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Remembering Loved Ones at the Holidays and Any Day

Updated on November 8, 2013

Ways to Remember Those Who Have Died at Christmas and the Holidays

Finding ways to make it through the holidays, to keep smiling and get into the Christmas Spirit can be especially challenging for those facing the holidays without a loved one, whether they are apart due to distance or due to death at the holidays.

One way to making the holidays easier is to find a special way to remember those loved ones as part of the holiday season. Discover many symbolic and tangible ways to remember loved ones and those who have been close to us who have died at the holidays.

Some of my favorite ways of remembering are hanging an ornament, lighting a candle, putting up a stocking and listening to music.

While some of these suggestions are specific for the holidays, others can work any day to remember a loved one.

You can also find helpful suggestions and Ways of Coping When You're Apart at the Holidays at the page on "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

If it is the first holiday season without a love one, you may want have family and friends gather to share favorite stories or memories about the person who has died. This can be done as a formal celebration, or informally by having everyone write letters or remember in their own way during holiday preparations.

A special thanks to Sylvestermouse whose lens I Miss You Most at Christmas Time was my incentive for finally pulling together a much overdue lens on remembering those who have been lost at the holidays.

Grief Angel Ornament available on CafePress.

Remembering with an Ornament at Christmas

Available on Amazon
Available on Amazon

A Special Remembrance Ornament available on Amazon

Hang an Ornament

1. Hang a Special Ornament

One very simple way to remembering a loved one at the holidays is to hang a special ornament on the tree or place out other special holiday decorations.

The ornament you choose might be a new remembrance, memorial or grief ornament. It might also be a favorite ornament of the loved ones from years past.

Willow Tree Remembrance Ornament

Willow Tree Remembrance Metal Edged Ornament by Susan Lordi
Willow Tree Remembrance Metal Edged Ornament by Susan Lordi

This Willow Tree Remembrance ornament is a very subtle way of remembering a loved one. The young woman is holding sprigs of rosemary, a symbol of remembrance.

The back side reads, "Keeping treasured memories close."


Working Through Grief During The Holidays - Video

Working through grief when you've lost a loved one is always difficult, but it can be especially trying during the holidays. Learn how one family is coping with the holidays from WCVBtv.

Light a Candle

2. Light a Candle

Light a candle or a lantern can be another special way to remember a loved one.

You might choose to have a memorial candle as part of your holiday decorations. You might light a candle in a church or as part of a special candle lighting ceremony.

The World Candle Lighting remembers children who have died too soon. Many hospice programs offer a special candle lighting tree.

Image from Disney
Image from Disney

Lantern Lighting Tradition in Tangled

One of the scenes from the new Disney movie Tangled touched my heart. It was the lantern lighting.

When Rapunzel was little her parents lit a wish lantern on her birthday. Then every year on her birthday they lit more wish lanterns along with the rest of the kingdom.

The scene where everyone was releasing their flying lanterns was truly amazing. As I watched the scene I couldn't help but think that lighting wish lanterns or flying lanterns would be a great healing event or tradition for those missing a loved one.

Flying Lanterns - Wish Lanterns

According to the product description, the Sky Lanterns or Wish Lanterns are made from flame resistant paper. When the Sky Lantern has burned out it will gently float back to the ground. Sky Lanterns are made from rice paper and bamboo so they are completely biodegradable.

Tangled Lantern Lighting Scene

Image from Disney
Image from Disney

This scene was truly one of those moments in life that takes your breath away.

Decorate with Photos and Mementos

3. Decorate with Photographs and Mementos

Include photographs and/or mementos of your loved one.

As you put out the holiday decorations find a special place to put your loved one's photo or have a photo album on display.

You may want to include a single rose, a candle, a special statue, a vase of flowers or other mementos to create your own sacred space or altar for the loved one.

Remembrance Photo Gift Frames

Customize your own remembrance gift with a photo of your loved one.

Lantern Floating 2011 Hawaii - Video

This video shows the beautiful tradition of Lantern Floating Festival in Hawaii for Memorial Day 2011. People gather to honor lives lost in war, loved ones who have passed away, and pray for a future of peace and harmony from BongNpinoy.

Floating Wish Lanterns

Wishlantern - Pack of 2 Water Floating Lanterns
Wishlantern - Pack of 2 Water Floating Lanterns

The white Floating Wish Lantern are packaged in tens and are come with a tea light.

They are reusable and are 100% biodegradable.


Put Up a Stocking

4. Put up a Stocking for the Lost Love One

Hanging a Christmas stocking for the love one is another way of remembering the person who is no longer with you.

You might want to hang their old stocking.

You might choose to create a new Angel stocking.

Let family and friends write notes with their favorite stories that can be put into the stocking.

When everyone has gathered together you can read the notes and take a few moments to remember.

Image from Modified Microsoft Clipart.

Angel Stocking Kits

Create an Angel stocking to hang in memory of your loved one.

Remembrance Ornament

Available on Amazon
Available on Amazon

Remembrance and Sympathy Dove Ornament available on Amazon

Serve Favorite Foods

5. Serve their Favorite Holiday Foods

Another way of remembering is to prepare and serve the loved one's favorite holiday food.

