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Honor Your Loved One this Valentine’s Day

By Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Chocolate-filled heart boxes, baby cupids, and red roses often signal the start of the season of love, which ultimately culminates with Valentine’s Day and brings the chance to celebrate romantic and friendship relationships. However, there are those who may be feeling anything but lovey-dovey as they battle grief that can become more painful during holidays.

It’s important to remember that it’s perfectly normal and understandable to feel grief while others seem cheerful. Still, there are several ways to work through grief and honor your loved one on special days, especially Valentine’s Day. You may even find peace, healing, and positivity through these acts of remembrance.

If you or your family is facing grief this Valentine’s Day, try these 6 activities to honor your loved one and bring healing to your heart.

1. Write a Personal Valentine’s Day Card

Woman hand writing on paper in office.

Most can trace their earliest Valentine’s Day memories to exchanging valentines with friends at school. It felt great to go home with little cards (and candy!) saying how much those friends cared. Capture that feeling again and use it to remember your loved one.

Have each member of your family write a personalized and meaningful valentine to your loved one. Sharing, remembering, and getting your thoughts onto paper can help with your grief journey and may even help remove any emotional buildup you may be feeling. It can also help you better understand what your loved one meant to you.

Feel free to share these thoughts with the rest of your family or keep them to yourself – whatever brings you the most healing.

2. Enjoy a Chocolate Treat

Girl with mother preparing cake in kitchen.

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day go together like turkey and Thanksgiving, Santa Clause and Christmas, and fireworks on the Fourth of July. So, use chocolate to remember your loved one on Valentine’s Day. Plus, you can get your whole family involved!

As a family, grab an apron and a cooking utensil to get started on your loved one’s favorite chocolate dessert. Spending time and working together can help bring you all closer, especially if you begin sharing stories of your loved one. If your loved one wasn’t a fan of chocolate, try whipping up their favorite cherry or strawberry dish. Both are common Valentine’s Day foods, so you can still keep the connection between your loved one and the holiday.

Whether you choose chocolate, cherry, strawberry, or something else, be sure to share your dish with others! Watching your neighbors, coworkers, or other family members enjoy this tasty treat can bring joy to you and your family, knowing others are being positively impacted by your loved one’s memory.

3. Deliver Flowers to Their Grave

White grave markers and flowers at a national cemetery.

You may have already participated in this act of remembrance, but what better opportunity to place a beautiful bouquet at your loved one’s final resting place? This is an excellent chance to find great flowers that will honor your loved one. Red roses would best show that you’re thinking of them on Valentine’s Day, but there are other colors and flowers you can choose.

Each rose color has a symbolic meaning: red for passionate love, pink for friendship, and others. If you want to choose a different flower, there are several other options, each with their own meaning. No matter what you decide, taking flowers to your loved one’s grave on Valentine’s Day is a simple way to feel close to them on what can be a hard day.

Each rose color has a symbolic meaning: red for passionate love, pink for friendship, and others. Even the choice of flower has a meaning, with calla lilies signifying marriage, peonies with healing, among other options. No matter what you decide, visiting your loved one with your family and flowers is a simple way to feel close to them on what can be a hard day.

4. Watch a Movie Together

A glass bowl of popcorn and remote control in the background the TV works. Evening cozy watching a movie or TV series at home.

Bringing the family together for a movie is a great way to take a break from the rest of the world. In celebration of your loved one on Valentine’s Day, try watching their favorite romantic movie. Or if your loved one enjoyed laughing, you can find, stream, or rent their favorite romantic comedy. Sometimes laughing is the best way to overcome difficult moments of grief and pain.

Whichever movie was your loved one’s favorite – and it’s perfectly fine to watch a non-romantic movie on Valentine’s Day – you can recall their love for the film. Perhaps they really enjoyed a part of the dialogue or found joy in the soundtrack. Whatever their reason, you’ll feel connected through memory.

5. Take Some Time For Yourself

Girl on mountain peak with green grass looking at beautiful mountain valley in fog at sunset in summer.

Sometimes, the best way to honor your loved one’s life is by taking care of your own. When you’re struggling with grief, self-care is an important part of the healing process, so take time to do something that brings you joy this Valentine’s Day.

If you enjoy being outside, go on a bike ride, hike, or run. If you prefer to be pampered, book an appointment at your favorite spa for a message, manicure, or pedicure. Maybe it’s time to treat yourself with a special gift you’ve been eyeing. Or perhaps you’ve got anger, anxiety, or negative feelings around your grief. Visiting a Rage Room may be just what you need, because sometimes, it does help to just break something. Whatever will bring you happiness and peace, do it.

While this idea is focused on things you can do on your own, feel free to bring your family along. They may benefit from these activities. However, you are well within your right to have some alone time as you grieve. It’s all about listening to yourself and taking care of your needs.

6. Spend Time with Each Other

Happy family with two daughters playing at home. Family sitting on floor and playing together.

