Grief is hard. It demands all of your physical and emotional energy—every day. And it doesn’t get any easier just because a holiday is on the calendar.
If you have lost a loved one, especially if the loss occurred this past year, you know that your holidays will be different . . . and difficult. You will be blindsided by memories at every turn. You can often feel torn between the desire to preserve treasured traditions and the stark reality that nothing will be the same as it once was.
Can you honor the memory of your loved one without being overwhelmed by intense emotions that keep you trapped in the past? Absolutely yes! It is possible to remember, honor, celebrate, and preserve special memories…while still moving forward. The holiday season gives you a chance to redirect the feelings of helplessness and lethargy into a meaningful project that honors your loved one and helps your heart heal.
Consider the following examples my family and friends have used:
- Create a shadow box of special mementos—membership cards, licenses, pins, badges, awards, ribbons, watches, glasses, jewelry, letters, postcards, etc.
- Create a photo collage—fill up a poster size frame with a variety of photos.
- Create a gallery wall dedicated to pictures of your loved one.
- Create a scrapbook of your favorite memories with your loved one.
- Arrange a display shelf with some items from your loved one’s collections.
- Make a donation to your local library to buy a book your loved one would have enjoyed reading. They will place a memorial bookplate inside the front cover.
- Make a donation to one of your loved one’s favorite charities.
- Plant a tree in honor of your loved one.
- Alter a piece of your loved one’s clothing so that it fits you.
- Frame a letter or recipe with your loved one’s handwriting along with a photo.
Filling up your house, garage, and attic with every single possession left by your loved one will not really honor them. In fact, it will just be exhausting and overwhelming for you. You actually will devalue each possession by trying to keep everything. So give yourself permission to choose what truly speaks to your heart and pass along the rest, either to other family members or to a local charity.
If you would like an amazing variety of other ideas, take a look at the book:
Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive by Allison Gilbert.
In this resourceful book, she suggests 85 “Forget Me Not” ideas that are creative, useful, and innovative. Each chapter briefly explains how to remember your loved ones in a meaningful way. Her kind and gentle manner conveys compassion to anyone trying to survive a season of grief.
“My search for ways to remember has been the single most important factor in helping me heal from my losses,” Gilbert says in the concluding chapter. She doesn’t expect anyone to try every idea, but just to start with one or two that seem most appropriate.
One reviewer, Ann Hood, claimed that this book is “a must for everyone who has suffered loss, which is everyone.”
Some of the ideas will speak to your heart; others will not. However, this unusual assortment of ideas will help you see that there is a wide variety of ways to honor your loved ones and heal your heart without being burdened with an unrealistic amount of sentimental stuff.
It is my sincere wish this holiday season that you give yourself permission to grieve, to remember, and to find new ways to choose joy in hard times.
How have you chosen to honor your loved one during the holidays?