Honouring Lost Loved Ones over the Holidays

Emotions of sadness and grief inevitably intensify over the holidays when you’re missing a recently departed loved one.  That person who used to share traditions, keep in touch, and was always there is now missing.  That person who perhaps made the warmth and joy of the season come alive has gone somewhere, but you’re not sure where.  Moving through the—sometimes forced—cheer of the holiday season can be extremely painful when you’re feeling an invisible but substantial weight of loss in your heart.

Honouring, remembering, and ritualizing loved ones lost invariably supports the healing process of grieving.  There is no wrong way to keep the spirit of your loved one alive.  Whatever feels right for you, suits the relationship you experienced with that person, and comforts you in your sadness is ideal.

Since my Mom passed away over three painful months ago, I have been seeking feasible ways to keep her spirit close and love alive.  But then I began to contemplate ways to console my Dad, since he is grieving the loss of the love of his life for the past 60 years in a care home.  I decided to assemble a special keepsake bag of my Mom’s for him to keep close by.  For instance, I placed within the bag a small bottle of her perfume, the engagement and wedding rings he gave her so long ago tied to a ribbon and a photo of the two of them on their honeymoon.

There are countless heartening paths to memorializing your loved one throughout the holidays.  Journaling can be very therapeutic; I write in my ‘Mom’ journal almost every single day.  Another way to honour him or her is to participate in a grief support group where you may talk freely in a supportive atmosphere.  I feel it’s good to cry whenever you feel the need—everyone is allowed to cry in grief group.

Many communities hold candle lighting ceremonies dedicated to lost loved ones.  If healing in a group appeals to you, then join in.  Perhaps you have children or other family members suffering the loss as well.  Gather everyone together to craft memorial Christmas ornaments meaningful to their unique relationship with that person.

Giving to others in need or an organization that was dear to your loved one’s heart is also a meaningful way to pay your respects.  My family donated to the health care auxiliary in my Mom’s name that she had selflessly dedicated her time to.  Additionally, if your loved one suffered from illness, you may wish to donate to a cause committed to finding a cure.

Another practice for grieving family is to write down a cherished memory of the deceased and store it in a special box to read at their leisure.  You can also keep tradition alive and cook that person’s favourite dish to share with family and friends.

The other sad factor about death is that there is no chance of reconciliation.  If you’re experiencing feelings of regret, resentment, or guilt over something involving your late loved one, write about it on a piece of paper, crumple it up, and toss it into the fireplace as a symbol of letting it go.  Forgiveness can be immensely healing.

Over time, honouring your loved one and letting the tears flow eventually softens the heartache.  Demonstrating how much that person meant reveals the depth of love you shared and keeps warm memories of them alive in your heart.  By actively mourning your dearly departed, you can move through the holidays in a nurturing manner and perhaps heal a little on the way.  Take care and be gentle with yourself.

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