No matter what you decide to do with your family on Valentine’s Day, remember that being together is the most important thing. Being involved and supportive of each other can lighten the burden of grief and make holidays a little more enjoyable. Grief is a daily struggle and finding healing past the pain becomes easier when you’re around those you love. Try to avoid isolating yourself while grieving, because your family needs you as much as you need them on the path to healing.

family watching a Christmas movie together with lights

What Christmas Movies Teach Us About Grief

By Christmas, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

The holidays are always a hectic time, but when you’re grieving, they can be even more difficult because you feel your loved one’s absence more strongly. While you may not feel up to participating in your normal holiday traditions, it’s important to find ways to balance your feelings of grief with the joy of the season.

One way to balance joy and grief is by taking time to understand what you’re feeling and why. Learning how grief affects you personally and discovering positive coping mechanisms will help you begin to incorporate your loss into your life story. You may not realize it, but classic Christmas movies can teach us valuable lessons about grief and how it can affect you and those you love. Let’s talk about three of those movies!

bridge covered in snow with soft daylight

It’s a Wonderful Life

In the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, we get a glimpse into the life of George Bailey and see what the world would have looked like if he hadn’t been born. Through the story, we see how many people he influenced and how many lives he changed. As Clarence points out to him, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. And when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

The importance of remembrance

If someone you love has died, you are probably very aware of the hole they left behind. Sometimes their absence might seem almost tangible. That’s one of the reasons why grief is so powerful – the person you lost was an integral part of your life, and your brain doesn’t know how to process the loss. That person impacted your life, and for that reason alone, their life is worth remembering.

While George Bailey’s life may have seemed insignificant to him, he had a positive impact on the world, and he eventually realizes his story is important. In the same way, each person’s story is important and worth remembering. One way to honor a loved one’s memory is by participating in different remembrance activities, like attending a remembrance service or creating a memory capsule.

Community and support

The movie also shows how important community and support are during difficult times. You might feel grief more strongly during the holidays, and you may feel lonely when you think of your loved one’s absence. That’s why it’s important to rely on the community around you. George Bailey tries to persevere on his own, carrying all the burdens of life on his own shoulders, and it breaks him down. At the end of the movie, though, George’s family and friends gather around him, supporting him and standing by him through thick and thin.

Just as George’s community supported him through his struggles, your community can help you through your struggles. Grief can be difficult, and you need people around you to help you along the journey. If you don’t feel like you have anyone you can rely on, you can look for a grief support group in your area. No matter what, having support in your grief journey will make the path easier to travel.

carving a christmas turkey with family

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

It’s hard to believe that the animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas first released in 1966! Generations of children have watched the Grinch’s plot to steal Christmas and his later redemption as he learns about the true reason for Christmas. Surprisingly, this movie has a lot to teach about grieving during the holidays.

Reach out to the grieving

While a grieving person’s heart isn’t “two sizes too small,” their heart is likely hurting at the holidays. Sometimes that pain makes someone who is grieving withdraw from those around them or act differently, just like the Grinch. When someone is hurting, they often erect walls between themselves and others.

If you know someone who is grieving, take the time to reach out to them during the holidays. By showing them kindness, you can help their heart heal. If the grieving person resists your efforts, that’s okay. Continue to be kind; they will still appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Open up to your loved ones

If you personally are grieving this holiday season, it’s important to know that spending time with family or friends can help you begin to heal. As we see when the Grinch realizes the true meaning of the holiday and joins the Whos for their Christmas dinner, ritual, tradition, and fellowship can help soothe your aching heart. Participating in traditions and rituals help people grieve together and can help you find meaning in the loss you’ve experienced.

If your relationship with your loved ones has been strained, it may be hard at first to reach out to them. However, asking for help and realizing your limits are important steps in your grief journey. While it may be tempting to stay in your comfort zone, opening yourself up to relationships and sharing with others how you feel is an important part of the grieving journey.

Christmas photos and memories

A Christmas Carol

When you’ve lost a loved one, it can be difficult to feel joyful during the holidays. Maybe, like Ebenezer Scrooge, you’ve found yourself avoiding personal connections with others, withdrawing into yourself and refusing to open up. In a way, the classic Christmas movie A Christmas Carol is a tale of a man who has been hurt in the past and has erected walls to protect himself.

Reflect on Christmas past, present, and future

As both the book and its many movie adaptations show, isolation only leads to loneliness. Scrooge resists the kindness and Christmas spirit of his nephew Fred and his employee Bob Cratchitt. That attitude leads to him eating alone in his house, all his scrimping and saving leaving him alone and miserable in a dark, gloomy room. It’s only when he’s visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley and the different spirits of Christmas that he finally learns what life is all about and opens up to his friends and family.

While Scrooge is terrified by the spirits who remind him of the true nature of life and Christmas, you don’t have to go through that. Instead, take stock of how you feel and reflect on the best ways to help yourself grieve this holiday season. If you’ve lost sight of the joy of the season, these moments of reflection can help you rediscover the meaning and purpose of the holidays.

Christmas Past

Try thinking about your own “Christmas Past.” If you have pleasant memories of Christmases past, examine why they are so memorable to you. What made those times special? Was it the presents, or was it the time spent with family or friends? By contemplating those Christmas memories, you can learn what you value most and remember why you celebrate the holidays. As you rediscover what makes the holidays meaningful, you can find a way to embrace both joy and grief.

Christmas Future

However, not everyone has positive Christmas memories. If your holiday memories are more painful, you might find it helpful to ponder “Christmas Future.” What do you want for your holidays in the future? Isolation will lead to more lonely Christmases, so consider ways you can reach out to family, friends, or support groups in your area.

