Four Easy, Last-Minute Ideas For Memorializing Loved Ones This Holiday

If you’re like me, you can’t believe the holidays are here.  Between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and the spontaneous fits of tears sparked by grief triggers everywhere, it can be easy to avoid planning for things like memorializing loved ones.  We have tons of ideas about planning for the holiday and for creating and adapting traditions.  Today we want to give you just a few quick and easy ideas for remembering those no longer with us this holiday.  Don’t worry, these are all things that can be done on short notice and with minimal planning.  If you want a more comprehensive list of ideas for memorializing loved ones that involve a bit more planning, you can check out this post. As always, we welcome your additional ideas in the comments!


Memory Stocking

If hanging stockings is part of your holiday tradition, it can be hard to know what to do when a loved one has died.  Do you hang it? Do you not hang it? Either way, there is a good chance some family members will disagree on whether this is the ‘right’ way to memorialize loved ones.  One option is to hang the stocking with a purpose.  The stocking can be a place for people to share thoughts and memories.  The set up is simple – wherever you hang your loved one’s stocking, put out some paper and a pen.  Invite people to write their favorite holiday memory and place it in the stocking.  Depending on what you and your family are comfortable with, you can spend some time at the end of the holiday reading these together as a family.  If your family is more private, you can invite people to read them on their own or not read them at all.


Memory Album

Eleanor’s family came up with this great idea of putting out an album with photos of past holidays with a loved one who has died, with space for people to write their memories and reflections.  This can sit out for people to look at photos, read, and write at their leisure. It offers a lot of flexibility for all different types of grievers.  People may simply look at the photos or take the time to share or they can ignore the album altogether if that makes them more comfortable getting through the day!


Make a Dish They Made or Loved

Whether it was their famous holiday cookies or the green bean casserole that was their favorite part of the holiday meal, food can be a great way to keep memories and connections alive.  It is important with this one, especially if you are recreating their recipe, to cut yourself some slack.  It may not come out exactly the way theirs did, especially the first time around.  If you’re like me, you may plan to make your grandmother’s holiday cookies and then totally flake and not do it at all (don’t worry, I wrote about that here). Don’t hold back if their favorite food isn’t a holiday staple — if they loved fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, there is no reason that can’t become part of your holiday tradition!


Make Grief Memory Ornaments

Making ornaments can seem like a big project or something to plan in advance.  But there are plenty of easy options.  If you are feeling like you haven’t incorporated your loved one into the holiday but don’t want to incorporate something collaborative, a simple photo ornament or photo at/near the holiday table can be a nice way to make your loved one’s memory feel more part of the day.  If you do want to involve others, buying some simple, clear ornaments with strips of paper or paper ribbon and pens can offer a way for people to write thoughts, reflections, or memories.  Leave out the strips of paper/paper ribbon (different colors works well) and pens.  Invite people to write their feelings, memories, words to their loved one, or anything else they choose on the ribbons.  They can then place the ribbons in the ornaments, seal it up, and hang them on a tree or elsewhere in the house.


Looking For More Support?

We have tons of other posts in our holidays and special days section of the website, both about memorializing loved ones and general coping this holiday season.  You can also watch the recording of our Facebook Live on coping with the holidays:

Don’t forget to leave a comment with your easy, last-minute tips to remember your loved one in your holiday traditions!  If you haven’t taken in already, we have a FREE ecourse with some ideas of getting through the holidays.  Check it out:

Managing Grief on Holidays and Special Days

And, as always, subscribe to get our posts right to your email.

December 10, 2018

8 responses on "Four Easy, Last-Minute Ideas For Memorializing Loved Ones This Holiday"

  1. My son left us when he was 33 he had suffered with cancer for most of his life.
    David was such a wonderful young man. He never wanted anyone to pity him and acted like everything was okay, even when he suffered so badly. I will never know another person like him. I am so proud to have raised such a wonderful son. In spite of all his suffering he always was concerned about everyone else, and he made people laugh. I miss him terribly every day. September 17 2017 will be one year since he left us. David’s favorite holiday was Christmas, last Christmas I used the Christmas lights that he always hung on his own Christmas tree every year and combined them with some new lights and I decorate a 20 foot Spruce tree in his honor. I walk outside every evening when it is glowing and think of him. I also have made a area in the yard with a memorial bench dedicated to him, I can sit on it and look at the lights. I know this is superficial but I feel like he would like that I do this in his memory.

    • I love how you’ve memorialized your son’s memory and that you are proud to have raised such a wonderful man. Blessings to you and your son. Long may his memory live. I am no longer certain how to approach the first anniversary of my son’s death. On December 11, 2017 he was killed in a car accident, when a woman ran a stop sign, as he was on his way to work. Your meaningful steps have given me hope. I miss my son, Will, terribly. During this holiday season, I’ve realized we need space to grieve, but also ways to find strength and hope.Thank you for yours.

  2. My husband passed away unexpectedly in Sept this year leaving me with our four children. It’s so hard, our youngest has just had his 3rd birthday so I have to keep the magic alive for them but I don’t want to be part of any of it. It was our anniversary on the 19th Dec and so unfair he was taken at such a young age, we had our whole lives ahead of us and now mine and the kids world has been destroyed. I’m really not looking forward to the anything over the next few weeks 💔

  3. My son passed away 6 years ago , he was 19 , he drowned in the mediterranean sea on may the 8th 2011
    the first christmas without him was so hard to deal with , but i found a way to keep him with us , I put a photo of him on the star and placed it on the top of the tree and I do the same every christmas since then.
    and I don’t care what people think of it , it helps me to spend the holiday .
    And I still make his chocolate cake for his birthday on march 14th , with candles and with my other children we go on celebrating it
    it really help us , no matter what other think about it

  4. Grief has crashed our holiday celebrations this year and taken a place at the table. But we will do our best to treat Grief as we do all our guests, because Grief brings fond and happy memories along with the sadness. I am grateful for a little salt from tears to balance the flavor of the season.

  5. This will be my 2nd Christmas without my beloved husband, lost him July 2016 – seems more like it was just this past July, the hurt is still present every day. We just missed our 30th wedding anniversary, on Jan 1st, 2017, so the whole holiday season is sad. Didn’t put up any decorations, as I have no children, and the dogs don’t care. Will be going to his sister’s family, who still include me in everything – God bless them. He was the life of the party, the spark that ignited fun, laughs, and family warmth. Just not the same without him, but we are doing the best we can – remembering him with love and laughs, the way he would have wanted. But – my heart is still broken, and I will never be the same person. I am doing the best I can, but going suddenly from a solid happy marriage to unwanted widowhood is the greatest sorrow and challenge of my life, as many many others can testify to.

  6. These are great ideas. I wish I could do them. My husband died four years ago, Dec, 20. Our anniversary was Dec. 23. I still cant accept the holidays and think about him. Still too painful. Wonder if I ever will. Thanks again for all your columns.

  7. In honor of my late husband, Greg, our adult children and I make a donation to an organization that we think Greg would have liked. After 6 years without him, the kids are now emailing me with suggestions and ideas as Christmas approaches. Greg often gave a helping hand those he knew who were struggling. This year we made a donation to a group that helps the homeless through a running club. It’s local, and they give support without giving a handout. I choose to think Greg is smiling.

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