The tree is trimmed and twinkling, all the gifts are beautifully wrapped and the table is set for dinner. Yet it still feels like something is missing, despite all the season’s cheer. Those who’ve lost a loved one know this feeling all too well, and they may be looking for ways to find comfort by honoring those who have passed. Friends and family of the grieving might not know what to say or how they can help. But there are many ways to remember, to celebrate life and to show support.
Michelle Persichetti of Columbus, Ohio has experience coping with grief during the holidays. Michelle lost two loved ones around Christmas—her father and her uncle, both suddenly and unexpectedly.
“It’s a strange feeling with grief because there’s a lot of support at the beginning, as there should be, and then people go on with their lives, as they should,” says Michelle. “But you’re still dealing with the loss.”
Michelle believes that words are the most powerful way to show kindness and support to someone who is grieving, whether it’s a phone call, a text or a handwritten note. But sometimes, if you’re afraid to open wounds that have started to heal, it can be hard to send that text or mail that card. Instead of avoiding the loss or acting like it didn’t happen, remember that for those who have lost someone close, it’s always on their mind. The loss is a part of them.
Every year, Michelle memorializes her uncle by writing a thoughtful reflection, sometimes posting it on Facebook. Last time she did so, Michelle’s aunt texted her to tell her that she had just read Michelle’s words at her uncle’s gravestone.
“You never know when your words are helping someone,” says Michelle. “… If you’re afraid to approach someone who’s gone through something like this, don’t be, because they’ve already been through a lot of hardship, so your words can be healing.”
To honor her father, who passed away the day after Christmas, she and her family take a trip to Cleveland each year.
“My dad loved his church,” Michelle says. “It’s in downtown Cleveland, and we go there the Sunday after Christmas every year and go to Little Italy and celebrate his life.”
If you’re struggling to cope with grief this holiday season, here are some suggestions for remembering and honoring those who have passed:
- Light a candle for loved ones lost. White candles are associated with healing and remembrance, so they’re especially nice to honor those who have passed.
- Go to their favorite place of worship. Even if you don’t practice the same religion, it can be comforting to feel a spiritual connection with your lost loved one in the place where they found solace and celebrated their faith.
- Bring the holiday spirit to them. Gather some holiday joy and take it to their resting place. You could leave them poinsettias, cut flowers, a wreath, or even a little porcelain snowman trinket.
- Serve their signature dish as part of your holiday feast. Whether it’s Grandma’s candied yams, your brother’s green bean casserole or Auntie’s pineapple upside-down cake, find comfort in their favorite recipes.
- Save them a place. Leave a seat for them at the table, with a place-setting and maybe even a photo to honor their memory.
- Make a toast. Celebrate their lifetime achievements or share a favorite memory around the dinner table. Cheers!
- Make an ornament to honor them. You could even incorporate a photo of them into an homemade ornament. As you hang it on the tree, invite your loved ones to gather around the tree to celebrate their life.
- Story time. Brew some tea or make some hot cocoa and find a cozy spot to gather and tell your favorite stories from when they were alive. Take turns telling funny stories that make you laugh until you cry a little.
- Watch and listen. Dust off their old copy of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and pop it in the DVD player, or put on that old “Christmas Songs by Sinatra” record.
- Be thankful. Spend time with family and friends, and be grateful for their love.
However you choose to honor your lost loved ones, remember that you are not alone. There are others who are experiencing that same feeling. Whether it’s another family member, a friend, or even a coworker. Reach out to them. Show up for them. Find comfort together.
Brought to you by M. Sophie Franchi. Sophie is a mother and a writer. She is also Managing Editor at The Devil Strip, a free alt-monthly arts and culture print magazine published in Akron, Ohio.