Christmas Present

Even more importantly, think about now – “Christmas Present.” There are things you can do this Christmas – or any day – to make progress on your grief journey. That could mean creating fellowship with people around you, taking time to pursue something you’re passionate about, or serving others in your community. By opening yourself up and finding ways to engage with your grief, you can continue to heal in a healthy way. While you may not be dancing around town like Scrooge, you can still find joy while you’re grieving.

Perhaps the lessons in these three classic tales resonated with you and gave you a new perspective on your grief this Christmas season. Throughout the holidays, keep in mind that grief takes time. It’s okay if you aren’t feeling 100 percent or if you need to bow out of a few engagements. You’ll need to give yourself grace while you’re grieving. But remember – you need joy to balance out your grief as you learn how to live life again and find your new normal.

mother holding son looking at Christmas lights

Holiday Remembrance Activities for Grieving Parents

By Christmas, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

If you have lost a child, you are probably very aware of the pain the holidays can bring. It might seem impossible to connect with the joy of the season when all you feel is grief. Whether your child died recently or many years ago, the holidays can make your grief feel fresh, and you may feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. But amid the hustle and bustle, taking time to honor and remember your child’s life by participating in remembrance activities can help you through the ups and downs of the season.

While cutting back on holiday stress will be beneficial, finding ways to honor your child’s memory can help you heal. Participating in healing actions can encourage you to express your feelings and acknowledge your emotions as a natural part of grieving. Even more importantly, remembrance activities can help you reconcile with the loss and continue your grief journey.

While you can do whatever makes the most sense for you, here are 6 remembrance ideas to get you started:

Christmas stockings hanging from a mantle

Put up a stocking

Putting up a stocking with your child’s name on it can be a great way to honor their memory during the holidays. In addition to using the stocking as a visual reminder, you can also put different items in the stocking. For example, you and your family members could write letters to your child and place them in the stocking. You could also put toys in the stocking that you can later donate to charity, honoring your child by caring for other children.

mother holding son looking at Christmas lights

Share happy memories

When a child dies, it’s easy to focus on the time you’ve lost with them. While sadness is a vital part of the grieving process, sharing happy memories with your family members can help you treasure the time you had with your child. In return, your family members may also share their memories, giving you the chance to learn new stories about your child. When you share stories and memories, your appreciation for the times you had with your child will grow.

woman making a Christmas wreath

Make holiday decorations

If you like DIY crafts, making holiday decorations can be a way to remember your child each year. You could make an ornament with their name or photo on it or decorate with your child’s favorite color. Maybe you could create a personalized wreath, incorporating your child’s favorite flowers or holiday-related items. Throughout the creative process, you (and anyone else you invite to join you) can engage with your grief in an uplifting and healthy way. After you’ve finished, you’ll have something tangible to bring out every year to honor your child’s memory and make them part of your holiday season.

cozy chair next to table with coffee and Christmas decorations

Create a grief corner

When someone you love has died, you or your family members may need time alone. One way to encourage that is by creating a grief corner in your house. A grief corner is a specific spot where any family member can go to sit by themselves to grieve. This could be something simple, like a chair with a cozy blanket, or you could set up a photo of your lost child with some of their favorite toys. If you have other children, a grief corner could help them learn to recognize their feelings and take time alone when they need to.

toys and socks in a cardboard donation box

Give to a charity in their name

Giving time, money, or items to a charity in your child’s name can be a great way to honor their memory. Maybe your child had a specific cause they were concerned with, and you can support that cause. If your child died from a specific disease, you could also donate to support research about that disease to help families like yours. Or, if you lost your child during pregnancy or shortly after birth, you could create a gift basket to donate to a family in the NICU.

You could also consider things your child was passionate about. What was their favorite sport or activity? You could volunteer to teach other children about that activity. Did they have a favorite animal? You could sponsor a wildlife rescue or spend time volunteering at your local shelter. Whatever you choose, giving to something your child cared about will help you honor them in a meaningful way.

person icing snowflake and gingerbread man cookies

Create a new tradition

After a child dies, old traditions may be painful or feel difficult to enjoy. While participating in old traditions might bring up happy memories of your child, you could also start a new tradition in their honor. This could be anything from trying a new holiday recipe to volunteering at a local soup kitchen. If you have other children, creating a new tradition can be a way for them to remember their sibling. These traditions can become lasting remembrance activities you can engage in for years to come.

woman baking with two children

Remember – Include Your Living Children

As a parent, there will be times when you want to grieve on your own and work through your emotions in a private space. That’s perfectly normal and healthy. However, in your own grief, don’t forget that any other children in the home are also grieving.

Children and teenagers may have trouble processing their grief, so you may need to help them along their journey. Look for ways to discuss what they may be feeling. Invite them to participate in some of these remembrance activities with you. Let them see you cry and share memories, so they know it’s safe to do the same. Throughout the process, you will grow closer as a family and find a way to move forward.

It goes without saying that your holiday will look different after losing a child, but engaging in remembrance activities can be a beautiful way to grieve and mourn.

