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scrapbook page in honor of a mom

11 Ways to Remember Your Mom on Mother’s Day

By Grief/Loss, Seasonal

After losing a loved one, some days are harder than others. Your grief may feel stronger on special days like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, or their deathiversary. If you’ve lost your mom, Mother’s Day might be a grief trigger for you.

If Mother’s Day is hard for you, you may prefer to skip it altogether. But even though your mom is no longer with you, you can still honor and remember her on this special day. Here are 11 ways you can honor your mom this Mother’s Day:

Do her favorite activity

close up of a person painting on a canvas

Activities provide a way for us to express our grief and physically process our emotions. Did your mom enjoy baking, painting, puzzles, or gardening? You can spend some time on Mother’s Day participating in your mom’s favorite activity.

While you may not master the violin or draw a masterpiece, doing something your mom loved can help her feel a little bit closer on a hard day. Alternatively, you could do something you always did together, like having a spa day or visiting a specific restaurant.

Visit her final resting place

man visiting his mom's grave on Mother's Day

While visiting a loved one’s grave may feel intimidating, it can help you in your grief journey. When you go to your mom’s final resting place, whether at her gravesite or urn niche, you set aside time to grieve and remember her. You can talk to her, bring flowers, or simply sit and reflect. If your mom doesn’t have a final resting place, you could visit a spot that was meaningful to the two of you.

Plant or buy her favorite flowers

woman kneeling in a garden and planting flowers

Because Mother’s Day is in the spring, it’s the perfect time for gardening. If your mom had a specific flower she loved, you can take a little time to plant some in your garden. Not only will you be able to enjoy the flowers all season, but their smell can also remind you of positive memories of your mother.

If you’re not big on gardening or don’t have a lot of space, you can also buy some of your mom’s favorite flowers to enjoy. Additionally, if you’re not sure what your mom’s favorite flower was, you can always get other meaningful flowers, like the flowers she wore at your wedding or a flower that reminds you of her.

Write her a letter

Woman writing a letter to her mom in a journal

Often, when someone we love dies, there are things we wish we could have said or changes in our life we want to tell them about. By writing a letter to your mom, you can release thoughts and emotions you’ve been holding inside. It doesn’t matter what you write or how well it’s written; expressing your feelings matters more.

Enjoy her favorite food

parent and child baking and holding cookie dough in a heart shape

What dish did your mom love to eat? What treats did she make that remind you of her? One way to remember your mom on Mother’s Day is by making a food she loved. You could make a full meal, a snack, or her favorite dessert. If you’re not particularly skilled in the kitchen, you could have a friend or family member help you, or you could hunt down a local restaurant or bakery that makes something similar.

Wear her favorite color

man wearing all yellow standing in front of a yellow background pointing at his shirt

One very easy way to honor your mom on Mother’s Day is by wearing her favorite color. In a way, adding her favorite color to your outfit is a way to bring her memory with you throughout the day. You could make the color the main focus of your outfit or incorporate it through accessories. You could also wear an heirloom or piece of jewelry your mother gave you. Incorporating something important to your mom into your outfit is a simple way to keep your mom close.

Look at photos or old home videos

Person pushing an old home video tape labeled "Family Vacation '98" into a VCR

Looking at photos of your mom or watching old home videos can remind you of the happy moments you shared. Pictures may remind you of memories that have faded into the background, and videos can bring back your mom’s voice.

Whether you choose to enjoy these old memories on your own or with loved ones, photos and videos can make your mom feel a little bit closer on Mother’s Day.

Make a scrapbook page

scrapbook page in honor of a mom

If you enjoy crafts, creating a scrapbook page for your mom can be a great way to celebrate her memory on Mother’s Day. You can incorporate favorite photos of her, mementos from events you attended, or stickers of her favorite flowers. You could add significant quotes: things she said that stuck with you, her favorite saying, or a selection from her favorite book or poem. By taking time to be creative, you’ll allow yourself to express your feelings and embrace your memory of your mom.

Share favorite memories and stories

woman sharing stories with her daughter

Stories have power, and by sharing them with others, you can relive them. If you have a favorite memory with your mom – something sweet, heartfelt, or funny – you can share it with a friend or family member or in a post online. If you have kids of your own, you can tell them about your favorite moments with your mom and maybe even recreate them.

You could also write down some of your favorite memories and stories! Whether you write them in a journal just for yourself or choose to share them with someone else, you can write your memories to cherish them forever.

Volunteer at her favorite charity

young man encouraging a boy with Down syndrome

As mentioned above, participating in activities can be a great way to process your grief. Giving your time to a cause your mom cared about can be a great way to honor her memory on Mother’s Day. While some organizations may be closed on Sunday, you could also volunteer the week before or after Mother’s Day.

Keep in mind that some charities may require paperwork or a background check, especially those that work with kids in need. Investigate ahead of time to learn what requirements your volunteer opportunity requires.

Make a donation in her name

Person placing money in a jar labeled "donate"

Did your mom have a cause that she often donated to? You could give a memorial donation in her honor to her favorite charity. Or did your mom die from a specific disease, like breast cancer or Alzheimer’s? You could support an organization that researches that disease.

Some organizations accept donations of useful items, like hats, toys, or blankets. Even a small donation can make a difference, and your generosity can be a great way to honor her memory.

Whether you choose to skip Mother’s Day or participate in a remembrance activity, remember to be patient with yourself. Losing your mom is hard, and it’s okay if you need time to grieve. Whatever you do, cherish the happy moments you shared with your mom and hold her memory close.

Younger woman and her second mom baking together

Dealing with Grief on Mother’s Day

By Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Mother’s Day is a special day, set aside to honor the mothers who have done so much for us. But Mother’s Day is often a very difficult day for two sets of people: those who are mourning the loss of a mother, and mothers who are mourning the loss of a child. On a day that celebrates the mother-child relationship, these people are faced with painful reminders of their loss.