At a first holiday without the love one, you might want to prepare all of their favorite dishes and have the entire meal be of the loved one's favorites.

As the years go by, you may want to have a single holiday dish served in memory of the loved one, picking a dish that most everyone else enjoys as well.

Remember with Music

6. Remember with Songs and Listening to Music

There are many ways of remembering a loved one with music by singing, caroling or listening to holiday songs. You might want to listen to sad holiday songs that help you express the grief in music.

You could spent time while decorating, cooking or preparing for the holidays by listening to their favorite music. Other ways of remembering would be to sing their favorite holiday songs at a family gathering.

You might also want to go caroling, bringing music to those who are shut in (nursing homes, hospitals) in their memory.

I Miss You Most at Christmas Time - Video

Music video by Mariah Carey performing Miss You Most (At Christmas Time).

Set a Place at the Table

7. Set an Empty Place at the Table, Say a Prayer

Read one of the articles on "The Empty Chair" at the holiday table. You might discuss with your family how best to honor the memory of a loved one who has died.

Perhaps it will be to set a place for them at the table and have a physical reminder of the Empty Chair. Others might choose to offer a special remembrance toast or to include the departed love on in holiday prayers or blessings at the start of a family meal.

The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions

The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions
The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions

Authors of The Empty Chair, Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries invite you to journey through grief toward life-giving healing.


Heartache - When Holidays Hurt Video

When you're grieving, the trappings of the season can almost taunt you; ironically, the traditions, laughter and general cheer can also rekindle painful emotions like longing and loss.

Marriage and family therapist Dr. Carol Podgorski from the University of Rochester Medical Center gives encouragement and support during the holidays.

Do a Random Act of Kindness

8. Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Give and Get Hugs

There are many ways to practice Random Acts of Kindness (or even Random Acts of Culture) in memory of a loved on at the holidays.

  1. Adopt a family in need for the holidays and provide them with gifts and meals.
  2. Give gifts to children for a local giving tree.
  3. Bring used items, blankets, food to a homeless shelter.
  4. Gather toiletries, knit a scarf for a women's shelter.
  5. Check with the local animal shelter to see what types of items are on their Christmas Wish List and them get them some.
  6. Establish a scholarship in memory of the loved one.
  7. Give Free Hugs.

Read about Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness
Random Acts of Kindness

The classic book that started it all, Random Acts of Kindness, a new edition from Conari Press.


Find out about the Kindness Project

The Kindness Project began in 1996 as a way for families to honor their deceased child and to help themselves heal.

Now, years later, more than 1,000,000 Kindness Project cards have been used around the world to perform random acts of kindness in memory of a child, parent, friend, or spouse who died before their time.

Christmas Food Court Hallelujah Chorus Flash Mob - Video

To lift your holiday spirits watch this Hallelujah Chorus Flash Mob perform in November at The Welland Seaway Mall in Ontario. You may be inspired to organize your own Hallelujah Chorus Flash Mob.

Give Free Hugs

Hug a Scented Stuffed Toy

Scented stuffed toys can be very helpful and comforting for children and adults grieving a loss.

Donate to Charity

9. Donate to a Favorite Charity

Donating to a charity is a great way to doing good at the holidays.

You can contribute the money that would have been spent on a gift to their favorite charity or make a donation to a particular charity in their memory.

12 Ways to Get You in the Christmas Spirit

12 Ways to Get You in the Christmas Spirit are featured in more depth at the Christmas Spirit lens. Taking a bit of time to get into the Christmas Spirit may help when facing a holiday without a loved one. Besides celebrating the season is very likely what you loved one would have wanted you to be doing for the holidays.

  1. Focus on the True Meaning of Christmas.
  2. Volunteer Your Time to a Charity Cause.
  3. Listen to Christmas Music or Go Christmas Caroling.
  4. Share the Christmas Spirit with a Homemade or Handcrafted Gift.
  5. Decorate Your Home for the Holidays.
  6. Read a Favorite Christmas Story.
  7. Do Something Nice for Someone Else.
  8. Watch a Christmas Movie.
  9. Organize a Local or Online Holiday Charity Fundraiser.
  10. Give a Gift that Gives More.
  11. Wish People You Meet - Happy Holidays.
  12. Do Something for the Environment and Reduce, Recycle or Reuse.

Create a New Traditon

10. Create a New Tradition

One very helpful way of helping to recognize that the holiday is different, particularly the first holiday after the death of a loved one, is to create a new tradition.

Have the family talk (or email) and take a look at the family traditions. Decide which traditions you want to keep and which traditions might be changed.

You might decide to spend the holidays at a different family member's home. You might decide to take a trip for the holidays.

Take a look at these articles for even more ideas on creating new Christmas customs and traditions.

Hope Your Holidays are Happier Ones

Raindrop Texture by Nossirom
Raindrop Texture by Nossirom

Happier Holidays adapted from Raindrop Texture by Nossirom.

How do you remember your loved ones at the holidays?