No matter what, don’t forget to take time to grieve and be gentle with yourself. You don’t have to put on a happy face just because it’s Christmas. You are a human being with complex emotions. You’re going to have good moments and bad moments – that’s okay. When good moments come, embrace them. When grief comes, engage with it. By doing so, you can balance the grief you feel with the joy of the season.

Shows family and grandmother at a Halloween family gathering

7 Tips for Supporting a Grieving Friend at Halloween

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

It’s Halloween. Costumes are coming out, parties are being planned, and thousands of pounds of candy is flying off the shelves across the nation. But even as people revel in the changing of the seasons and the fun of dressing up, we can’t forget that many of our neighbors, friends, and family members are hurting deeply. Grief is not relegated to certain parts of the year. But how can we be sensitive to the emotional needs of those around us who are hurting during this festive time?

While there’s no need to put your own Halloween plans on hold, let’s discuss 7 tips that will help you be sensitive to and interact with grieving friends and loved ones this Halloween.

1. Recognize and accept that others may be hurting, and they are going to experience grief during the Halloween season.

While you may want your grieving friend or loved one to “enjoy” the season, don’t push too hard. What you consider enjoyment and what your grieving friend considers enjoyment may look completely different right now. They are experiencing a myriad of emotions, and much of the time, they don’t have control over when those emotions show up. Let your friend experience their feelings and concentrate on being a safe person they can talk to.

2. Encourage your grieving loved one to set healthy boundaries and be prepared to support and abide by those boundaries.

The person who is grieving may have limited energy (grief is hard work), so it’s important that they figure out what will work for them this Halloween. If you are close to someone who is grieving, encourage them to set boundaries, and then, be prepared to support those boundaries, abide by them, and if necessary, help your grieving loved one fight for them.

Shows family and grandmother at a Halloween family gathering

3. Give your grieving loved one plenty of notice about any Halloween events or gatherings.

More often than not, someone who is grieving needs time to work up the energy to go out to an event or gathering. Make sure you give them plenty of notice so they can mentally and emotionally prepare. Also remember! You are encouraging them to put down healthy boundaries. Don’t be offended or hurt if they decide not to come to your party.

4. Be mindful of your Halloween decorations.

By nature, Halloween decorations include skulls, gravestones, blood, depictions of death, and other macabre things. These types of images may act as unpleasant reminders of a recent loss for those who are grieving. While you don’t have to completely re-decorate, consider whether any specific decorations could act as a grief trigger, and if appropriate, remove these items when the grieving person comes over for a visit.

Shows young woman serving at a soup kitchen

5. Invite your grieving friend to take part in a service project.

When we grieve, we can sometimes become so focused on the strong emotions we are feeling that we forget to come up for air. It’s a good practice to focus on others so that we can let our minds rest from the grief for a while. To make Halloween a more pleasant experience, invite your grieving loved one to give out candy at the community trunk or treat or the church fall festival. Alternatively, you could participate in a Halloween 5K for a cause or in another opportunity available through the church or community.

6. Look for ways to honor the memory of a lost loved one.

There are so many special things you can do to honor a lost loved one at Halloween. Buy or make a special gift. Dress up as a lost loved one’s favorite character. Sit down with your grieving friend and share memories or stories. Join your grieving friend for a special trip to the gravesite. Watch that annual scary movie in honor of the person no longer present. Your friend may be perfectly fine with Halloween. Even if they are, most people appreciate it when efforts are made to honor a lost loved one’s memory.

Man making a phone call to check on a friend

7. Follow up after Halloween to see how they are doing.

As human beings, we aren’t always the best at following through on things, but in this case, try to put extra effort in. It’s important for a grieving person to know that your love and concern aren’t just temporary. By following up after the holiday (especially if you know it was difficult for them), you cement your sincerity and care.

And of course, make sure to reach out and offer your support all through the year. Grief isn’t a walk in the park; it’s a journey. Your grieving friend or loved one is going to continue to need love and support long after the loss.

Understanding Your Grief: Hope for the Holidays

By COVID-19, Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal, Uncategorized

This Christmas season, with the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting lives, Dr. Wolfelt shares a poignant message of hope and healing despite the unique challenges this year has forced upon us. With compassion and kindness, Dr. Wolfelt shares grieving tips and suggestions that will help you make it through. Click below to hear his message and may you find hope and healing this holiday season.

Making Christmas Meaningful with Family Interviews

By Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

Christmas is a time to come together with loved ones and share in the joy of the season. There’s lots of food, fellowship, and conversations. While this Christmas may look a little different, why not use the conversations you do have to preserve the essence of your loved ones – the stories of their lives, the tone of their voices, and their beloved quirks of habit? Too often, we take our time on earth for granted, and before we are ready, a loved one is gone. With family interviews, you can learn things you never knew before, share a few laughs, and record your family’s one-of-a-kind stories for future generations.

If the idea appeals to you, sit down with or video call your living loved ones this Christmas for an oral history interview. But what is an oral history interview, you may ask? It’s pretty simple, really. Schedule time with someone, ask questions, and record their answers. That’s it!

Why Should I Do This?

First and foremost, it’s a tangible way to show someone you love them. By spending one-on-one time with them, asking questions and sharing conversation, you add value to your and your loved one’s lives. You make them feel loved, appreciated, and important to you. Also, think about what you could learn from your loved one’s successes, or even more importantly, from their mistakes? Did you know that your loved one used to go swing dancing every Saturday night as a young person? Did you know how they felt when their first child or grandchild was born?

