of them. We used to go
Christmas Day was quiet- we did spend some time with same parents, just them. We agreed long ago to take turns visiting them on holidays in their downsized home to avoid crowding and burnout. Julie would rather my folks quietly send their presents so we could have them under the tree- but I guess they insist too much on witnessing our reactions to them.
But otherwise, we have had to form a LOT of our own traditions. I’m sure this is somewhat different for individuals- but I think some of it is similar- learning to go out and participate in your own things, without worry or concern that other family isn’t there or participating. I still have to deal with that at times, but that’s yet another story.