Grieving the loss of a loved one can be challenging when surrounded by holiday music, indulgent food and festive decorations. You may experience an internal conflict between what you believe or are told you should feel — joy — and what you actually feel.
Randye Golden-Grant, LCSW, a bereavement counselor affiliated with Sharp HospiceCare, explains that during the holidays, you may find comfort and healing by embracing memories and maintaining a connection with your lost loved one.
“You shouldn’t have to give up special memories of a loved one, as you are already dealing with the challenges of living without them,” says Golden-Grant.
She suggests five ways to remember your loved ones during the holidays. Remember: There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Trust your instincts about what is helpful for you.
1. Create a Memory Bear.
Sharp HospiceCare offers the Memory Bear Program. Families provide cherished garments — a favorite blouse, shirt or pajamas that belonged to a loved one — that are sewn into a personalized Memory Bear. Golden-Grant suggests choosing something that evokes a positive memory of your loved one. These cuddly bears can be held close to your heart forever.
2. Continue a family tradition.
When you are ready, evaluate your family traditions and consider choosing ones that will evoke positive memories. For example, one of Golden-Grant’s clients and his family would always go to the same restaurant for their holiday meals. After the passing of his beloved mother, he could not go to the restaurant until he had reached a point in his grief where he felt ready to embrace that memory.
3. Create a special place.
Designate a special place to honor your loved ones. Some individuals choose to set a place at their table, create an altar, light a candle or identify a touchstone for their loved one. “These are wonderful examples of how to turn matter into energy,” explains Golden-Grant.
4. Give in their memory.
Donate your time or money to a cause that you and your loved one passionately believe in. Not only will you be connecting with your loved one, but you will also be helping others in need. Showing compassion to others helps foster healing.
5. Take care of yourself.
Grief can be exhausting. It is important to take care of yourself and remember that you matter. Practice both self-care and self-compassion. Self-care can include rest, going to a place of peace and comfort, exercise or pampering yourself. For self-compassion, she suggests being kind to yourself, not overextending or overcommitting yourself, and trusting your instincts. Your loved ones would want to make sure that you are well taken care of.