How to Honor a Lost Loved One During the Holidays

The simple truth is that the holiday season can be very hard, especially for someone who has lost a loved one…

This will be my fifth Christmas without my son Lochlan. He was 22 days old when he passed away from an incredibly rare genetic disorder. For me, the holidays have always been a time of immense joy, but over the past several years, Christmas time took on a very dull, grey color. Each year I attempted to do a little bit more – to feel a little bit more — and found ways to honor my son that felt gentle but important.

I absolutely always want to talk about him. I crave the opportunity to share about him, and let people know that he is a part of our family. People often don’t know how to ask, so they just don’t — but for me, an awkward conversation is always better than no conversation at all.

When the world surrounding you is singing carols and laughing late into the night, it helps to have ways to nurture yourself that feel simple, and give you a sense of belonging through the holidays. Where ever you are in your broken-hearted journey, I have a few simple suggestions to ease your way into the holidays.

1. Hang a photo.
Print off a photo of your loved one and hang it up with some festive garland. This year I used a golden string of tiny bells, and looped them through a small hole at the top of the photo. Hang your garland on the tree or along your mantle, so you can always see the person you are missing.

2. Stuff the stocking.
Hanging up the family stockings is such a wonderful tradition, but seeing one empty in the morning can make you feel your loss very deeply. Try tucking your loved ones stocking full on Christmas Eve with some dried flowers or branches of winter berries. Seeing a beautiful bouquet peek out from the top of the stocking helps give your heart the image that it’s full — full of love, full of hope, full of acceptance. Maybe it will look so great you’ll put it up earlier next year, as a new tradition.

3. Save them a seat.
Whether it feels good to leave one chair empty at the dinner table, or have an ornamental chair next to a candle on your mantel — the idea of saving a seat lets everyone around you know how deeply you are missing your loved one. This gesture helps your family understand that you welcome conversation about the person who passed. It also gives you permission to visibly see your loss, which can help throughout the holidays.

I am sending love to all those missing someone this holiday, and wishing you moments of peace throughout the season.

Thank you so much, Katie. xoxo

P.S. How to write a condolence note, and 17 reader comments on grief.

(Photo by Andreas Wonisch/Stocksy.)