People are simple and yet complex. So much of our lives take place internally. By asking questions, you can begin to know your loved ones even more intimately and learn things about them that you may never have known.

Secondly, it’s a practical way to preserve family history for future generations, to discover the stories that bind our families together. In today’s world, so many people are interested in where they came from, what their ancestors were like, and what kind of life they lived. New websites pop up every day related to genealogy and family history. Do you want future generations to know who your loved one was and what their life was like? Take the time necessary to preserve your family’s story.

Thirdly, when the day comes that your loved one is gone, hopefully after a long and fulfilling life, you can take the information you’ve gathered and create a meaningful funeral service. Additionally, if you video your interviews, you will have priceless footage to use in the creation of a special tribute video that will be meaningful for the funeral service but also for future generations of family.

Who Should I Interview?

Whoever you want (but make sure to ask for permission first). You can interview your mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, a next door neighbor, or anyone else. There are no rules that say you can only interview family members, so go all out. Your interest in each person’s life might just make their day.

How Do I Do This?

1. Determine what questions you will ask.

The first step is to decide what questions you want to ask. Thankfully, resources exist online that share in-depth, open-ended questions that you can ask your loved one. There are tips on interview etiquette, how to set goals for your interviews, and how to help everyone be at ease and enjoy the time together.

2. Select a documentation medium.

The second step is to decide what medium you want to use to record your interviews. Some options are:

  • Handwrite everything in a special journal
  • Type everything on a computer
  • Use an audio recording app or other equipment
  • Film the interviews using a phone or other equipment
  • A mixture of these options or something else that’s easy for you

3. Spend quality time with your loved one.

Lastly, go spend time with your loved one. Start this Christmas Day! If you need more time (and you probably will), talk to them and decide what day and time is best for a chat, whether in person, over the phone, or on a video call. Let the conversation flow naturally. Don’t get hung up on trying to get all your questions answered at once. Just be there and absorb. Remember, you won’t get everything recorded in one sitting. Take your time and have fun!

Yes, Christmas is a time when families come together, enjoy each other’s company, and share laughter and memories. This year, what better way to spread a little cheer to your loved ones than to show an interest and intentionally get to know more about their lives?

Reducing Your Christmas Stress During Times of Grief

By Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Grief can be exhausting – mentally, physically, and emotionally. And Christmas, even though it’s often a joyful and festive season, has its share of stresses, especially during times of grief when it’s a battle to do the normal everyday tasks. So, what can you do this season to reduce your Christmas stress while you process your grief?

Before we move into a few tips, remember that whatever you’re feeling is normal. You’ve lost someone you love, and it’s hard. You may feel a wide range of emotions, including sadness, shock, denial, guilt, anger, or even relief. No matter what you’re feeling, these emotional responses are normal and natural. All you need to focus on is taking care of yourself through the holiday season so that you have the energy you need to process what you feel and begin the journey toward healing.

Tips for Reducing Your Christmas Stress

Your feelings may tell you to skip Christmas altogether this year, but before you make any big decisions, take some time to evaluate what changes you can make to keep things simple while also taking your loved ones’ needs into account.

For example, you may decide not to attend your work party, but instead, you go out to lunch with your closest office friends. Or, instead of getting individual gifts for everyone, you get gift cards instead. There are little changes you can make that will make your life easier while also ensuring that your family and friends still get to enjoy your presence during the holidays.

Here are a few tips for reducing your holiday stress:

Keep Things Simple

You may normally go all out for Christmas, but this year, give yourself permission to take it easy. With a few adjustments, you can take a task or event from stressful to simple.

  • If the stores are too crowded and holiday shopping is stressing you out, do your shopping online or cut back on the number of gifts this year. Or, after talking to your family, consider skipping gifts altogether this year and picking up next year.
  • If signing and sending holiday cards is too much, skip it this year. People will understand.
  • While putting up all the Christmas decorations usually brings a sense of joy, the thought may be stressful this year. Consider minimizing (or even skipping) the decorations if it seems like too much.

Don’t Overcommit

The Christmas season is often filled to the brim with events, parties, get-togethers, recitals, concerts, family gatherings, and more. You may not have the energy to go to everything, and that’s okay. Choose the most important events and pass on the rest.

As you prioritize events, make sure to talk to your family about your plans so they know when to expect you and when not to. This way, they can let you know what’s important for them – maybe a child’s recital – and you can plan ahead for the events you will attend. Plus, communicating your plans to family and taking their requests into account will help soothe any ruffled feathers and keep things relaxed.

Accept Help

If you’re like many of us, you learned early that it’s good to be independent and self-reliant. And while these two things are not inherently bad, we can sometimes take them a little too far, refusing help when we actually need it. So, this Christmas, don’t be afraid to accept a little help. Let people support you through this time of grief. Accept casseroles, offers to run errands, and assistance with household chores. It will only make things less stressful and easier for you.