The differences between losing a parent and losing a child are massive. They cannot be compared, nor should they be. Each has its own challenges, its own hurts, its own obstacles. But there are some similar things you can do to prepare for the hard days you will face, like Mother’s Day. That said, if you have experienced the loss of a mother or the loss of a child, you have our sincerest sympathies. As we approach Mother’s Day this year, here are some tips to help you get through the holiday and cope with the great loss you have suffered.

Tip #1: Prepare yourself emotionally

Woman looking at calendar making advance plans

It’s not just the actual day that’s hard. The week leading up to Mother’s Day can also trigger painful memories and stir up strong emotions and unpleasant thoughts. Take some time before the holiday to plan how you want to focus your thoughts. You may choose to focus on the gratitude you feel for the time you had with your mother or child. You may choose to spend some time in solitude, allowing yourself to freely vent your emotions. Or you may think of a new way to honor your loved one’s memory this year, such as taking a bouquet to the graveside or working on a special memorial project. Try to avoid stressful situations (such as the grocery store aisle with all those pink cards and candy boxes) as much as possible.

Tip #2: Share your story

Two people sitting at a table talking with coffee cups in front of them

Every grief journey is different, and there’s no “right” way to grieve. But it is important to talk about your loss. Find someone you trust – a friend, spouse, family member – who will wholeheartedly listen to your story. Your relationship with your child or your mother doesn’t end with death – that relationship continues on in you. By sharing how you loved them, how they impacted you, and the difference they made in your life, you keep your loved one’s memory alive. But also, by telling your story, you allow others into your life and offer them an opportunity to comfort and support you.

Tip #3: Journal about your feelings

Older woman sitting at home, journaling at a table with a tissue box and flower arrangement

If you are processing difficult emotions this Mother’s Day, consider writing them down in a grief journal. Grief journals allow you an honest, private, and judgment-free place to process your thoughts. Write down everything you are feeling about your loss. Anger, sadness, and things left unsaid, along with gratitude, appreciation, and memories. Don’t leave anything out.

Sometimes the most painful part of loss is knowing that there will be moments you will never share with a loved one. Our hopes and dreams and expectations are dashed in a moment, especially with the loss of a child or a mother much too early. Write down all your hopes and expectations so you can see them in black and white. Sometimes simply acknowledging your hopes can help you come to grips with your feelings and help you work toward releasing them and finding a measure of peace.

Tip #4: Honor the other mothers in your life

Younger woman and her second mom baking together

For those of you whose mother is no longer here, you may have one or two women in your life who have been like a mother to you. It could be a teacher, a mentor, a colleague, a leader in your faith group, or a close and trusted friend. Honor these women by acknowledging the contribution they’ve made to your life! This activity can also apply to someone who has lost a child. Have any of your child’s friends continued to be close to you and your family following the loss? Make sure to tell them how much their continued presence means to you.

Tip #5: Pay a special tribute to your loved one

Dark-haired woman in a mustard yellow sweater working on a crochet project

Some people work out their grief by finding an activity or creative outlet. Art therapy can be very helpful in processing emotions. You may like to paint, woodwork, quilt, crochet, sew, scrapbook, or make a video slideshow, to name a few. No matter what you choose to do, you can make it especially meaningful when you share it with others as a memorial gift. Another way to honor your loved one’s memory is through giving back. Volunteering for a beloved charity or giving back through memorial gifts can be a special way to pay tribute to a loved one.

Tip #6: Talk to a professional

Young woman talking with grief therapist

All grief is difficult, and some grief is unbearable. If you are stuck beneath a heavy burden of grief, perhaps it’s time to visit a grief counselor or therapist. We all go to the doctor for physical check-ups and annual appointments, so why shouldn’t we also prioritize our mental health? A grief counselor or psychologist could be a helpful resource and might provide useful tips for battling grief. Perhaps now is the time to schedule a session. Talking to an educated person about your feelings couldn’t hurt, so why not give it a try?

Tip #7: Do something that you enjoy

Older woman outside gardening in her yard

When you’re feeling down, it can be beneficial to participate in an activity that you enjoy. You may feel guilty about feeling happiness – like it’s an emotion you no longer have a right to feel after the death of a mother or child. But that’s not true. It’s not a betrayal to find hope and joy, and any loving child or mother would want you to find these things again. Oblige them by doing something that gives you joy. Hang out with friends, go to the movies, or buy yourself a treat. Do something relaxing or find an opportunity to laugh. Honor your loved one by living the life you have been given and treating yourself the way that they would treat you.

While these 7 tips won’t take away your pain this Mother’s Day, they can help you navigate through the day. May you find peace in your heart and the healing you deserve this Mother’s Day.

Small wooden cross with purple ribbon, small crown of thorns, and three nails

5 Ways Grief is Expressed in the Easter Story

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

For Christians around the world, Easter is a time for both thoughtful contemplation and joyful triumph. The holiday revolves around the life of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, which Christians believe broke the power of sin and made it possible for mankind to live an abundant life of freedom and close relationship with God.

But before the happy moment when Jesus’s friends, family, and disciples realized He was alive, they grieved His loss for two days. As we look at the four Gospel accounts (the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), we can see 5 distinct reactions to Jesus’s death and how people mourned His passing.

1. Honoring Jesus with a Final Resting Place

replica of what Jesus's tomb may have looked like from the outside

The Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all recount the events of Jesus’s death on the cross. In each one, a man named Joseph of Arimathea plays a key role. In the Book of John, we’re told that Joseph kept his allegiance to Jesus secret because he feared the Jewish leaders. However, Joseph revealed himself to all when he asked Pontius Pilate, the Roman leader, if he could have Jesus’s body for burial. He placed Jesus in a tomb intended for Joseph and his family. Through this expression of grief, Joseph honored Jesus and showed deep respect and care for Him.

