Christmas is a time of joy and cheer, but it can be particularly difficult for people who are grieving. During the holidays, it can be easy to feel like you’re supposed to put on a happy face for everyone else. This can make it hard to feel a sense of loss, especially if it’s the first year without your loved one.
You may find that it’s not enough to just go through the motions of holiday cheer – you want to feel connected to your loved one and the memories they made together. There are many ways to do that, from finding new ways to honor them to spending time with family and friends who remember them.
Start small traditions that can be remembered and kept alive through the years. Some people have found that simply keeping these small, familiar rituals upholds the memories of their loved one and helps them heal from their loss.
Whether it’s writing down your emotions, remembering past Christmases with your loved one, or sharing poems with others, journaling is a great way to cope with grief during the holidays. Creating a special space to write about your feelings can be therapeutic for you, and it can also be a great source of inspiration in the future as you remember and memorialize your loved one.
Consider a mission your lost loved one would have believed in, and do some volunteering during the holidays to help those in need. This could include donating money to a local charity, feeding the homeless, or even picking up litter in their name.
Visit your loved one’s grave on Christmas Day to honor them and their memory, or choose another location that you and your family enjoy visiting during the holidays. Choosing a special time, like first thing in the morning, can help you plan and carry out this tradition.
Leave an empty chair or candle at your Christmas table to honor them and their memory, too. While this may intensify the feeling of grief, it’s a comforting way to remember and connect with your loved one.
A toast to your loved one’s memory at the Christmas dinner table is a great way to bring a sense of togetherness to the celebration. This is especially important if you’re going to a family gathering, or if you plan to spend time with other friends and family during the holidays.
You can also give out a personalized ornament, if you’d like to commemorate your loved one during the holidays. You can buy a new one each year, or make a homemade version using your loved one’s picture as the focal point.
Depending on the nature of your loss, you might feel better doing something different this first Christmas – putting some of your old traditions on hold to allow yourself some time and space to mourn, for example. It’s okay to be sad and a little grumpy this time of year, and you should do it as long as you don’t get too overwhelmed or partake in unhealthy coping mechanisms.