Comments on Remembering Loved Ones at the Holidays

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    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      @eweteae: You are welcome.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      thank you for you share

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @makorip lm: Loss does seem to be an inevitable part of getting older.

    • makorip lm profile image

      makorip lm 

      6 years ago

      As we age, sadly each year seems to bring a loss. True Lens!

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @dawnsnewbeginning: You are welcome.

    • dawnsnewbeginning profile image


      6 years ago

      Very uplifting! Thank you!

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @mecheshier: You are welcome.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful Lens. Thank you for sharing

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @ukprowriter: Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • ZenSquid profile image


      6 years ago

      Very Nice Lens!

    • ukprowriter profile image


      6 years ago

      There's never a good time to lose a loved one, but I think its especially hard at Christmas as there will always be a constant reminder. This is good on the whole as we don't want to forget but it does slow down the healing process. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulations on making the TOP PERFORMERS - Best of Healthy Living. Thanks for sharing these ideas on Ways to Remember Those Who Have Died at Christmas.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      6 years ago from So Cal

      I made ornaments for my parents when I was a young adult. Now, they are always the first thing that goes on my tree. This is a beautiful lens and much appreciated. Merry Christmas! Blessed

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @Ann Hinds: Thank you for sharing a lovely Christmas memory.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @tonybonura: I believe they are still with you as long as you are remembering them at Christmas.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      6 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I remember those of my family and friends who have passed on. I am sad that they cannot be with me for Christmas, but then I remember the good times shared with them when they were here. I only wish I had told them how much I love them more often. Thanks for sharing this wonderful lens with me for Christmas.


    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @opatoday: You are going to have some very grateful recipients. Glad to have been able to plant the seed.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @ChristmasWithKids: I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your angels watching over the festivities.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @OMENA777: Smiling through the tears helps make it easier to remember fondly.

    • opatoday profile image


      6 years ago

      I just want to tell you that I started five money jars at $500 each and will be putting them out to strangers late December 24th for my Mother who just passed a few weeks ago, just the act of giving eases my pain. Anyway I want to thank you for planting the Idea.

    • ChristmasWithKids profile image


      6 years ago

      I remember my mother, brother, and aunt whom I lost around Christmas. They're my angels now. Thank you for your lens.

    • OMENA777 profile image


      6 years ago

      I love your lens. I smile through my sadness when I remember my loved ones.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @hotplate lm: I am glad to read the information helps to soften the hurt.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      @tricomanagement: Sounds like a memorable way to toast someone.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very special lens, and you are a very special person.

    • hotplate lm profile image

      hotplate lm 

      6 years ago

      Great lens! It really helps soften the hurt when you miss that someone.

    • tricomanagement profile image


      6 years ago

      Sing a favorite song and share a glass of wine - pouring the empty seat's portion back into the ground

    • pajnhiaj profile image


      7 years ago

      These are some great things you have on here. For my special angel my husband and I would buy a toy at his current age level each year and donate to a child close to his age.

    • traveller27 profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm sure that this is useful to a lot of people. Well done - blessed by a travelling angel.

    • pepys profile image


      7 years ago

      As I went through your lens, I couldn´t help reliving special moments with my father and brother. Thank you.

    • Othercatt profile image


      8 years ago

      Six years ago I gave up two of my kids for adoption. Although it was the right thing to do, the pain just seems unbearable sometimes. I have a journal for each of them. On holidays, I write a letter to each in their journal. On their birthdays I bake them a cake. Every Christmas I get each child an ornament. It helps me to cope with the loss and I hope to give them their journals and ornaments when their older.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      8 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Very interesting. I seem to react differently. Since Jason died, I haven't been motivated to get a Christmas tree, since he was always the one to decorate it and enjoy it the most. And After Rich died, I simply didn't feel like fixing his favorite foods because he was no longer there to enjoy them. I'm finally getting back to where I will make one for a special occasion, but for years I wouldn't make lasagna because it just didn't seem right to make it without him. Want to favorite this and return when I've got more time.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I think many will find your ideas comforting. Every Christmas, I hang several ornaments with my sister's name on them.

      I'm lensrolling this to Honor a Loved One with a Memorial Webpage and to Shannon Marie Hyle (Martin): A Tribute

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 

      8 years ago

      What a wonderful lens with such great ideas for remembering loved ones.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Good ideas. Great help for those who had to associate the holiday cheer with the pain of loss.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      8 years ago from United States

      I can not express how much I truly appreciate this lens! You have given so many really wonderful suggestions of ways to turn our grief around and create traditions like the candles, ornaments, lanterns, etc. or to even "act" in memory of our loved ones. I know my brother would have loved the idea of random acts of kindness. It seems so simple and yet, I had not considered it as a way to honor his memory. Sometimes we are just too stuck in our grief to think of these things for ourselves. I can hardly wait now to seek out ways to aid others in his honor. Thank you for caring enough to help me through this holiday. Your comments had already touched my heart and now, your suggestions will touch my hands and feet :)

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful ideas for everyone, especially families that have children die or children who need a way to talk about dead parents. Thank you


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