Christmas is a time of joy and sharing and bringing people together. For most of us it is also a time rich with tradition and filled with joyful festivities. Family and friends look forward to spending the holidays together exchanging gifts, indulging in delicious goodies and reminiscing about the good old days. However, for bereaved families the tinsel, decorated trees, and angelic singing of Silent Night, are painful and constant reminders that a loved one’s stocking hangs empty, and will always be empty.
Remembering a loved one during the holidays can bring forth tears. It can also bring great comfort as friends and family share their stories and memories. If you are facing the holidays without a loved one, here are some suggestions for remembering the person who has died and to help you get through the festivities:
- Talk about the person who died
- Do something that you did together
- Write a letter to your loved one
- Create a memory album complete with pictures, stories and memorabilia
- Gift a gift to charity in their name
- Cook your loved one’s favorite food
- Hang their picture in the Christmas tree
- Watch a movie that was a favorite
- Visit a place you enjoyed together
- Try something new and spontaneous
- Develop a new tradition
- Ceremoniously handover a tradition that your loved one performed. (i.e. if Dad carved the turkey, turn the duty over to a relative or friend)
- Allow for sadness – your feelings are real
- Pamper yourself
- Know your limitations – if you can’t be with a big crowd all day long, then settle on a couple of hours
- Let yourself laugh!
For those supporting a bereaved relative or friend, keep the following in mind:
- Understand that Christmas and special holidays can stir-up unreconciled grief for your relative or friend. Their feelings are real and they have no control over when they will surface.
- Speaking about the deceased person and using their name can be comforting for the bereaved – don’t be afraid you will upset them, because you won’t. They will appreciate that you remember their loved one.
- Offer to accompany your relative or friend to attend a ‘memorial service’ in your community. Many funeral homes offer this type of service prior to Christmas
- Give the greatest gift of all – your ears and sincere attention.