Today, we do much the same thing, though we don’t often use tombs anymore. Now, we may bury a loved one in a cemetery or scatter their cremated remains in a special place. No matter what is chosen, we still honor loved ones by giving them a place of final rest. (References: Matthew 27:55-61; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42)

2. Supporting Jesus at the Time of His Death

Depiction of the crown of thorns, cross, and nails that pierced Jesus's hands

Another expression of care and grief highlighted in the biblical narrative is the supportive presence of Jesus’s loved ones at the time of His death. Each Gospel includes the names of different people, so we can conclude that there were quite a few of Jesus’s followers nearby when He was crucified. Why were they there? To offer Him their support during His time of need. To grieve and to see for themselves what happened to Him.

We still practice this expression of love and care today. When a loved one’s death is pending, we sit by their side. Family members come from far away to say their goodbyes. Friends and neighbors offer their love and support. In Jesus’s case, His followers couldn’t hold His hand, but they could stand near Him and make their presence known. (References: Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; John 19:25-27)

3. Preparing Jesus’s Body for Burial

Bottle of myrrh, used to prepare a body for burial during Jesus's lifetime

Jesus was crucified on a Friday, not long before Sabbath began. In the Jewish tradition, Sabbath is a day devoted to rest, which meant that Jesus’s burial needed to take place quickly. With help from Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus’s body for burial. As was the custom at the time, they wrapped Jesus’s body in clean linen perfumed with ointments and spices, such as myrrh. They then placed Jesus’s body in the tomb before leaving to prepare for the Sabbath.

Before funeral homes became the norm, families washed, dressed, and prepared a loved one for burial themselves. This was intended to show love and respect to the deceased and give family members quiet moments to grieve the passing of someone loved. Today, we work closely with the funeral home to ensure a loved one’s care and preparation, but the custom of caring for and preparing the body still remains.(References: Mark 16:1-2; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:38-40)

4. Visiting Jesus’s Tomb

Depiction of Jesus's empty tomb with linen lying flat on the stone

The day after the Sabbath, several women went to visit Jesus’s tomb in the morning. In Luke 24:55-56, the text states that the women witnessed Joseph of Arimathea taking Jesus’s body and placing it in the tomb. Seeing this, the women went home to prepare additional burial spices, but they were unable to return to the tomb before Sabbath began. Therefore, at the first opportunity Sunday morning, they went to visit Jesus’s grave and further care for His body by applying more spices. Instead, they encountered an empty tomb and two angels, who gave them the good news of Jesus’s resurrection.

Visiting a loved one’s final resting place is still a common practice, and it can be part of the healing process. By visiting Jesus’s grave, the women not only showed great love, but they also created an opportunity to cry together and grieve His death. (References: Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1)

5. Experiencing Sadness over Jesus’s Death

Small wooden cross with purple ribbon, small crown of thorns, and three nails

In Luke’s Gospel, he includes the story of two men who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus. When Jesus joined the two men, he had already risen from the grave and was appearing to many of his followers. Jesus asked the men what they were discussing. Without recognizing Him and “with sadness written across their faces,” they told him about Jesus’s death (Luke 24:17). This passage shows what many of Jesus’s followers felt – a deep sadness. They not only loved Him as a person, but they also believed He was the promised Savior.

In our own lives, we experience deep sadness when our loved ones die. You may also feel many other emotions, like anger, fear, shock, or guilt. All of these emotions are completely natural when you’re trying to accept and make sense of someone’s death. But as you engage with your emotions and seek to understand them and express them, you will begin to heal. (Reference: Luke 24:17-18)

The Bible has provided wisdom, comfort, instruction, and encouragement to people from all over the world for millennia. In the Easter story, and in other places throughout the Bible, we see examples of what it means to grieve and how to process the pain we feel. If you are hurting this Easter, may God place His loving arms around you and give you peace, comfort, and hope that He is with you always.

6 Ways to Combat Loneliness on Valentine’s Day

By Grief/Loss, Seasonal

If you’ve recently lost a spouse, partner, or significant other, you may be experiencing loneliness on Valentine’s Day. And that’s completely normal and to be expected. Your natural inclination may be to sit at home and just try to deal with your loneliness. However, to make the day easier on yourself mentally and emotionally, here are a few activities to consider that may help you make it through the day feeling more engaged and less lonely.

1. Schedule a Self-Care Day

Woman receiving manicure on a self-care day

Give yourself a little love this year by scheduling self-care activities on Valentine’s Day. By doing so, you not only get out of the house, but you also have a chance to treat yourself to things that bring you joy. For example, you could schedule a massage (foot, back, full body, whatever you prefer). Or you could get a manicure, pedicure, or facial.

Alternatively, you could choose to focus on your spirit and attend a retreat or educational conference. Simply choose something that relaxes you and makes you feel recharged. And if you’d like to invite a friend to join you, do so!

2. Make Plans with Friends

Three men out golfing together

A second option for combatting loneliness on Valentine’s Day is to make plans to spend the day or evening with friends. By including other people in your day, Valentine’s Day won’t feel as lonely because you won’t be alone. Instead, you will laugh, talk, and deepen your connection to the important people in your life.

You could go out to dinner at your favorite spot. Plan a road trip. Go to the movies and see the most action-packed movie possible (no rom-coms allowed). Scope out a good place to hike and enjoy the outdoors. Head to the golf course, the local fishing hole, or the new axe-throwing joint. Or you can poll the group and ask each person to choose an activity and make a full day of it!

3. Volunteer with your Favorite Charity

Two volunteers holding a pug at an animal shelter

Studies show that volunteering decreases loneliness and social isolation while also improving your physical well-being. So, take time out this Valentine’s Day to volunteer at a charity close to your heart. And if you’ve never volunteered before, that’s fine. With a little advance planning, you can get signed up with a local organization that’s in need of your help.

You could volunteer at an animal shelter, tutor kids, help with the homeless, build homes with Habitat for Humanity, sit with the elderly, or deliver meals with Meals on Wheels. There are so many volunteer opportunities to choose from and each one will introduce you to new faces and new passions.

