Remembering Loved Ones During the Holidays: 19 practical suggestions

Holidays and Special Days / Holidays and Special Days : Eleanor Haley


There’s no way around it – after someone important dies the holidays are never the same again. Traditions, events, parties, songs, movies – the grief triggers are everywhere. Avoidance and denial are popular coping tactics, but we suggest a different approach – find ways to keep your loved one’s memory alive during the holiday season. If you need a little inspiration, here are 19 ways to remember loved ones over the holidays (and every day).


19 Ways to Remember Loved Ones During the Holidays:

1. Photos: Display old photo albums in a location accessible to holiday visitors. People can’t resist a well-placed photo album. Before you know it you’ll be reminiscing and telling stories with family and friends.

Are all of your photos digital? Make an album featuring your loved one. Shutterfly and Snapfish have great deals on photo products this time of year. After you receive your album you might want to share it with others who would appreciate the photos.

2. Get out the old home videos: Yes, you may get emotional, but it’s also comforting to see your loved one up on the TV screen. Again, this is a great opportunity for storytelling and reminiscing. If your anything like me you may also end up in stitches over the ridiculous outfit you wore to Thanksgiving in ’01.

3. Belongings: After a loss, it can be hard to part with your loved one’s belongings. The holidays present the perfect opportunity to give away some of these things, especially if you are someone who always wants to make sure that old treasures go to good homes.

Wrap up a few of your loved one’s old things and give them to family and friends who will appreciate them. Write a card letting the recipient of the gift know why you chose to give them this particular item. I guarantee you they will adore the gift and the sentiment.

4. Create a special place for people to write down memories: Put out a marker and paper or write memories on plain wooden ornaments. Friends and family can hang the ornaments or leave the memories in an old stocking or empty gift box. When everyone is gathered together, read the memories aloud.

5. Donate to a cause in your loved one’s name: Try and choose a charity your loved one would have supported. During the holidays, churches and places of worship, local food pantries, homeless shelters, soldiers and their families, nursing homes, and ‘Toys for Tots’ are all very active.

6. Buy a gift: When you see a gift your loved one would have liked, go ahead and buy it. Donate it to a charity or give it to someone as a gift.

7. Cards: It may be too difficult to send out the annual family holiday cards. Don’t feel guilty. Instead, take an hour to write a few cards for the military and send them through the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes project.

8. Volunteer your time to others in need: You might choose a cause your loved one worked with or supported. If your feeling lonely, try a retirement home where you can sit and talk to those you are helping.

9. Light a candle in honor of your loved one: Leave it burning during days when you think you’ll miss them the most.

10. Donate: your loved one’s old coats to onewarmcoat.org

11. Set a place for your loved one at the dinner table: Would it be too hard to see the seat left empty? Invite someone from your loved ones past to dinner.

12. Invite your family and friends to a holiday potluck: Ask guests to make a dish that your loved one liked.

13. Buy or make a memorial ornament.

14. Use your loved one’s old recipe(s) to make holiday cookies or a holiday dinner.

15. Send a holiday card to someone from your loved ones past who they may have lost touch with.

16. Visit or spend time in a place where you feel close to your loved one. You could also spend time watching their favorite holiday movies or listening to their favorite holiday songs.

17. Take the trip you have been planning or dreaming about.

18. Give a framed photo of your loved one to people who also miss them.

19. Take care of yourself: Attend a workshop or support group for people dealing with a loss during the holidays. Remember that your loved one would have wanted you to have the support you need.

Have you already thought of ways to incorporate your loved one into your holidays, celebrations, or just everyday life? Comment below to share your ideas with other readers.  And don’t forget to subscribe to receive our posts straight to your e-mail inbox, it’s the most inexpensive holiday gift you can give yourself (because it’s free, der)!

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30 Comments on "Remembering Loved Ones During the Holidays: 19 practical suggestions"

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  1. Melissa Whitaker  December 18, 2019 at 9:17 pm Reply

    Even after 4 years, I am still brought to tears every day for my Forever37 son. He was our only child, and my husband passed a little less than 2 years before him.
    I moved far away, where I have my sister…who also lost her husband 5 years ago. She deals so much better with her loss.
    If I had my way, I’d spend Christmas alone. No holiday means anything to me after losing my son. Actually, no DAY means anything to me without him. Support groups have done little, if anything for me.

    • Ellen  December 19, 2019 at 9:50 pm Reply

      I lost my father in June and this will be my first Christmas without him. I can not imagine the pain you are going through with your losses. I am very sorry that you had to experience this. You must be a very strong woman and it’s definitely O.K. To spend the holiday alone. Hope yours is happy

  2. Tyler Ballard  November 20, 2019 at 1:17 pm Reply

    My brother passed away march 9th from Cystic Fibrosis complications. He was 23. This is our first holiday season without him. I can’t imagine how hard it is going to be. I miss him every day. Love ya Wy..

  3. Mobi Medical  October 24, 2019 at 4:48 pm Reply

    Thank you for posting this. Losing a close family member is extremely difficult and the holidays can definitely bring up an array of difficult emotions to handle. Some of the points that resonated deepest with me was bringing out the hold home movies- I remember my father taping these movies on his camcorder using VHS and they are like gold when it comes to referencing old memories. Also, confiding in a friend or family member is huge as well. When dealing with grief, no matter the stage, us opening up to those that we can confide in and trust.

    Thank you for the great information!

