Grief During the Holidays: 5 Ways for Adults and Children to Remember

Each year as we prepare for and pass by our Candlelight Service of Remembrance I am confronted with the multitudes of losses experienced in our community in just 1 year. I think of these families and wonder how their holidays are going. I’m sure they didn’t expect to be in grief during the holidays this year, nor do they yet know how that grief can change everything. Yes, Halloween & Thanksgiving have been survived so there may be some sense of, “I can do this” even though they may not want to. But, now Christmas is coming …

Grief During the Holidays: 5 Ways for Adults and Children to RememberBut Christmas is on another level for me, it’s the most sentimental and heartfelt of the holidays. There really is something about the “spirit” of Christmas that is fed and filled by our deep and abiding relationships. And so, when one or many of those relationships, perhaps the most significant relationships are missing, the spirit of the holiday can feel foreign and impossible to get back. The way we gather is forever changed and we can begin to just look back and forget to look forward.

In an effort to also help you look forward at this and the other Christmases to come, I want to ask you to think about the Christmas traditions you love the most and consider different ways you could tailor them this year to where your are at. The most important thing to keep in mind is not to overwhelm yourself. Your energy level may be very different and you may not feel like doing anything at all. See if any of these options provide a way to participate in the Christmas traditions that you enjoy but in a more manageable and significant way. Below are a few simple but powerful ways to remember and enjoy the spirit of your loved one.

  • Make a Memory Chain: Grief During the Holidays: 5 Ways for Adults and Children to RememberThis simple paper chain is a festive and unique way to decorate your home in memories. Take each strip of paper and write down a special memory of your loved one. Invite others in your family to be a part of the chain and add to it throughout December. Having a way of sharing these stories with others and perhaps hearing new ones will bring tears and laughs with just paper and tape.
  • Grief During the Holidays: 5 Ways for Adults and Children to RememberHang their stocking: Put their stocking in it’s usual place and fill it with anything that brings you some peace or a smile. Maybe a small Starbucks card that you use later to treat yourself in their memory, perhaps a favorite candy or a trinket from an inside joke. When you think of them jot down your thoughts and slip the little notes into their stocking, a special place to hold your memories. Keeping their stocking and filling it up creates a special place where you and your loved ones can place your loving thoughts for that person.
  • Make a donation or give a gift in memory: Consider donating to a favorite or meaningful charity in memory of your loved one. If there were cookies they always made or if they had a signature gift like funny socks, consider continuing the tradition in their honor. Giving in their name will feel right and good and will be a way of continuing on their special legacy.
  • Instead of Christmas Cards … send little thank you’s to the people who have rallied around and truly supported you this year. Make it easier on yourself if you don’t like writing, by just making a simple phone call to thank them and say that you were thinking of them. (click here to see tips on writing these kinds of thank you’s)
  • Grief During the Holidays: 5 Ways for Adults and Children to RememberFind a special ornament: Each year my husband and I buy a new ornament commemorating our year. We were in New York City last month and purchased a beautiful glass “Empire State Building” ornament that will forever stand as a signature of this year’s special moments. Think over your loved one’s life and come up with a few ideas that might work and then go hunting for it! You might find joy in the mission of searching for just the right ornament to commemorate them. Whether it’s Mickey & Minnie Mouse, a polar bear, or a gold heart, there is sure to be something special that you can pick out to represent your relationship.

Maybe you pick one of these ideas or create your own variation (please share it in the comments below) – whatever it is, my sincere wish for you is that you begin to feel your way through this difficult road of grief. I hope that you begin to find periods of peace and that the sweetest memories flood you with joy so sweet to remember that it brings the best kind of tears. May you have a meaningful and blessed Christmas.

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I'm Molly and I write for the blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.
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  • Casandra Rodela

    We purchased a shining silver glitter star Christmas tree topper. This will be our first Christmas without our little girl Violet Skye (1/1/14-3/11/15). The star lights up and projects dancing snowflakes on the ceiling.
    Violets favorite lullaby was twinkle twinkle little star with the lyric changed to “like a Violet in the sky”. Her and her big sister Rosemary also enjoyed dancing and playing together with the only source of light being a color projection disco ball lamp.
    Although bittersweet this Christmas tree topper represents our Violet perfectly and helps her to still be a part of this Christmas celebration and the years to come.

    • How beautiful Cassandra. Thank you so much for sharing this special way you are treasuring Christmas with your sweet little girl. The way you describe the tree topper does just sound absolutely perfect for her. We will be thinking of you and your family this year and hoping that you feel Violet’s joy with you as you remember.

      – Molly Keating, O’Connor Mortuary

  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Hi Molly,
    I love the idea of the memory chain! I always have a special candle on display in my home through the holidays. My kids even call it the “Uncle Rob” candle. When it is lit, it reminds me that my relationship with him continues even through he is not physically here with us.

    Thank you for this special blog!

    Becky