4. Exchange Valentines with Friends

Person holding a box of Valentine's Day truffle chocolates

Do you remember exchanging valentines in elementary school? You can do the same with your friend group this Valentine’s Day. Think of it like a Secret Santa gift exchange. You could draw names and each person gets one gift. Alternatively, you could draw inspiration from grade school and each design your own valentine box and place it on your porch. Then, throughout the day, your friend group can drop cards and treats into the box at each other’s homes.

If you’d prefer to exchange in person, you can always have a valentine brunch or dinner where valentines are given and received. You could create your own cards or grab one of those packs from the store. The point is, by exchanging with your friends, you still get the love, support, and chocolate that comes with the day and you will feel less lonely.

5. Sign Up for a Group Activity

Group of seniors in a painting class with instructor

If you’re new to the area or just like to try new things, you could sign up for a group activity on Valentine’s Day. You could do a fitness class, a painting class, an educational course, a walking group, a dance class, a wine club – wherever your interests lie. With group activities, you have the chance to meet new people while also learning a new skill or indulging a passion. What a lovely evening it would be! You just might meet your new best friend.

6. Stay Off Social Media for the Day

Cell phone put away in a basket as woman takes a social media break; woman sitting on couch reading

With social media, we’re connected to more people than ever before. While that can be good on some days, on others it becomes a curse. If you are struggling with loneliness this Valentine’s Day or are simply missing your special person, it can be painful to see so many others celebrating their own love stories. While you are certainly happy for them, it doesn’t mean you want to be confronted with your own loneliness so openly.

If you struggle seeing others’ social posts, consider staying off social media for 3-4 days surrounding the holiday. This way, you won’t be bombarded with posts and can protect your own mental and emotional health. Even after 4 days, you may see a post or two pop up in your newsfeed, but you will avoid the thick of it.

Woman sitting at home, writing in a journal, expressing her thoughts

Remember to Honor Your Feelings

While these 6 activities will help you combat loneliness on Valentine’s Day, it’s important not to ignore what you’re feeling. There are going to be times throughout the day when you feel down or deeply miss your special person. When these feelings come, don’t be discouraged. This is completely normal and natural.

Take a moment to honor your feelings. If you need to cry, scream, or journal what you’re feeling, do that. It may also help to find a way to honor your loved one’s memory on Valentine’s Day. By doing so, you honor the love you two shared in a special way. For a few ideas on ways you could honor your loved one’s memory, go to Honor Your Loved One this Valentine’s Day. May you find hope and connection this Valentine’s Day even as you mourn the loss of someone dearly loved.

Person standing in front of a heart drawn into the snow during the holiday season

Healing Your Holiday Grief

By Christmas, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

By Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt

If you could go back in time and relive a special holiday, which one would you choose? Close your eyes for a moment and think about this holiday. Now, slowly, walk through this memory in your mind.

What made it so special? What were the surroundings like? Who inhabits this memory with you?

Family of three - dad, mom, and pre-teen daughter - putting up Christmas tree together at holiday

Holidays have such rich associations for us because humankind created them as a way to honor and celebrate that which is truly important. We step out of the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day routines and into a world where our spiritual beliefs and connection to others matter above all else. We pause to give thanks, and we share of ourselves.

As the Grinch learned that memorable Christmas, the holidays don’t really come from a store – they come from the heart and soul.

Which is why when someone loved dies, the holidays can be so painful. The heart of the holidays has been torn apart. Without love, what is life? Without the people we love, what are the holidays?

I want you to know that you can find continued meaning in the holidays and in life. You can continue to live and love fully. You must grieve, but you can also celebrate.

Person standing in front of a heart drawn into the snow during the holiday season

Setting Your Intention to Heal

It takes a true commitment to heal in your grief. Yes, you are changed, but with commitment and intention, you can and will become whole again. Commitment goes hand in hand with the concept of “setting your intention.” Intention is defined as being conscious of what you want to experience. A close cousin to “affirmation,” it is using the power of positive thought to produce a desired result.

How can you use this in your journey through holiday grief? By setting your intention to heal.

Turning to Ritual

Setting your intention to mourn and heal during the holidays – and beyond – is one important way to move forward in your grief journey. Harnessing the power of ritual is another. We create holiday rituals because everyday activities and normal conversations cannot capture our most profound thoughts and feelings. Rituals give them voice and shape. So, we decorate our Christmas trees, light our menorahs, give gifts, hold hands, and say prayers.

During your times of grief, the very rituals of the holidays can help you survive them. Try participating in some of your normal holiday traditions but with a focus on grief. When you light candles in your home, do it in honor or the person who died. You might also create a special holiday ceremony or private ritual in memory of the person who died. The holidays are ritualistic, and ritual can help you survive (and heal) right now. Remember this when you are considering whether or not to participate in your next holiday tradition.

Grandmother in her kitchen, baking Christmas cookies with grandchildren during the holiday

Living in the Now

Return once more to the holiday memory I asked you to conjure up at the beginning. This memory is so special to you because you were so very present in the moment. When your grief overwhelms you this holiday season, try focusing on the now. Your grief wants you to live in the past through memories of the precious person who died. Remembering is indeed important, and your memories will always be a special part of your life.

Your grief will also project you into the future at times. You will worry about what the coming months and year hold for you. Looking ahead is also a normal and natural part of grief.

But when remembering and projecting exhaust you – and they will – return yourself to the present moment. Concentrate on what is going on around you right now. Hear the sounds and see the sights. Try drawing on the power of now to find continued meaning in your holidays and in your life.

Mother and young daughter sitting in front of Christmas tree as they watch something funny on a smartphone

You’ll notice I have used the generic term “holiday season.” By that, I mean the winter holidays bookended in the United States by Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In between are the spiritual/religious holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. But whatever holidays you celebrate, and no matter where you live, the principles apply to the holidays that are most meaningful for you – including other holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries sprinkled throughout the calendar year.

A List of Ideas to Heal Your Holiday Grief

Be Compassionate with Yourself

Let your holiday grief be what it is. And let yourself – your new, grieving self – be who you are.


