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The holidays can be the hardest time of the year when we’ve lost someone we love. The swirl of celebration is all around us. The streets and shopping centers are aglow with light; the familiar carols play. When everyone else seems festive, we feel most alone.
We miss the person we loved and the times and traditions we shared. It’s tempting to avoid the holidays altogether. But it may be healthier to navigate them in a new way, one that honors our loved ones and helps heal our grief.
Pay tribute with a candle-lighting ceremony. Alone or with a small circle of others, light four candles: one for the person you lost, one for your memories of holidays together, one for your grief in the present, one for your hope for the future. Share words of love, remembrance, sorrow and hope as you light each candle.
Prepare a family recipe or make one of your loved one’s favorite foods. Set a place setting or pull up a chair in honor of the person’s spiritual presence. Invite close friends or family to dine and share stories around the table.
Give away things that mattered to the person you loved to others who will appreciate their meaning. Explain why you’ve chosen the gift and share it with gratitude and grace. A book, a dish, a penknife or a piece of jewelry will bless the recipient and be renewed in the act of giving.
A number of books offer support for living with loss during the holidays, including A Decembered Grief, which inspired this post. Other titles include Healing Your Holiday Grief, Surviving the Holidays without You and The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions.
The website Grief.com also offers helpful ideas, including these words:
“You can and will get through the holidays. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. It is not the grief you want to avoid, it is the pain. Grief is the way out of the pain.”