5 Things Grieving People Can Do to Feel Joyful During the Holidays

If someone you love has died in the past year, getting through the holiday season can fill you with anxiety, fear and a lot of tears.

Someone you loved died. 

That someone will be missing from Thanksgiving dinner and won’t be opening a special holiday gift from you this year.

You’re grieving. And it’s normal to feel all the emotions that go along with that process.

Added to that, you are entering a season where everyone other than you seems to be filled with joy and happiness.

You worry how you will get through the holiday season.

You might feel like skipping it altogether.

You might feel that gathering with family and friends is what you need now more than ever.

You might be feeling both.

The truth is, you don’t know what to feel or how you will feel because you don’t know what it is going to be like. 

Whatever you decide to do or not to do during the holiday season is ok. 

But if you do decide to take part in some or all of the holiday festivities here are five things you might consider adding to your holidays this year that could help you feel closer and more connected to your loved one and as a result, you might even be able to feel some holiday JOY.

1. Place a candle at the table to honor all loved ones that passed.

The year we lost our son Brandon, my mother in law asked if it was ok that she light a special candle to remember him during the holidays.

She purchased a beautiful Angel candle holder and lit the candle in Brandon’s memory before we said grace at our holiday meals.

Since that time, we have added and remembered other family members who have died and we take a few minutes of silence to remember them all and to think about the blessings they added to our family.

2. Serve their favorite dish or a dish that was their specialty

The mere fact that grandma’s famous summer potato salad will be served with turkey and stuffing is enough to make you smile. Or you could serve Aunt Betty’s famous Jello mold this year. These dishes serve as a way to remind you that those who died are still a very important part of your family tradition and your celebrations. It’s also a way to pay tribute and to include their memory into your gathering.

3. Gift some of their special items to family and friends

Instead of holiday shopping, consider gifting items of your loved one to family members and friends. Personally select the items and tell each member why you gave it to them. Gift Grandpa’s toolbox to his first grandson or make copies of mom’s recipe collection and give them to her daughters.

Gift your son’s favorite concert t-shirt to his best friend.

This makes parting with these items less painful and turns them into treasures for the recipients. I remember one year opening a weathered toolbox from my dad, only to find out that it had been my grandfathers. Every time I reach for a tool, I now lovingly think of my grandfather and my dad who thought it was special enough to entrust to my care.

4. Make time to share memories and stories

Provide a basket at Thanksgiving or put a stocking up at Christmas and have people throughout the day write their fondest memories of the deceased and tuck them inside. Later in the day you can either read them out loud and share them with everyone or wait until you are alone and set aside some quiet time to read them, remember them and even shed a few tears.

5. Provide a “Happy Holiday” for someone in need 

You and your family may not feel like celebrating this holiday season and that is perfectly understandable, but what if you took what you would be spending on festive food, drinks, and gift giving and donated it to a family who might not be celebrating the holidays because they can’t afford it?

Or what if your family gathered at your local church or soup kitchen to provide holiday meals to the homeless during the holidays?

Most times it’s in the act of “giving” in which we receive the greatest joy.

It’s hard to come to the realization that the holidays will never be the same, simply because someone you love is missing. But by adding a new twist or two to them this season could actually begin a new holiday tradition that you can start to enjoy and look forward to in the years to come.

If you would like more ideas on how to remember and honor your loved ones this holiday season, check out this episode of the Graduating Grief podcast.

Sherrie Dunlevy- #Inspirationista, is a best selling author, speaker, podcast host. She is also the founder of the the “Graduating Grief Academy” and online support community.  

Sherrie is on a mission to help grieving people step out of pain and step into living with purpose passion and joy.

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