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Grief and the Holidays

This time of year can make grief feel extra big.

We are steeped in reminders of who is not at the table. There are also all of these teeny tiny moments that feel gigantic and heavy. Something as simple as a certain food, a song, a glass of wine. Whatever it might be, those experiences trigger our grief and can cause us to feel our person’s absence more acutely.

If you are looking for ways to support a grieving loved one through the holiday season, let me reassure you that the simplest gestures mean the most. Often, it is so meaningful to simply be reminded that the spirit and memory of their person is present and being honored in some way.

Here are a few ideas:

Cook their person’s favorite foods.

Food can be such an amazing way to evoke memories and connect us to people. It also offers an opportunity to share specific memories that are tied to the foods.

Look through photos or take turns sharing stories.

It feels so validating to be able to keep the person’s memory alive. By bringing photos and memories to the table, we remind our loved ones that we are happy and willing to share and hear them as they share. It also allows us to keep growing and building our relationship with a person who is no longer here with us. This is a very comforting feeling for us grieving folks.

Set a place for them at the table.

Set out a place, pour them a drink, fix them a plate. Create physical space for them as you celebrate.

Buy a gift they would have loved, and gift it to your loved one.

Last year, I spotted a squat and goofy little Kiwi bird made out of wood at a market. I immediately thought, “Wow, dad would think that little bird is hilarious.” So, instead of having a meltdown and feeling that absence, I just bought the little guy and gifted it to my brother. This gave us a chance to laugh together and share that memory. It turned what could have been a really awful moment into a very sweet way to connect. Sure, we shed a few tears, too. But that would have happened no matter what.

Listen to their favorite music

There is something so special about remembering a person through music. Music is grounding and connecting, too, and can offer more opportunity to share stories.

It can always feel scary to bring up someone’s memory. I get it, you don’t want to mess up someone’s day or are worried about upsetting them. I can’t say it enough, the pain of remembering their person is so much smaller than the pain of feeling like you have to carry the loss alone.

If in doubt, you can ask your loved one how they want to include their person. here is one idea of how you might ask that question.

hey friend, I know this will be a difficult time of year, and it’s important to me that your person is a part of our celebration. I would love to eat some of your person’s favorite foods and play some of their favorite songs. How does that feel? Also, no pressure to do this if it doesn’t feel right.

I hope this season brings you connection, rest, and lots of cuddly moments.

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