Practice Self-Care

Grief takes a toll on us, and it’s important to find ways to take care of ourselves. That means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, pampering yourself every so often, and not overdoing it. At Christmas, self-care may be splurging on a gift for yourself, going to the golf range or the day spa, or simply spending quiet time alone to journal, meditate, listen to music, or take long walks. No matter what it is that helps you relax and feel cared for, take time to do that this holiday season.

Express Your Feelings

You may be tempted to push down your feelings and power through the holidays but try to resist the temptation. Instead, build opportunities for reflection into your holiday season. Make time to express yourself. This could mean journaling, painting, talking with friends or family, or attending a grief support group. There will be times when your grief shows up unexpectedly, and that’s okay. People will understand if you’re teary. But by intentionally taking time to address your emotions, you can better confront and reflect on what you feel on your own time and on your own terms.

Honor Your Loved One’s Memory

This year, you’re missing someone special. Rather than ignoring their absence, consider finding a special way to honor their memory. Avoiding the elephant in the room – your grief and loss – may lead to feelings of stress. By openly honoring a loved one, you will have the freedom to include your loved one’s memory in the festivities without reservation.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Save a seat for them at the table
  • Create a remembrance item
  • Serve their favorite dish
  • Play their favorite Christmas tunes
  • Pull out the family photos and reminisce
  • Visit the graveside and leave a wreath, poinsettia, or memento
  • Continue one of their favorite traditions or incorporate a new one in their honor

While remembering your loved one may bring moments of sadness, there will be joy in finding ways to make them a special part of the season.

Let this Year be Different

If you’re someone who wants everything just-so, one big way to reduce your holiday stress is to let things be different this year. Let go of the need for a perfect tree, perfectly wrapped gifts, and the perfectly prepared meal. Give yourself a little grace and some room to breathe. Christmas is different this year; it’s harder. Do what you can to keep things simple.

Now, it’s important to acknowledge that no two people are alike. Some of these suggestions will resonate with you and some won’t. That’s just fine. If having the perfectly trimmed Christmas tree helps you relax, then go all out. If shopping provides a release of tension, do it. You know yourself best, so implement the ideas that work best for who you are.

Just remember – it’s okay to let yourself feel however you feel this Christmas. You don’t have to force yourself to be cheerful, and you don’t have to stop yourself from feeling happy if you enjoy the season. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love or miss the person who is gone; it means that you are human. We are complex beings, and our lives are filled with moments of joy mixed with moments of grief, sometimes both at once! Take time this Christmas season to step back, take care of yourself, and enjoy time with the people you love the most. If you do, you will create sweet memories to cherish in the years to come.

Kid-Friendly Holiday Remembrance Ideas

By Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

After losing a loved one, the holidays can be very difficult for both kids and adults. You and your family may not feel up to all of the Christmas cheer and seasonal festivities, and that’s okay. You need to figure out what’s right for you this year and do that. But no matter what you decide to do, if you have kids who are grieving, consider how you can help them remember the person they love this season through remembrance activities and express what they may be feeling.

Just like you, kids need to be able to express what they feel, and oftentimes, they need a little help. Because they are still developing, they may not always be able to name their feelings as precisely as an adult. That’s why it’s so helpful to provide them with activities and exercises that will help them express what’s on the inside. And who knows? Something you begin this year may become a beloved holiday tradition for years to come.

Here are a few kid-friendly holiday remembrance ideas to get you started:

Put out a Memory Stocking

With a memory stocking or box, the whole family can write down memories or thoughts, share words of love and remembrance, or draw pictures of a favorite memory and then place them in the stocking/box. Then, at some point during the holidays, you can all sit down together and read the notes and spend time honoring your loved one’s memory. Whether you hang an extra stocking, place a memory box in a special place, or dedicate a miniature Christmas tree to notes and photos, the kids can get involved and express what they are thinking, feeling, and missing about the person who has died.

Light a Candle

Candles have long been used to as a symbol for remembrance. Keeping the light burning signifies that the memory of a loved one still shines bright. This Christmas season, consider lighting a candle in honor of the person you’ve lost. You can place the candle in a special place and take turns lighting the candle through the season. This way, everyone has a chance to actively remember the person who has died.

Visit the Graveside

Permanent memorials – like grave markers and plaques – give mourners a place to go to feel close to a loved one who has died. Consider whether a trip to the grave might be appropriate for your family. You can bring a wreath, a poinsettia, notes, drawings, or another meaningful item to leave behind as a token of your love.

If your loved one selected cremation and they were not buried, visit the place where their ashes were released or a place that is particularly meaningful to you. It doesn’t really matter where you go, so long as it’s a place where you feel a sense of closeness and kinship to the person who has died.

Release a Balloon

For this simple idea, all you need are biodegradable balloons and a sharpie. Blow up the balloons, have each person write a special message on their balloon, and then, release them to the sky. This practice is actually more meaningful than you might think, and it’s an easy way to get everyone involved. But remember – get biodegradable balloons that are friendly to the environment.

Enjoy Your Loved One’s Holiday Favorites

Whether it’s watching their favorite Christmas movie, making their signature dish, listening to their Christmas tunes, or driving around to see the best Christmas lights, take time to enjoy some of your loved one’s favorite traditions. Depending on where you are in the grief journey, this may be difficult, so consider what’s best for your family right now.

