Honoring Loved Ones We’ve Lost on the Holidays

Years ago, a dear friend of mine (the one who inspired me to create a Gratitude Jar) introduced me to a lovely holiday tradition that my family’s been doing ever since.

Here’s how to do it: on New Year’s day, gather with your family and think about your wishes for the New Year. What three things would make it the Best Year Yet for you and those you love? Write them down and then put them in your stocking before packing up the decorations. Next year, when you’re unpacking all the holiday stuff, you’ll have your notes in your stockings to read together as a family. It’s a lovely way to reflect on the past year and set your intentions for the year to come. It’s such a simple and nourishing thing to do together.

So when another friend asked me if I had any family traditions to honor those we’ve lost, I thought of the stocking ritual. Instead of writing down our wishes for the New Year, we can record a favorite memory of our loved one, put it in our stocking, and then read them together during the holidays. Each year, the slips of paper in our stockings will grow, inviting us to celebrate and honor those who have passed. It’s a loving way to bring them with us into this special time of year.

Here are a few more holiday ideas for honoring those we’ve lost:

• Choose holiday cards that in some way commemorate your loved one. It could be a symbol – like a star – that’s on every card you send.

• Set a place for your loved one at the table, and place a candle in the middle of the place setting to represent their presence with the family.

• Gather around a fire (fireplace, firepit, candle) and write down something about your loved one that warms your heart or something that makes your heart heavy. Place the paper in the fire, knowing that you’re expanding your love and/or releasing your grief as the message burns.

• Contribute to your loved one’s favorite charity or cause in their name. If possible, volunteer and give your time to that organization – your service will have the added impact of bringing you close to your loved one.

• Hang a holiday ornament that represents your loved one – it could be something literal (like a photo of your loved one) or something symbolic (like their favorite ornament or an ornament that represents something they love).

• Create a Gratitude Jar that honors your loved one. Over the holidays, have each member of your family write down a reason they’re grateful to have the loved one in their life. Throughout the year, when your heart aches with loss, go to your Gratitude Jar and read one of the messages.

Most of all, be gentle with yourself. Remember that there’s no one way to grieve – you don’t have to worry about getting grief right. Breathe, relax, and open your heart to all the love around you.

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