If the death was very recent, you may be in survival mode this holiday season. If that’s true for you, it’s OK – the world will keep turning whether you participate in the holidays or not.

Keep What Matters

You might consider simplifying your holiday rituals instead of abandoning them altogether. Keep the traditions that matter most to you and set the others aside, at least for now.

Group of three sitting quietly at home, sitting next to a warm fire and wearing cozy socks

Communicate Your Wishes

Muster the strength and courage to tell the people in your life what your wishes are for the holidays. If you’d like their company but prefer to gather somewhere different than you usually do, say so. If you’d rather skip some of the celebrations this year, tell them. If you’re feeling unsure about how to spend the holidays, tell them.

Attend a Remembrance Ceremony

Many hospitals, hospices, and funeral homes host remembrance ceremonies during the holidays. The act of joining together in our grief and ritualizing our mourning can be healing. Especially early in their grief, many families say that it was the most important thing they did during the holidays.

Hang a Special Stocking

If your holiday traditions include hanging stockings, consider hanging a special stocking in memory of the person who died.

Young girl with brown hair hanging up a Christmas stocking on the mantle

Be a Secret Santa

You could probably use some “feeling good” this holiday season. Give yourself a dose of pleasure by giving to someone else.

Prepare Favorite Holiday Foods of the Person Who Died

Special foods are an important part of the holiday traditions. Chances are, your family prepares many of the same dishes each holiday, and everyone looks forward to those unique smells and flavors.

If You’re Alone, Find Ways to Connect

If you’re alone this holiday season, you would be well-served to make an effort to connect with other human beings. Invite your neighbor to dinner. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or nursing home. Join a group at a place of worship.

Mature couple sitting near Christmas tree as they talk with family through video chat

Make an Appointment with a Grief Counselor

Seeing a counselor or spiritual advisor for just a session or two over the holidays may help you cope better and focus more on what is important to you this year and what is not.

Count Your Blessings

Think of all you have to be thankful for. This is not to deny the hurt, for the hurt needs to take precedence right now. But it may help to consider the things that make your life worth living, too.

Believe in a Better Next Year

Believe in your capacity to heal and grow through grief. Believe in the enduring holiday spirit of giving and love.

About the Author

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., is the founder and director of Center for Loss and Life Transition and a member of the TAPS Advisory Board. This article is excerpted from his book, Healing your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season, published by Companion Press and available at

Printed with permission from Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Center for Loss and Life Transition.

family sharing Thanksgiving dinner together

6 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend at Thanksgiving

By Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief, Seasonal, Thanksgiving

With food to prepare, family trips to manage, and upcoming holidays to plan for, Thanksgiving can be a busy and stressful time. For those grieving at Thanksgiving, this season can also bring heartache. Because Thanksgiving is a family-centered holiday, people who have lost a loved one may see reminders of their loss all around them. A holiday that once brought joy may be a painful reminder of their loved one’s absence.

Whether you have a friend or a family member who has lost a loved one, you can help make Thanksgiving a little bit easier for them. Here are six ways you can help a grieving friend at Thanksgiving!

1. Check in with them

friends catching up outside during the fall

One of the most important things you can do for a grieving friend is to check on them. This is true at any time of the year, especially on holidays and special days. Take time to ask your friend how they’re doing and truly listen to their response. They may not want to talk about their grief and pretend everything’s normal, or they may pour out all their emotions to you. Or they may not want to talk at all! That’s okay. Just let them know that you’re thinking of them and ready to listen when they’re ready to share.

As you talk with your friend, try not to talk too much about your own past grief experiences or offer advice unless it is asked for. Everyone grieves differently, and your friend may just need you to listen to them. Above all, focus on listening and supporting your friend as they navigate their grief.

2. Encourage them to set boundaries

pumpkin mug next to cozy blankets

For many of us, it can be hard to admit when we need to step back or ask for help. This can especially be true for those who are usually in charge of planning for holidays like Thanksgiving. A grandmother may feel like it’s her responsibility to manage everything in the kitchen, or a father may feel like he has to organize the family football game, even if he doesn’t feel like it. Encourage your friend to set boundaries and say no to things if they don’t feel up to participating.

3. Invite them to join your celebration

friends holding hands at Thanksgiving

No one should have to spend Thanksgiving on their own. Maybe your friend is older and has just lost their spouse, or maybe a single friend lives far from their family. Inviting your grieving friend to join your family’s Thanksgiving celebration can be a beautiful way to support them and show that you care.

However, if they refuse to join you, don’t take offense. Your friend may not feel up to being with a large group of people, especially if they don’t know the other members of your family. You can always offer alternatives, like just visiting for part of the time or meeting up for lunch the day before. Just make sure they know your offer is genuine and they are truly welcome.

4. Share food with their family

family sharing Thanksgiving dinner together

Planning, cooking, and serving a full Thanksgiving meal can be daunting for a family that has lost a loved one. If you don’t mind making extra and sharing, offer to help your friend’s family by bringing them food on or before Thanksgiving. Providing even one dish can be a huge relief for a family that is grieving at Thanksgiving. You could even gather several other friends and each make a dish to share with your friend. Just make sure you check with your friend first, in case they’ve made other plans for their Thanksgiving meal.

5. Create a new tradition

friends sharing pumpkin pie together

While some people who are grieving want to stick with their usual traditions so things feel normal, others may want to try something completely new. You and your friend can create a new tradition together! Maybe you can try a new pie recipe before Thanksgiving, set up family interviews to learn more about your family history, or participate in a Turkey Trot together. You can even help them find ways to honor their loved one at Thanksgiving. For example, you and your friend could create a memorial for their loved one or volunteer in their loved one’s name.

