The holidays present an opportunity to engage in laughter, good cheer, and attend festive gatherings. They can also be challenging to get through when you're coping with a significant loss. When dealing with grief after the death of a loved one, not everyone may feel like celebrating.
The usually joyous celebrations may feel forced and contrived, but your family still depends on you to make the holidays special.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Are Holiday Grief Activities?
- Holiday Grief Activities for Families
- Holiday Grief Activities for Adults
- Holiday Grief Activities for Children and Teens
Handling grief over the holidays can seem overwhelming, and you might feel like avoiding them altogether. Before considering canceling your yearly celebrations, continue reading below for some fun and unique ways to bring yourself and your family some holiday cheer despite your sorrow.
Holiday grief activities can help bring you closer as a family to help support one another as you struggle with your loss.
What Are Holiday Grief Activities?
Holiday grief activities are things you participate in with the idea of helping each other through grief and pain after suffering a significant loss. Most activities center on remembering the person who died and are a way to honor and celebrate their life. These activities range anywhere from simple DIY activities to significant charitable contributions or other legacy project ideas.
When thinking about activities that are right for you and your family, give some consideration to what makes the holiday season special to all of you. Are there some traditions that you used to hold that still bring you comfort and joy?
You may also want to figure out your family’s priorities and what makes the holidays overwhelming to each of you and plan your activities accordingly.
Holiday Grief Activities for Families
An excellent way to handle your grief over the holidays is to gather with your family to create conversations and participate in activities that honor the holiday season and your loved one who’s died. Think about involving the entire family in planning a memorable holiday season by asking for everyone’s input. Ask them what would make this holiday a special one filled with love and remembrance. The following ideas may help you have a happier holiday.
1. Share stories
Storytime around the holidays is an activity that can bring much comfort and joy to those who’ve lost a loved one. Everyone wants to feel connected to their loved one who’s died, especially around the holidays. You can include your deceased loved one’s in the celebration by setting aside some time to honor and remember them.
Storytime might be a good time to pull out the old photo albums and share memories around the time and place they took the photo. Make sure to include even young children who might not have a vivid recollection of the person who died. Ask them to share in their fondest memories, whatever they may be.
2. Lighting a memorial candle
Memorial candles burn in memory of a deceased loved one. They are usually placed on a designated table or area in your home during the holidays to honor your loved one who's died.
Each family member can participate by taking turns being the keeper of the light. They're responsible for making sure the candle remains lit during the designated times and that the flame is extinguished or safely monitored during times away or asleep.
Although white candles are popular, any color candle will do. Consider a color to commemorate the holiday, your loved one's favorite color, or one that has special meaning to your family.
3. Stitch together a memorial quilt
Memorial quilt ideas can make a beautiful holiday gift for any family member who’s lost a loved one starting with items that you already have on hand. Consider pulling out some of your deceased loved one’s clothing items to stitch into a blanket this holiday season. You don’t have to be an expert tailor to make a durable blanket that’ll last for years to come.
A quick and easy hack is to purchase ready-made quilts, one for each of your family members, and make a night of refinishing them. Hand each person some clothing items belonging to your loved one, and ask each to choose their favorite to cut it into fun shapes to sew on top of the quilt.
4. Plan a special meal
Planning a special meal around the holidays is a way to bring the family closer together. You can make mealtime even more special by including your deceased loved one’s favorite holiday dishes. When making plans, be sure to include the entire family’s input so that the meal can be extra-special.
You may want to ask others to join you in the meal preparation or bring their favorite dish that reminds them of your loved one. At mealtime, take a moment to honor and remember your loved one who died. Consider reserving a special place at the dinner table for them.
Holiday Grief Activities for Adults
Surviving the holiday season might seem like an overwhelming undertaking when everyone around you seems filled with so much happiness and joy. When grieving, it’s entirely normal to feel like canceling the holidays and going away somewhere to be alone.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible, primarily when your family depends on you to make their holiday special. The following ideas might help you get through the holidays when you’re feeling sad by providing you with opportunities to be alone with your sorrow.
5. Visit the graveside
A private visit to your loved one’s graveside might be the medicine that you need to help you cope through the holidays. Taking a trip to the cemetery in particular is an activity you can do without telling anyone else where you’ve been. Cemetery visits can be healing and may help you process your grief and sorrow.
You can plan on spending as much time as you need to help you reconnect with your loved one by talking to them as if they’re still here with you in the physical form. Graveside visits are grief and loss activities that are a healthy way of healing from your grief.
6. Go through their belongings in private
When you’re struggling with grief during the holidays, pulling out your loved one’s belongings helps you with the grieving process. There’s a sense of reconnection to them, their essence and energy trapped within the things that used to belong to them. Take some private time to go through their things alone and uninterrupted.
Allow your feelings and emotions to erupt without suppressing them. Be kind to yourself as you learn to heal from your loss. The holidays are especially tough for many people.
7. Go on a grief retreat
The holidays might be a good time for you to take some time alone to process your grief and work toward healing. Consider booking a grief retreat for yourself to coincide with the most stressful holiday for you to deal with. There are many choices offered that you can find online.
You may want to combine your grief retreat experience with a trip of a lifetime to make it even more memorable and meaningful. If travel isn’t in your budget, consider taking part in a weekend grief retreat in an area within driving distance to you. Whether you choose an in-person retreat or a getaway, you’re sure to meet others who share in your grief experience.
Holiday Grief Activities for Children and Teens
After a significant loss, you’ll need to help your children deal with their grief during the holidays. Some holiday ideas that can help your children and teens express their grief involve doing something physical with their hands.
Physical activities can be helpful tools for children and teenagers dealing with sorrow, while also bringing you closer together as a family. These simple activities can have a lasting impact on your child’s memories as they deal with loss.
8. Bake homemade cookies
Supporting bereaved children over the holidays can sometimes be overwhelming as they may be facing heightened levels of grief-related feelings and emotions.
Depending on your child's age, you may want to approach this grief-healing activity with added loving kindness. Children who are grieving may not always show you how profoundly they're hurting. They take their pain out in many different ways that you may be unfamiliar with.
Taking the time to check up on them while baking goodies gives you time alone with them to ask how they're coping. Remember to ask how you can help them better deal with their loss.
9. Watch favorite movies
Watching favorite movies during the holidays brings the family closer and provides an opportunity to get nostalgic over the good ole days when everyone was together.
You don’t need to force any awkward or uncomfortable conversation during movie time. Older children may not be ready to open up to you. However, showing them that you care, love, and support them goes a long way in helping them heal.
Concentrate on having a fun-filled afternoon or evening together. You may want to choose movies with a special connection to your deceased loved one or take this opportunity to form new traditions.
10. Make homemade remembrance ornaments
Getting together to make holiday remembrance ornaments is another special way to bond over the loss of your loved one. A quick trip to the arts and crafts store and a few copies of some favorite photos and mementos is all you need to make for a memorable afternoon of grief healing.
Ask everyone to take part, but don't force them to if the activity is too distressing for them. Certain activities may trigger painful memories in children of any age, especially when they've lost a parent or sibling.
Consider how much time has passed since your loved one's death and if the grief associated with this particular holiday is too much to bear.
Holiday Healing Activities When Dealing With Loss
Know that you’re not alone with your grief, especially during the holidays. When you’re ready, share your feelings with others for added support during this stressful time.
Working together on special commemorative activities in honor of your loved one is a beautiful way to create new memories while cherishing the old.