7 Ways to Honor the Memory of Loved Ones We've Lost This Season
This will be my third holiday season since my mom died, and our fourth since we lost my father-in-law in 2018. I’m not dreading it with my whole being the way I was the first year (my heart goes out to you if this is how you’re feeling - it’s totally normal!) but I know there will be some rough moments. Here are some of the strategies that have worked for me. I thought I’d share my bag of tricks because you never know what you’re going to be feeling and what will help you get through it. I hope if you are missing someone you love, one of these ideas will bring you a little relief.
Cook or Eat What They Loved to Cook or Eat
Baking my mom’s Cranberry Orange Nut Bread has become a way for me to remember her and feel like she is part of our holiday meals. I love being able to involve my kids in this tradition too, because it gives me a chance to tell them stories about her. I have a whole recipe box she gave me full of recipes in her handwriting, many of which were passed down to her from people she loved and lost, and using them helps remind me that everything I’m feeling, she felt too, which makes me feel closer to her. My sister-in-law makes wonderful German chocolate cake to honor my father-in-law (his birthday was December 24) and it always helps take the edge off.
Connect With Others Who Loved Them
Reaching out to people my mom was close to has also become part of my strategy for coping. Part of what I lost when my mom died was her amazing ability to keep us all informed on each other’s comings and goings and it has become important to me to do what I can to keep those lines of communications going. It always makes me feel like she’s watching over me and smiling when I upload my spreadsheet of addresses for our far flung friends and extended family to order my holiday photo cards (I love Paper Culture for this!).
Write Them a Letter
A big part of what I miss is the catching up and gabbing my mom and I got to do while we decorated the house, baked and cooked in the kitchen, and drove around running errands together. It helps to sit down and just say everything I would say to her if she was here, and I often can hear her reassuring me (or gently encouraging me to make good choices) when I’m done.
Pass on Their Traditions
Growing up we always sat by the fire and read Christmas books on Christmas Eve, and though we don’t currently have a fireplace, being able to put on a Youtube Yule Log and read the stories my mom read to me to my own kids makes me feel her presence in an almost physical way. The Grinch, Strega Nona and the conductor of the Polar Express all have one thing in common: my mother’s voice, and I can feel her arms around us as we turn the pages.
Make a Place For Them
For a while it was painful to have a lot of photos around but now I find it comforting. Framing one or two and setting them out next to a favorite decoration, inside a wreath or near a candle helps keep her present to me in an everyday kind of way. The more I look at the photos, even if it means I have to do some boohoo-ing while I’m setting them up, the more I’m able to process my grief and enjoy the happy memories they bring up.
Make a Toast to Them
My mom loved a big holiday meal (and the drinks that went with them) and saying her name out loud at the table means a lot to me, even if it brings up sad feelings as well as happy memories.
Reach Out to Someone Else Who is Grieving
You just can’t really know what it’s like to lose a close friend or family member until it happens to you. But once it does, you are given a unique view into the experience of everyone else who has lost someone too. Being able to support other people is a privilege and a coping mechanism for me, because once you start to think of loss as a normal part of life instead of a special hell you have to suffer in alone, it becomes easier to let yourself feel the pain when it comes and then let it go, knowing we are all just taking turns carrying it.