A Guide to Navigating the Holidays Without a Loved One

This article was written by Samantha Overbaugh, on December 22, 2022

While the holidays are known to be a time full of joy and gathering, they can also evoke feelings of loneliness and heartache for many people. Whether you lost someone special to you this past year or ten years ago, this blog post is for you. Today, we will give you a guide with steps and simple activities you can do to make the holiday season meaningful and purposeful. 

Portrait of man feeling negative emotions during holidays celebration

Celebrate the Fact that You Have Made It Through a Whole Year 

Take a few moments to reflect on how far you’ve come and think about what you are most proud of yourself for this past year. Visualize if your loved one were here how they would congratulate you and be proud of your efforts. Even if this seems silly to you because you feel nothing significant has been accomplished, acknowledge your resilience anyways. 

Make a Special Handmade Ornament to Remember Someone 

This can be accomplished in whatever way you feel is best. Here is a creative approach we recommend: 

  • Find or print off a small photograph of your loved one that is a special memory to you 
  • Check out either your local craft or thrift store and buy a tiny little frame  
  • While you’re at it, either purchase or find some ribbon/string from around the house 
  • Place the photo in the frame and then super-glue your ribbon/string behind the frame towards the top and hang it on your tree! 
  • (p.s.- if you make two of them then you can keep one and give one to a friend or family member who is also missing your loved one during this holiday season!) 

Donate to a Cause Your Loved One Was Passionate About 

Did they feel strongly about a certain organization? If so, donate a small amount, even just $10, to a charity and leave the donation under their name. This allows their legacy to be continued and someone else will benefit in the process.  

Make Their Favorite Dish to Honor and Celebrate Them 

Rather than avoiding the traditions and foods you always shared during this time of year, make them anyways and enjoy them. You can even feel free to make other dishes they loved that may not be specific to Christmas time. Accept that this time of year will look different without them, but you can still embrace and accept this new chapter by making the things they love. 

Mail a Special Thank You Card 

One of the best ways to combat grief is to counter it with gratitude. Think about someone who impacted your loved one or was a genuine friend to them. Take out the stationary supplies and write this person a card saying Merry Christmas but also take a few lines to tell them how you feel about their impact. Maybe you’d say something like this, “Hey Joel I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas this year, I really hope you know how grateful I am for the impact you had and the friend you were to Darrell. He looked up to you a lot. Thank you for always being there for him and for our family.”  

Start a New Tradition  

Just because life looks different now, doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to start new traditions. While it is completely natural to hold onto the past, it is beneficial to take the necessary steps in pushing forward. Decide to start doing something new and fun this holiday season to commemorate them! For example, my great-grandfather’s birthday is on the 21st of December. Each year since his passing our extended family has gathered on this day to eat together and remember him.  

Write a Letter to Your Future Self 

The way you feel right now will not last forever. No matter how much heartache and longing you feel for your loved one we have an idea that might prove useful to you. Pull out the pen and paper and just write it all down. Express the feelings you are experiencing right now along with special memories that are on your mind. Seal the letter up and write on the front for example: “Open December 25th, 2023” this can become a therapeutic practice you do each year. You will be able to recognize your growth but at the same time honor your loved one each holiday season.   

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