Just remember – not everyone grieves the same way. While watching that favorite movie might be painful for you, it could be just what your child needs to feel close to the person you’ve lost. Sit down with your kids and decide together which holiday favorites to keep and which to pass on this year.

Create a Holiday Memorial Keepsake

Another option is to sit down with your kids and create a holiday memorial keepsake together. This could be an ornament that they can pull out each year. Or a holiday throw pillow made from your loved one’s clothing. Or a scrapbook filled with holiday memories from years past. No matter what makes sense for your family, you can create a keepsake to bring out every year as a remembrance token. Over time, it will become a sweet piece of your holiday tradition and remind you of the person you love.

Look at Photos Together

Human beings are often very visual beings, and we associate memories with images and items. Sometime this Christmas season, take time to sit down with your little ones and go through family photos. Tell them the stories behind the photos.

Through this activity, you express your own feelings and memories while also helping your children build a more complete picture of the person who has died. Because a child may not have had time to develop a long-term, deep relationship with the person who has died, they will rely on your memories (to a degree) to help them process their own feelings.

Make a Memory Chain

For this activity, cut long, narrow strips of paper in your favorite holiday colors. Then, sit down with your kids to write on the paper. You could write so many things:

  • Favorite holiday memories
  • What you feel right now
  • Things you miss about your lost loved one
  • How you felt about your loved one

Then, you can create an interlinking chain to put on the tree, in a doorway, or across the fireplace mantel.

You can do all or none of these remembrance ideas. These are simply suggestions to get you started. No matter what you decide is right for you and your family this year, look for ways to strike the balance between the joy of the season and your feelings of grief. This year isn’t going to look like all the others – that’s for certain – but it can still be sweet and memorable. Don’t pretend that nothing has changed. It has. Instead, find ways to acknowledge that life is different while still allowing your family to find a little joy in the Christmas season.

Ideas for Honoring Your Loved One’s Memory This Thanksgiving

By Exclude from Top Posts, Memorial, Seasonal

Missing a loved one during the holidays is hard. The traditions that used to bring you joy may feel a little hollow this year. You may feel an internal (or external) pressure to keep things the same as always. It could be that Thanksgiving was your loved one’s favorite holiday, which only makes everything more difficult.

No matter what level of grief this Thanksgiving brings out in you, there are ways to add meaningful moments that will soothe your heart and help your family remember and honor a much-loved missing member. While the holiday won’t be the same as years before, it can be sweet, poignant, and just what your grieving heart needs.

Ideas for Honoring Your Loved One’s Memory This Thanksgiving

These ideas are intended to spur your own thoughts. Some of these may resonate with you; others may not. That’s okay. Consider incorporating the ones that make sense to you or come up with your own ideas. You could even make it a family exercise and bounce ideas off each other for how to best honor your loved one’s memory.

Share Cherished Memories

Whether it’s over the dinner table, on family walks, during the football game or movie, or as you sit around the living room enjoying each other’s company, take time to share cherished memories. You could talk about memories from Thanksgivings past. Or, you can simply reminisce over the ones that easily come to mind. Bring out the photos and listen as different family members share varied accounts of that family moment. Not only will this be a sweet time to remember your family moments, it will also allow you to talk about your loved one, which is often what we need most after a loss.

Include a Memorial Opportunity at Home

By creating a memorial opportunity, you allow yourself and others to actively engage in a remembrance activity. What this looks like will vary greatly from family to family, but here are a few ideas for creating a memorial opportunity. Set up a small memory tree and encourage everyone to write a note about your loved one and place it on the tree. Create a memory board or table, adding photos and mementos. Make sure to invite your family to bring something to add. Or, you can create a memory capsule, where everyone brings an item to include (photo, souvenir, note, etc.) and then several Thanksgivings down the road, you open it together.

Bring Their Memory to the Table

If it’s best for you and your family, you can make your loved one’s memory a more prominent feature of the day’s festivities. For instance, you can create a centerpiece to grace the table that features loved ones whose memories you want to honor. Give a Thanksgiving toast or prayer. Go around the table and each share something you are grateful for about the person who has died. Leave an open seat at the table in their memory. Pull out your loved one’s recipes and serve the dishes that everyone remembers and loves. Or, place a different photo of your loved one on each place setting and invite everyone to share memories.

Take Action to Honor Their Memory

If you are a person of action, there are things you can physically do on Thanksgiving to honor your loved one’s memory. You could sign up for a Turkey Trot and walk/run in their memory. Or you could watch one of their favorite movies. Attend a remembrance service. Write a message on a biodegradable balloon and then release it to the sky, your message of love floating towards the heavens. Visit their grave or a place that was special to your loved one. Donate food or money in their name, possibly supplying a Thanksgiving meal to a family in need.

Give a Memorial Gift

A final idea to consider is giving a memorial gift. Perhaps you could give each person a photo of your loved one. Make Christmas ornaments from their clothing and place one at each place setting. Then, when Christmas comes the following month, each person has a memorial ornament to place on the tree. If you have the time, you could create a short tribute video with photos and video or audio clips. Then, you can give a copy to each family member. Or, write your loved one’s favorite recipe on cards and give one to each household so they can enjoy the dish in their own homes.

