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Every year I pull his stocking out of the box. The plain red one that I bought at a store I can’t remember.
It hangs on the mantel like an unspoken reminder, We are still a family of four. We are still family.
The other day my daughter knocked a Christmas bulb on the floor and the shiny silver ball broke into razor sharp shards all over the floor.
Christmas is pretty—until it’s not, until the pretty smashes all over the floor and you’ve got a mess that will split your big toe into a bloody mess.
That’s the other side of Christmas we don’t see, the hearts that are broken, but are walking through life with brave faces.
Christmas doesn’t stop when you’re broken-hearted. So you make the best of it anyway.
You light candles and sing Christmas carols and put up stockings of those who won’t be there for Christmas.
And with their decorations we make an unspoken mantra: We are still family.
When I ask someone in grief how they are getting through Christmas—how they are getting through—I can tell by their eyes.
It is hard, their eyes say.
Because when someone you love dies, it doesn’t mean you stop loving them. It doesn’t mean you stop thinking of them. It doesn’t mean you stop.
20 Ways to Deal with Grief at Christmas
It’s important to acknowledge our feelings of grief and loss, especially in the early years of grief. (And for some, a lifetime)
Although there is not one right way to acknowledge your loss at Christmas, here are 20 ideas for incorporating your loved one’s memory into Christmas.
(And remember, above all, that these are ideas and not obligations.)
1. Decorate at the cemetery.
Wreaths, grave blankets, miniature Christmas trees set in pots, poinsettias and battery-powered lights-there are many ways to decorate in honor of your loved one.
2. Buy an ornament for the tree.
Every year we buy ornaments for our children. Since Silas died we’ve continued this tradition and every year we hang up his decorations.
3. Hang up their stocking.
4. Light a candle.
5. Donate to a charity in your loved one’s name.
Even better if the charity has a special connection to your loved one.
6. Go to a memorial service.
Grief centers or hospitals often hold holiday remembrance services.
7. Look through photo albums of past Christmases.
This is hard, but good.
8. Buy gifts for someone in need.
Since you don’t get the opportunity to buy gifts for your loved one, why not buy for a needy child?
9. Watch old videos.
Have the Kleenexes close by.
10. Sing or listen to their favorite Christmas carol.
11. Release a balloon with a note to your loved one.
12. Put up a decoration at home in honor of your loved one.
Buy a beautiful door wreath, a miniature tree, or an unusual decoration that will remind you of your loved one every time you see it.
13. Release a sky lantern.
Similar to the balloon release, but better for the evening hours when it is dark.
14. Tell stories about your loved one.
15. Read the Bible or your loved one’s favorite Bible story.
Unsure where to start? For verses that keep my eyes (and heart) on an eternal perspective, try 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
16. Put together a photo album of your loved one.
17. Buy small rocks for your loved one’s grave.
Every time someone visits, have them leave the rock on top of the tombstone. Leave a sharpie and have them add a message or memory to the rock.
18. Carry on a family tradition.
Is there a special recipe or holiday tradition at Christmas? Continue this tradition in honor of your loved one.
19. Write a letter to your loved one.
20. Do something you loved to do together.
Go out for ice cream. Play their favorite game. Do something that always made them smile.
How you handle your loved one’s memory is very personal. Be present for your loss in whatever form in may take and be gentle with yourself during the holidays. Above all, keep praying through your grief. Hang on to God’s promises.
Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Be sure to pick up a copy of my new book, Made for Hope: Discovering Unexpected Gifts in Brokenness. Through a story of loss and hope, we discover what God has to offer in the midst of our brokenness as we grasp to make it through a difficult season. It will give you hope this Christmas.