6. Offer to help in practical ways

friend raking leaves

Many people have trouble asking for help because they feel like a burden – especially when everyone else is busy during the holidays. If you know your friend might be struggling, offer to help in practical ways. You could offer to put up fall decorations or do yard work. Maybe you could pick up groceries for them when you do your own grocery shopping. You can help watch their kids or pets on Thanksgiving or the day before while your friend gets things ready. If your friend has family coming in from out of town, you could pick up their family members from the airport. Take initiative and offer to help with something specific so your friend knows you truly want to help.

Above all, make sure your grieving friend knows they’re not alone, and give them time to process their grief. While it may take them time to accept your help or feel comfortable sharing their feelings, being available and supportive is a wonderful way to show you care. As you celebrate Thanksgiving, let your friend know that one of the things you’re thankful for is them and their friendship!

Door with fall decorations

Coping with Loss During the Halloween Season

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal No Comments

As the seasons change, you may see Halloween décor pop up around your neighborhood. Spider webs and tombstones, skeletons and caution tape, and all manner of ghouls and goblins begin to grace the streets in anticipation of the holiday.

But if you have experienced a sudden, tragic, or violent loss, the Halloween season can feel like navigating a minefield, especially if children are involved. What may have once been a fun, candy-filled holiday may now seem distorted, insensitive, and disturbing. Grotesquely exaggerated images of death seem to be around every corner. Symbols of death, such as cemeteries, become scenes for entertainment—making a mockery of death.

You may even feel betrayed by those around you. Your friends or family may need help understanding how hurtful their enthusiastic celebration of Halloween can be.

But by making a plan for the holiday, communicating with your family, and taking time to mourn in your own way, you can make your Halloween experience better. Below are a few tips for managing your grief during the Halloween season:

Decide What Feels Right

Couple walking in the mountains during the fall

First and foremost, spend a few minutes deciding what you want Halloween to look like for you and your family this year. This is a time to do what’s best for yourself and your family – not yield to the expectations of others. You can avoid that spooky house on the way to work by taking an alternate route. You can skip the store aisles displaying seasonal items. Make a plan for how – and to what degree – you will celebrate this year…if you choose to celebrate at all. Most of the time, anxiety comes when no plan is in place. To avoid unpleasant emotions, decide what feels appropriate for you and your family ahead of time.

Choose Alternate Halloween Activities

Family with kids at a pumpkin patch

Rather than celebrate Halloween as you have in years past, you could choose other, more neutral fall activities, such as visiting a pumpkin patch or going on a hay ride. Or, choose lighthearted or funny costumes instead of scary ones. If you decide to trick or treat with kids, check with them to see if they are prepared to face some of the scary, gory costumes or yard decorations they may see. In addition, be sure you know what you are getting into when you go to a Halloween carnival or party. As a safer alternative, many churches offer family-friendly fall festivals or “trunk or treat” opportunities for children.

Mourn in Your Own Way

Mourning is a deeply personal journey; only you know how to mourn for yourself. You could light a candle in remembrance, decorate with fall leaves and gourds instead of skulls and cobwebs, or start a new tradition! Make caramel apples, watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, or make some s’mores over a fire–maybe even spend time remembering what you loved most about the person who died and honoring their life.

Communicate with Others

Father comforting his son outside in the fall

If you are having trouble with this holiday, be honest about how you feel with those around you. If your friends or family ask you to participate in something you are not quite ready for, let them know what you are going through. You can also share your feelings with a support group, online forum, or trusted counselor or friend. Sharing your feelings can help you process any emotions triggered by this season and help you move toward healing and reconciliation with the loss.

Try Not to Blame Others for Their Halloween Zeal

Although this time can be challenging, others haven’t experienced what you have. Most people see Halloween as a chance to dress up and be someone else for a while. Try to understand that most people are unaware of what you’re going through and that they aren’t trying to be insensitive. Stick to your boundaries, communicate them to others, and explain your reasons if you feel comfortable.


As you navigate through Halloween, give yourself and those around you grace. If your feelings about Halloween have changed, that’s okay – accept your emotions as valid and set up the boundaries that will help you grieve. Above all, give yourself time and space for healing, without rushing the process.

Soldiers dressed in Continental Army uniforms, holding rifles

Ladies of Liberty: Remembering Deborah Sampson

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

I became an actor in that important drama with an inflexible resolution to persevere through the last scene, when we might be permitted and acknowledged to enjoy what we had so nobly declared we would possess or lose with our lives – Freedom and Independence!” – Deborah Sampson

As we mark the Fourth of July and the independence brought about after the Revolutionary War, it’s impossible not to remember the historical men and women who played key roles in the creation of our nation. Men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are easily remembered, but what about the women – the ladies of liberty – who also deserve our remembrance and respect? Today, let’s talk about Deborah Sampson, a woman whose story you may never have heard.

Revolutionary Era American flag with just 13 stars on it


Early life

The first of seven children, Deborah was born on December 17, 1760, near Plympton, Massachusetts. Her parents struggled financially, and while she was still a child, her father Jonathan Sampson Jr. died at sea. Her mother could not support all seven children, so they were each sent to live in different homes. Eventually, young Deborah became an indentured servant in the home of Benjamin Thomas, a farmer with a large family. She lived with them until her indenture was complete at age 18.

After her time with the Thomas family was complete, Deborah worked as a teacher in the summer and a weaver in the winter. But then, in 1782, Deborah did something completely unexpected – she disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment in the Continental Army. Her alias was Robert Shurtleff, and it was more than 18 months before she was discovered.

Military service

While incognito, Deborah was assigned to Captain George Webb’s famous Light Infantry. Some of her missions included scouting neutral territory to assess British build-up, leading 30 infantrymen in an expedition that ended in a skirmish, and raiding a Tory home where 15 men were taken prisoner.

At one point, she took a bullet to the shoulder, but in order to stay undiscovered, she removed the bullet herself rather than seek medical attention. However, in the summer of 1783 (mere weeks before the Treaty of Paris was signed), she fell unconscious with a high fever and her gender was discovered by the attending physician. Interestingly, she was not reprimanded, but was instead given an honorable discharge on October 25, 1783.

