Coping with Loss During the Holidays

The holidays can be hard for families facing a loss — especially if this Christmas will be their first without their loved one.  There is no right or wrong way to handle the holiday season after a loss. So with Christmas just around the corner, we’ve put together some creative and unique ways to honor your loved one and incorporate their memory into the holidays.

Create a Holiday Journal

This is a great project, especially for families who want to get younger children involved. Have everyone share a holiday memory they have of their loved one. Record each memory in the journal, and pair the journal entries with photos or mementos to help the memories come alive. Your family can reread the journal each Christmas or even throughout the year.

Dedicate a Special Ornament

An ornament is a simple way to honor the memories of a family member each holiday season. As families decorate their Christmas tree each year, they can make placing a memorial ornament a new part of their tradition.

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Holiday Meal

Familiar traditions may be comforting, but it is important to acknowledge that the holidays will not be the same after a loss. Some find comfort in new experiences, a change in location for family celebrations or a new menu. Some find comfort in creating a new tradition out of an old one. If a loved one had a famous holiday recipe every year, continue their memory by making the dish. Let others know the history or story of the dish, and consider placing a lighted candle on the dinner table, leaving an empty chair at the table or saying a few words of remembrance. 

Gift Giving

Gift-giving can be challenging as you grieve the loss of a loved one. Consider alternate options. Studies have shown that giving back to a good cause is beneficial to both our mental and physical well-being.  Consider making a donation in a loved one’s name to a charity or cause that he or she cherished. Volunteer your time to help someone else.

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Holiday Parties

Limit holiday parties to small gatherings with those closest to you, and don’t hesitate to scale back your usual holiday activities. Less decorations, greeting cards or events will give you a break from the added stress at this time of year.

Visit the Gravesite

Making the trip out to the cemetery in winter might seem difficult, but if weather permits, it can be a very cathartic experience. Families can bring along a holiday wreath, an ornament, or other mementos to decorate the gravesite with.

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