  4. 3 Week Yoga retreat  April 24, 2019 at 4:41 am Reply

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  5. Debbie Dovel  December 23, 2017 at 11:13 am Reply

    This year. 2017, is the 4th Christmas without our son who died on 2/09/14 at age 24. We made a Memorial Garden the first spring in our back yard with an arbor & several flowering plants & have added to it every year. We also planted a tiny Colorado Blue Spruce near the garden as they get so big in time it would have crowded out everything else in the garden if we had planted it there. We call it Chad’s tree & this year it is about 4 feet tall & 3 feet wide so finally big & sturdy enough to hold some Christmas lights. So this year it is decorated with lots of lights & a lighted star on top to remind us of the son who was the light of our lives. I hope that he looks down from heaven & sees our tribute of love celebrating our Saviors birth & the precious 24 years we were blessed to have our son with us. I’m sure he has that big beautiful smile he always wore on his face & I know I will see him again one day. merry Christmas in Heaven , my sweet son!

  6. Debbie Dovel  December 23, 2017 at 11:13 am Reply

    This year. 2017, is the 4th Christmas without our son who died on 2/09/14 at age 24. We made a Memorial Garden the first spring in our back yard with an arbor & several flowering plants & have added to it every year. We also planted a tiny Colorado Blue Spruce near the garden as they get so big in time it would have crowded out everything else in the garden if we had planted it there. We call it Chad’s tree & this year it is about 4 feet tall & 3 feet wide so finally big & sturdy enough to hold some Christmas lights. So this year it is decorated with lots of lights & a lighted star on top to remind us of the son who was the light of our lives. I hope that he looks down from heaven & sees our tribute of love celebrating our Saviors birth & the precious 24 years we were blessed to have our son with us. I’m sure he has that big beautiful smile he always wore on his face & I know I will see him again one day. merry Christmas in Heaven , my sweet son!

  7. Gina Royster  October 6, 2016 at 12:57 pm Reply

    My husband’s (and my ) mom died suddenly in June the holidays were her favorite because she was the cook and my daughters and I always helped and this Thanksgiving will be tough not only will it be the first holiday but her birthday is the 28 of November so I’m planning a celebratory dinner in honor of her on the 19th of November . I’m planning a dinner for 20 people the men will wear boutonniere and the ladies will wear a flower should I do a small gift for the people who came ?

  8. vivien harrison  November 29, 2014 at 1:28 am Reply

    It is very hard for me to find gratitude this year. Life seems very stressful and filled with negativity. I made a change in my residence last august-to reside with two female friends in a town ten miles away .After 4 months I’ve come to believe that my roommates have very different priorities and lifestyles than I. This move may not be a wise one. How ever I do not have the money or means to make another change.

  9. Kara  July 24, 2014 at 5:15 pm Reply

    My Daddy died 3 days before Father’s Day, this year. So it’s been just over a month. I still question myself when saying “Daddy died”. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel real. He was only 48 and we didn’t know he was sick. He had a pulmonary embolism and cardiomegaly.
    I don’t know what kind of holidays/ family get-togethers we are going to have now. It hurts. It’s an empty feeling to even think about.

    • Eleanor  July 26, 2014 at 10:33 am Reply

      Kara,

      I’m so sorry about your father’s unexpected death. When something happens so suddenly it can be hard to accept as real for a very long time. I know the holiday’s seem like the last thing you would want to think about, and luckily you have some time before any major ones, but let us know how we can help as the significant days draw near.

      eleanor

  10. Joyce  December 18, 2013 at 10:29 pm Reply

    Mom passed away in October of this year. There are days I cry of the memories of her. I plan on going to the nursing home where Mom was and where she and I made friends. I want to share a time with them because these people are so lonely, as Mom was living there and waiting for her life to come to an end. She had a full life of 101 and I see Christmas through her eyes.

  11. Kristin  December 13, 2013 at 11:59 am Reply

    My mother passed in early November this year, so her loss is especially keen this Christmas. She had a tradition of having a cookie decorating marathon with her grandchildren when they were small, so my sister and I are planning to resurrect and carry on that tradition in mom’s name with my own grandchildren, who are 3 & 5. It’s going to be a bitter sweet day, but lots of fun and will make her feel very close by!

    • Eleanor  December 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm Reply

      What a lovely tradition! I hope your day goes (went?) well and, although there will undoubtedly be sadness, that you feel a lot of joy and love.

  12. Peggy  December 12, 2013 at 10:09 am Reply

    Tiffany, that is a truly lovely gesture, the still inclusive family photo.

    This was one of the most simply heartfelt and creative lists of this type I have ever come across – thank you.

    • Eleanor  December 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm Reply

      Peggy, you’re so very welcome. I’m glad you found it helpful!!

  13. tiffany  December 11, 2013 at 10:49 pm Reply

    My brothers and I used to always take a annual photo together, so this year we took a framed picture of my brother and we held it between us for our pictures…that way he’s still in them 🙂

    • Eleanor  December 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm Reply

      Tiffany that’s a really great idea!! I’ve never thought of the annual Christmas photo and how after a death someone will inevitably be missing. Thank you for sharing this suggestion with us and our readers I will definitely remember this for next time. I’m sorry for your loss as well, I hope your holidays are okay.

  14. Beth Marshall  December 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm Reply

    Eleanor, Thank you for these great tips.
    I particularly love #4- such a beautiful way to keep memories fresh and include your loved one in the holiday. Telling funny stories about my mom’s life is a favorite tradition in my family.

    Keep ’em coming! Beth Marshall

    • Eleanor  December 12, 2013 at 3:50 pm Reply

      Thanks Beth! I love hearing funny stories about your mother too!! =)

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