The holiday season arrives with memories of family, friends, good food, traditions, and generous giving. No wonder it’s called “the most wonderful time of the year.”

But when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays can magnify your loss. The same holiday decorating, music, and traditions that used to bring you so much joy become a source of pain as they remind you that your loved one isn’t here to share those things with you. It’s overwhelming to imagine enjoying or participating in holiday cheer without your loved one.

The grief you’re experiencing is a normal response to the death of someone you loved. Grief is the process of healing. So rather than denying or avoiding your pain this holiday season, perhaps you can consider remembering your loved one in a new way.

Here are five ways to remember your loved one this holiday season.

1. Donate in your loved one’s name.

You can donate time or money in your loved one’s memory. It can feel good to know you are furthering a cause that was important to the person you lost. It also feels good to keep their memory alive. Your town may have opportunities to purchase memorial bricks. You can also watch for local needs you can give to in your loved one’s honor. For example, you can give to a family’s adoption fund, provide a holiday meal for a single mom, or give financially to a local family with extraordinary medical bills.

2. Give photograph gifts of your loved one to others who miss them.

Others are also grieving the loss of your loved one. You can give them framed photographs or other photograph memories. Photoshops can make custom calendars, photo books, blankets, and other gift items using photos you provide.

3. Incorporate your loved one’s memory into your holiday gathering.

There is no question. You will miss the person you loved and lost when they aren’t present at holiday gatherings. Here are a few ways to keep them close:

  • Did your loved one have a favorite food or make an incredible pecan pie? Consider making it for the holiday get-together.
  • Ask everyone to write down their favorite memory of the loved one. Reminisce and laugh as you read memories aloud together after dinner or during dessert.
  • Play your loved one’s favorite Christmas music.
  • Put photographs and photo albums out for everyone to enjoy.

4. If you celebrate Christmas, have a separate remembrance tree.

You can ask anyone who visits for holiday get-togethers to bring an ornament that reminds them of your loved one. You can each discuss your ornaments and why you chose them before hanging them on the remembrance tree.

5. Give your loved one’s special belongings as gifts.

It’s tough to part with your loved ones belonging after they die.  Consider gifting some of their treasured items to those you know will appreciate them. Include a note about why you chose to give them that particular gift and the meaning behind it. Did your loved one use one specific fishing rod and wear a particular shirt when he took his grandson fishing? The rod and shirt would be invaluable to his grandson.

Grief is hard, especially around the holidays. Don’t tough it out alone. LifeStance Health offers professional counselors skilled in grief support. Reach out for an appointment if you need extra help.