As we wish each other “Happy Holidays” this time of year, those of us who have experienced the recent loss of a loved one can feel anything but happy. Triggers for our grief seem to be everywhere — family gatherings, holiday traditions, special foods, beloved music and so much more. Holidays can be bittersweet experiences for those still in mourning. A good way to get through this difficult time is not to try to put your loss out of your mind, but rather to actively embrace the memory of your loved one, and celebrate their unique life and incorporate it into your holiday season.
There are many ways you can do this. Here are a few:
Everybody has a special holiday dish that they loved to cook, or even just to eat. Make it in their memory and think of how happy it made them — and everyone else — all those years. Maybe it’s as simple as a green-bean casserole or as sophisticated as an elaborate dessert. Of course, be ready to be told that yours is not as delicious as theirs was. And how could it be? The point is to remember how enjoyable your loved one made your life and the lives of everyone in your family.
Put photos of your loved one around, especially those that show them enjoying the holidays. If you have a recently deceased parent, a nice idea is to find a picture you love, frame copies for each of your siblings, and give them as gifts. In an age when everyone has a million pictures on their phones that never get looked at, a framed photograph of someone they love can be a genuine treasure.
“Remember Dad putting together Sally’s bike?”.” “Or the time Mom forgot to turn the oven on at Thanksgiving?” Families are all about stories, and the holidays are the perfect time to honor our loved ones with the stories that make us laugh, or cry, or just smile in fond remembrance. It is these stories that can turn even the most profound grief into an appreciation of how fortunate we were to have had that person in our lives.
In keeping with the holiday spirit of giving, a wonderful way to honor your loved one is to make a donation in their name to their favorite charity. If you have the means, a longer-lasting remembrance, could be to establish a scholarship fund in their name. You could also donate in-kind gifts such as clothes or furniture to a worthy charity.
We at BAYADA have shared these thoughts with you because we know how difficult a happy holiday can be when you’re working through grief. There are scores of other ways to remember and honor your departed loved ones and to channel your sadness into fond memories, good deeds, and even brand new holiday traditions.
Keeping your loved ones alive in your heart can be a holiday gift to yourself year after year.