No matter what you decide to do, make sure to take care of yourself amidst it all. Grief is hard and often very tiring. Journal what you are thinking and feeling because there will be moments when the feelings come strongly. If you aren’t a writer, talk to someone or draw or go for a walk or run. Whatever you need to do to work through your feelings. Get plenty of sleep and give yourself permission to experience moments of joy.

This Thanksgiving will be different. That’s for certain. But you can find the balance between moments of grief and moments of joy. Choose a way to honor your loved one’s memory in a meaningful way and let yourself enjoy time and new memories with the people you love, here and now.

7 Funeral Rituals from Jesus’ Time that Still Exist Today

By Seasonal

As millions around the world celebrate Easter this weekend, marking the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s intriguing to look at the funeral rituals surrounding his death and the Jewish culture in which he lived. Since the beginning of time, humanity has participated in the funeral – remembering and honoring the lives of loved ones. So, what are some similarities that exist between the ancient Jewish customs of Jesus’ day and those we commonly observe today?

7 Funeral Rituals from Jesus’ Time that Still Exist Today

Because humans are humans no matter when they live, it makes sense that some things are universal across time and culture. Just as we all love, we all grieve and need to take time to care for and honor the dead. So, let’s discuss a few rituals from Jesus’ day that continue to survive the test of time.

1. Preparation of the Body

The first ritual that remains to this day is that every person who has died must be prepared for burial. Today, that typically means washing and possibly embalming. In Jesus’ day, the body was washed and anointed with expensive perfumes, like nard, myrrh, and aloes. Then, the body was wrapped in a shroud, the face covered with a special cloth, and the hands and feet tied with strips of cloth. You can see this practice illustrated in the Bible for Jesus (John 19:38-42; Luke 24: 10-12), Lazarus (John 11:43-44), and Tabitha (Acts 9:37).

2. Visitation/Viewing

In Jesus’ day, a person was typically buried within hours of their death. This was mainly because the hot climate hastened decay, and back then, they didn’t have access to the preservation chemicals we do today. So, very quickly after a death, family, friends, and neighbors came to comfort the family and say their goodbyes. Gathering together was even easier because families often lived in the same town and were not usually spread out like we are today.

For example, Mark 5:21-42 outlines the story of Jairus, whose daughter had died. We know the death was recent for two reasons: 1) When Jairus reached Jesus, he asked Jesus to heal her, implying he believed she was alive, and 2) When the two arrived at Jairus’ home after hearing of his daughter’s death, there were people at his home, already crying over her death. They had come to see her one last time and to mourn with Jairus. Today, we still take part in this ritual, though we now call it a visitation or a viewing, and it no longer takes place in the family’s home but often at a funeral home.

3. Procession

After the living had an opportunity to say their goodbyes, the person who died was carried on a pallet or litter to the grave. The body was carried by loved ones, a sign of affection and love. As they made their way to the grave or tomb, women would wail and throw dust in their hair and a crowd of friends, extended family, and neighbors would accompany the procession to the tomb. Just as ancient mourners did, we have our version of a funeral procession. We have pallbearers who carry the casket to the vehicle, and then together, we travel to the graveside as a symbol of solidarity and support for the grieving family. You see an example of a first-century funeral procession described in Luke 7:12.

4. Eulogy

After arriving at the grave or tomb, there is evidence to suggest that a eulogy took place. Some ancient tombs in Israel were found to include a circle of benches or a row of seats just outside the tomb. This archaeological evidence, as well as the ancient Jewish custom of “hesped,” make it likely that some type of remembrance took place, whether at the gravesite itself or at another designated time. Like our eulogies today, they would have spoken words of appreciation and love while offering sympathy and kindness to the bereaved family.

5. Permanent Placement

In Jesus’ day, it was a common practice to bury people in tombs. Many families owned a family tomb, where they would lay many of their loved ones to rest over time. You can see this practice described in Matthew 27:57-60 when Joseph of Arimathea lays Jesus’ body in his family tomb. Also, you can see it in the life of Abraham when he purchased a place to bury his wife, Sarah, in Genesis 23, which became a family tomb for future generations.

In Jewish tradition, the body was laid in the tomb, wrapped in cloth and spices. After roughly a year, the family would return to the tomb. They collected the bones and placed them in an ossuary (a small funerary box). They would then place that box in the back of the tomb with other boxes of its kind. In this way, they made room for future generations of family to rest in the same space.

Today, permanent placement is still important; we just do it differently. Now, we often bury our loved ones in cemeteries or scatter their ashes at a special place.

6. A Gathering

Just as important as caring for the dead is caring for the living. After a loved one dies, we need the support of those around us. They help us as we walk down the road of grief. In Jesus’ day, there was often a brief meal following the burial (called the “meal of condolence”), which was prepared by neighbors. For the next seven days, the immediate family remained at home for a period of mourning (Genesis 50:10).

During this time, people visit to offer their support and words of condolence to the grieving family. Today, we do something much the same when we gather following a funeral or memorial service to share a meal, exchange stories about the person who had died, take comfort in each other’s presence, and offer encouragement and words of condolence.

7. Paying Last Respects

As you can see, we still observe many of the same customs as mourners did in the first century. Funeral traditions like these help us mark the significance of a life and begin to heal as individuals and communities. As human beings, we understand today, just as we understood in Jesus’ day, that life is precious and worth celebrating.

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