Soldiers dressed in Continental Army uniforms, holding rifles

Following the war

After the war ended, Deborah returned to Massachusetts where she married a farmer named Benjamin Gannett in 1784. They had three children together and adopted a fourth. In 1792, she petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature to receive back pay for her service, and she won.

Then, in 1802, she went on a lecture tour in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, where she talked about her experiences in the Continental Army. She was the first American woman to complete a lecture tour, and it was quite the success. Afterward, she petitioned Congress that she be allowed to receive a disability pension due to a shoulder injury she sustained. Though it took time, and she was denied once, Deborah ultimately won the pension. She became the only woman to receive a military pension associated with service in the Revolutionary War.

Not much is known about her later years, but in April 1827, Deborah died in Sharon, Massachusetts. Her headstone in Sharon honors her service and calls her, “The Female Soldier.”

Key Contributions

Much of Deborah’s story is unknown, but without a doubt, she was committed to the cause for independence and made history. While she is the most famous, she is not the only woman to have served in the Revolutionary War. Other women include Anna Maria Lane, Elizabeth Gilmore, Anne Bailey, and Margaret Corbin, to name a few. We also honor and remember them for being ladies of liberty.

However, unlike her counterparts, Deborah’s dedication and commitment were recognized and honored by state and federal governments – long before women were allowed to vote or have a voice in political matters. In this, she is unique and showcases the strength and fortitude of Revolutionary Era women.

shows encampment tents common to the Revolutionary War

Interesting Facts

  • The only woman to receive a full military pension for participation in the Continental Army
  • A descendent of two prominent Mayflower families: Myles Standish and William Bradford
  • Joined the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment disguised as a man named Robert Shurtleff
  • A member of George Webb’s Light Infantry, which was the most active troop in the Hudson Valley during her time of service
  • Shot during a skirmish, it’s said she left the bullet in her shoulder, so she could continue to serve undetected
  • Her life story was recorded in The Female Review, or Memoirs of an American Young Lady (by Herman Mann); it is thought that some stories were likely embellished
  • The first American woman to go on a lecture tour
  • The only woman to receive a full military pension for service during the Revolutionary War
  • After her death, her husband was granted pay for being the spouse of a soldier, and the committee stated that the Revolution had “furnished no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity, and courage.”
  • Outside the public library in Sharon, Massachusetts, a statue stands in memory of her Revolutionary War service

The Importance of Legacy and Remembrance

As you can see, Deborah Sampson lived an exciting and unconventional life in many ways. She was a survivor. An overcomer. A soldier and a patriot. A wife and mother. A public speaker. A woman of resilience and strength. She left a clear legacy, both to her children and to the fledgling nation she helped found.

As we remember Deborah Sampson and the events that made her life both ordinary and extraordinary, take a moment to think about your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about?

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. What we do matters. While most of us will never be famous or well-known, that’s not the point of a legacy. Instead, think of legacy as your opportunity to take your family and the next generation to a level you can only imagine. Just like Deborah did!

Waman in white dress sitting at table with candles, paper, and quill pen

Ladies of Liberty: Remembering Abigail Adams

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

“To be good, and do good, is the whole duty of man comprised in a few words.” – Abigail Adams

As we mark the Fourth of July and the independence brought about after the Revolutionary War, it’s impossible not to remember the historical men and women who played key roles in the creation of our nation. Men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are easily remembered, but what about the women – the ladies of liberty – who also deserve our remembrance and respect? Today, let’s talk about Abigail Adams and the indelible mark she left upon our nation.

Portrait of Abigail Adams Portrait of John Adams
(Portraits of Abigail and John Adams later in life)


Early years

Born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, on November 11, 1744, Abigail was the second child of Reverend William and Elizabeth Quincy Smith. Like many women of her time, Abigail was educated at home, and she showed a great voracity for learning and reading. Even beyond lessons from her tutor, she took it upon herself to read the books in her father’s library and became one of the most well-read women in the 18th century.

Through a mutual friend, Abigail met John Adams in 1759, and soon, they began a courtship. Even with a nine-year age difference, the two were a match in both heart and mind. They married in 1764 and had their first child within a year. Throughout the early years of their marriage, the Adamses focused on John’s career as a lawyer, caring for the family farm, and raising four children.

Rise to prominence

In 1770, John’s name rose to greater prominence when he elected to defend the nine British soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre. With greater and greater responsibilities before him, John was away from home more and more. This led to a series of famous letters between he and Abigail. In fact, over the course of their marriage, the two exchanged more than 1,100 letters! And in each one, John sought his wife’s guidance, wisdom, and opinions, which she freely gave.

When you compare John’s political stance with the opinions expressed by his wife in their extensive letters, it’s clear to see that he greatly valued her mind and her thoughts. In many ways, it was their partnership that helped form a new nation.

John Adams would go on to serve as a Continental Congress representative, a U.S. Minister, Vice President, and President of the United States. Through each season of life, Abigail stood staunchly by his side. When she stayed at their home in Massachusetts, she educated the children and kept the farm prosperous. Additionally, when possible, she shared information about military confrontations around Boston. She and her son, John Quincy, witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill from a hill near their farm.

Sepia-toned map of the Braintree and Weymouth area where the Adamses lived

Becoming First Lady

After the conclusion of the war, Abigail joined her husband in France and Great Britain where he served as a U.S. Minister. Upon their return to the United States, John was elected Vice President under George Washington (1789-1797) and then President (1797-1801). After one term, John lost the presidency to Thomas Jefferson. He and Abigail retired to their home in Massachusetts. After 54 years and four children together, Abigail died of typhoid fever on October 28, 1818. At her death, her husband stated, “I wish I could lay down beside her and die, too.”

With her quick wit, strong opinions, and fierce love of freedom and independence, Abigail Adams is considered the strongest female voice in the American Revolution. We will never know what would have happened had she not expressed her opinions and partnered – shoulder to shoulder – with her husband, and we don’t want to know.

