“There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they are gone, their light remains”

The holidays can be a time of celebration, of gathering, and of great wonder. Seeing houses lit up, picking a tree at a local tree farm, lighting the candles of the Menorah, baking cookies or traditional holiday meals that remind us of our culture and heritage.

It can also be a time when stress is high, when families struggle to afford that special gift for their little one and when some are grieving the loss of one of the most important people in their world.

Grieving the death of a loved one is especially hard around key holidays. Their absence is felt, and the question remains on what it would be like if they could be here, to take part in some of the most beloved traditions that the family has, sometimes shared for generations.

Although their physical presence is no longer here, I have seen many ways that families commemorate a loved one during the holidays and build new traditions to remember and honor them at holiday events, whether this year or in the future. For some, this may be a special way to keep their memory alive and to honor them during the holidays.

This could mean

-Making their favorite dish or baking their traditional holiday cookies

-Lighting a candle in memory of them

-Visiting their favorite place in the days leading up to the holidays

-Sharing memories or looking at photos

-Saying a prayer for them

-Donating a gift in their honor

-Raising money for a cause that is important to them

-Stringing a garland of memories (making a paper garland where you write a memory of them on each paper)

-Sending a message in a lantern or in a balloon

-Volunteering in their memory

-Creating a new tree topper, an ornament, or a memorial wreath in memory of them

-Making a memory tablecloth

-Taking a moment of silence for them

-Starting a new holiday tradition that honors them

None of these replace the pain in your heart when you are grieving. They can however be a way of helping you keep their memory alive and honoring who they were and what mattered to them. While their absence will certainly be felt, it is a way of keeping them close and creating new ways of connecting after loss.


Coping during the holidays

The amount of time that has passed is not important – grief is hard, whether in the first year after loss or a decade later. Allow yourself to feel your feelings and to express them. Give yourself permission to have good moments too if they arise.

Self-care is vital during this time. Take care of yourself as the holidays approach. Treat yourself to a massage, journal, exercise, make sure you’re getting some good food and lots of rest.

If this is your first holiday season after loss, decide on which events you’d like to take part in and what you’d like to do this year. It can be tempting to be alone but try to do something with a loved one, even if it’s just for a short period of time. Think ahead of how you want to care of yourself when emotions show up. Lower your expectations for yourself this holiday season and be kind with yourself.

Grieving is hard and it hurts, and you deserve to have the right supports in place to help you through this. If you’re struggling, reach out and book a counselling appointment today.

Melina Ladouceur

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Melina Ladouceur is a registered social worker and practicing psychotherapist who offers individual counselling and is currently accepting new clients.