Key Contributions

Through her extensive letters with husband John Adams, we have a clear view of what life looked like for Revolutionary Era women. Abigail is most known for her strong and firm opinions on the:

  • Abolition of slavery
  • Rights of women, especially education
  • Importance of independence and representation

Additionally, she was also a pivotal presence in her son John Quincy Adams’ political career. Though she did not live to see him elected the 6th president of the United States, her influence and wisdom played a large role in his success.

Though she herself refused to publish her personal correspondence, her grandson Charles Francis Adams arranged for their release. By doing so, he forever preserved her unique experience and perspective on American life and democracy.

Waman in white dress sitting at table with candles, paper, and quill pen

Interesting Facts

  • Abigail was both the wife (John Adams – 2nd) and the mother (John Quincy Adams – 6th) of U.S. Presidents. The only other woman to hold this distinction is Barbara Bush.
  • Often unappreciated by her critics, scathingly called “Mrs. President” due to the amount of influence she had with her husband
  • The first Second Lady of the United States (wife of the first Vice President)
  • The first First Lady to live in what would become the White House
  • Had a total of six children, but two daughters died in infancy
  • President Harry S. Truman had a high opinion of her, and stated, “She would have been a better President than her husband.”
  • Became close friends with Martha Washington, George Washington’s wife
  • Missed her husband’s inauguration to care for his dying mother

The Importance of Legacy and Remembrance

As you can see, Abigail Adams led a noteworthy life, though she may not have said so herself. She was a wise and loving wife. A devoted mother. A staunch feminist. A bold abolitionist. A tireless letter writer and communicator. A woman with deep thoughts and strong ideals. She left a clear legacy, both to her children and to the fledgling nation she helped found.

As we remember Abigail Adams and the events that made her life both ordinary and extraordinary, take a moment to think about your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about?

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. What we do matters. While most of us will never be famous or well-known, that’s not the point of a legacy. Instead, think of legacy as your opportunity to take your family and the next generation to a level you can only imagine. Just like Abigail did!

cemetery with bright sunrise behind

Why Should You Visit Your Loved One’s Grave at Easter?

By Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Easter is typically a joyful time, but if you’ve recently lost a loved one, you may find it difficult to find the hope that Easter usually represents. Your grief may feel at odds with the celebration of new beginnings, but you can still honor your loved one’s memory while celebrating Easter. One way to do that is by visiting your loved one’s grave.

While visiting a cemetery at Easter may seem like a somber activity, it can help you in your grief journey. Easter is a time of reflection, and spending time at your loved one’s grave can help you find meaning in your loss and hope for the future.

Here are a few reasons you should consider visiting your loved one’s grave at Easter:

bouquet of Easter flowers

Bring Seasonal Flowers

Easter is often celebrated with beautiful flowers, like lilies, tulips, and daffodils. Because Easter happens at the beginning of spring, it’s one of the first occasions when there are more flowers in season and available. Bringing a bouquet of spring or Easter flowers to your loved one’s grave can make your visit more personal and make it feel like they’re a part of the day with you.

Many families decorate their loved one’s grave at Easter using flowers or other Easter decorations, like stuffed rabbits, pastel butterflies, or angel wings. These displays can be a way for families to incorporate their loved one into their Easter celebration. If you wish to leave flowers or decorate your loved one’s grave, please check your cemetery’s rules about graveside decorations.

Small plant sprouting

Meditate on New Beginnings

When we think of Easter, we often think of new beginnings. For Christians, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a symbol of hope and new life. For many others, Easter is a time to reflect on the new beginnings that spring brings. When you visit your loved one’s grave, you’re able to meditate and reflect without distractions, which gives you time to slow down and think deeply.

Visiting your loved one’s grave at Easter after a long, dreary winter can also remind you of hope. If you visited the cemetery during the winter, the air was likely cold, the grass dead, and the mood somber. But at Easter, the grass has turned green and flowers are blooming. The landscape will be beautiful again after the darkness of winter, which will help your visit feel more joyful and remind you that hope is just around the corner.

yellow spring flower by headstone

Reflect on Your Loved One’s Legacy

Have you ever watched a movie where a character visits a loved one’s grave to have a moment of reflection and talk to them? Believe it or not, talking to your loved one at their grave can help you in your grief journey. Speaking out loud to your loved one can help you better process and understand the emotions you’re feeling. Plus, with the warmer spring weather at Easter time, you’ll be able to linger longer than you could in the previous months. While you can talk to your loved one any time, their grave serves as a physical reminder of them, which can help you feel more connected to them.

As you speak with your loved one, reflect on the positive memories you have with them. Your loved one left behind a legacy. By remembering what they taught you and the impact they made on your life, you can find gratitude for the time you were able to spend with them. After all, that’s what Easter is all about – being grateful for the blessings we’ve received. When we lose a loved one, it’s easy for us to wish they were with us and mourn the moments we won’t be able to share with them, but it’s just as important to treasure the beautiful times we did spend with them.

grave at Easter with bright sunrise behind

Contemplate Life and Death

Easter is the perfect time for contemplation – especially about life and death. When we visit the grave of a loved one, we are reminded of our own mortality. It’s a wonderful reminder that life is short and that the time we have is precious. Visiting your loved one’s grave can help you consider what’s most important to you by reminding you of what was most important in your relationship with your loved one.

For Christians, Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection and a reminder of the hope of salvation and life after death. Visiting a loved one’s grave can be a reminder that you will be reunited with your loved one again someday. No matter what you believe, though, Easter and the coming of spring can be a great opportunity to contemplate your beliefs about life and death and consider what makes your life meaningful.


As you celebrate the hope, joy, and new life of Easter, taking time to think of your lost loved one can help you on your grief journey. If you’ve never visited your loved one’s grave before, visiting on a holiday like Easter can be a great place to start. By taking time to reflect at your loved one’s grave at Easter and incorporating them into your traditions, you can begin to find peace and new hope for the future.

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