As the holiday season approaches, the expectation of joyful celebrations and memories to be made with family and friends surrounds us. But for some, the holiday season serves as a reminder of those that they are without, perhaps a ‘first’ for them to face without a loved one or yet another year where they are missing those that matter most and the season is faced with trepidation instead of anticipation. We understand because we too have been in those shoes. And we’d like to offer some help.
We’ve compiled a list, some suggestions if you will, of ways in which you can remember your loved one during the holidays, not as a way of replacing their physical presence but more so an opportunity to remember and honor all that they brought to your life and the lives of others.
Name a Star after them
At sites such as www.starregistry.com, a star is chosen and named in memory or commemoration of an individual. The star package includes the star name, the star date, the constellation it is a part of and the coordinates to locate the star. There are packages where the certificate can be framed and you can even order ‘star groups’ such as couple stars, grandparents stars, etc. The packages start around $50 on most sites
Release balloons or paper lanterns.
Releasing balloons or lanterns to the deceased is a wonderful way to involve the entire family in remembering a loved one. Whether it is with the thought that they are in heaven or simply as a way of delivering a personal thought to them wherever you picture them to be, everyone from children to adults can take part. Choose balloons in their favorite color, heart balloons or occasion themed balloons. Companies such as Lanterns and More offer sky lanterns that make for a unique way to commemorate a loved one. The lanterns are eco friendly and available in different shapes and colors. Simply light the fuel cell and release the lantern into the air. Another great way to involved the entire family in remembering the deceased
Make a charitable donation.
Whether your loved one was passionate about animals, a breast cancer survivor or an advocate for green living, donating to a cause they supported provides you with a way to connect with something that was personal to them. The donation can be made annually or one time or even monthly and can be made in their name should you choose. Maybe they were a member of a particular church or organization. Donate any dollar amount that you can as a way of keeping their memory alive and helping out a cause they supported.
Create a memory album/calendar.
Gather pictures, write down memories, get the entire family involved and make a memory album in honor of your loved one. Sites such as Shutterfly even go so far as to help provide layout options and a variety of different customizations from the number of pages to the exterior covering. You can add quotes, capture different moments in their life, tell their story and have a unique heirloom to pass down to children and grandchildren. Additionally, you can purchase more than one album so if other family members want one then you simply order additional copies. This can also be done in calendar form which is a little less expensive and each month can host a different picture of your loved one.
Pool your resources and purchase a recognition in their memory.
Some suggestions might be a plaque that will hang on the wall of the local animal shelter, a park bench with their name on the back in your city common or even a small sports scholarship to be handed out every spring to a graduation senior at their high school. This is a wonderful way to not only celebrate what they brought to the lives of others and/or a cause they supported but also serves as a way to preserve their memory by honoring what was important to them.
Make a memory quilt.
This is a terrific option for parents that have lost a child or even for those families that have younger children and a parent has passed away. Articles of clothing, pillowcases, blankets, christening gowns - pieces of articles of clothing that had significance to your loved one can be joined together in a memory quilt. Do a quick online search for local quilters or sewing centers in your area and bring along pieces that you would like incorporated into having a quilt made. And, much like the memory album, it affords families the opportunity to pass down the quilt to future generations as a family heirloom. Depending on the expertise of the quilter, you may also be able to incorporate things such as pictures of your loved one on the quilt and have personal touches added such as their name stitched into a square or portion of the quilt.
Have a piece of custom art created.
Whether you visit etsy or other sites like eBay that have homemade crafts or ideas and ways in which you can incorporate items that have special meaning into a work of art. Custom wall pieces, pillows, throws and more can be enhanced with a piece of clothing from those that have passed, dog collars from a pet that’s no longer with you, stamped hand prints from the day they were born - when you start to do your homework, you’ll find there is a lot of creative and personal ideas available. Not only do you end up with a one of a kind artistry, you also have a memento that is significant and personal to your life.
Photo engraved keepsake.
Affordable and versatile, photo engraved pendants and keepsakes are a terrific option for remembering loved ones during the holiday season and they also make for a great gift. The pendants are available with or without an internal urn and are silver or gold plated. There are several different shapes and styles available from beaded necklaces to keychains and pet styles. Choose any picture that holds special meaning and have it engraved onto the surface of the pendant. Pictures can be cropped to your exact specifications and the resulting image is an exact replica of the digital image that you selected
Cook their favorite meal/do their favorite activity.
Invite the family over and celebrate their life by having a night that is all about them. Make the meal that they loved most and share memories and stories at the dinner table. Whether they loved football, were passionate about checkers or had a favorite movie, honor them and do what they loved. The story telling helps family remember things or learn things about their loved one that maybe they had forgotten or didn’t know and also helps children get to know people that they didn't have the opportunity to spend much time with. Celebrating what they loved also allows you to feel closer - to embrace something that was special to them.
Make a garden stone.
There are kits in crafts stores everywhere or you can do it yourself with a small bag of cement and a foil pie tin. You can do handprints, paw prints, use the end of a nail to write a name, a date, whatever you choose into the cement as it starts to dry. The stone can be decorated with glass beads, even a photo that is encased in plastic and the garden stones can be placed in the garden every year and create a beautiful way to enhance your yard and have a way to memorialize a loved one or a pet.
Gift to those that are grieving.
Often we get so focused on the loss that we forget those that were closest to the deceased. You can combine funds with other members of the family and choose a special gift for the parents, the spouse, those that are left feeling bereft and without during the holidays. Choose something special, maybe something that the deceased would have wanted them to have or that has special meaning to the living spouse or parents or sibling and gift it to them from the deceased. Maybe it’s a mother who lost her only child and you gift her a heart pendant with her child’s birthstone in it with a card. Perhaps it’s a husband who lost his wife and you gift him those tickets to the game they always said they would go to together and a note that encourages him to go and honor how much she loved him. Sometimes such a small gesture helps remind those left behind that they too were loved and cared for just as much by the deceased.
Give back - commit random acts of kindness in their memory.
One of the best ways we can remember those that we loved is by giving back to others. Donate your time this holiday season to those that are in need. Buy the coffee for the person in line behind you. Go out of your way to help others that are in need. Often times, that simple gesture of kindness can make a difference in a day, a difference in the life of someone that has far reaching effects. It doesn’t cost much if anything and it is a simple yet powerful way to pay your love forward.
Create a tradition in their memory.
Pick a holiday or holidays and create a tradition that is inspired by those that have passed away. Perhaps it’s a circle of thanks at Thanksgiving time and serves as a reminder to be thankful for all of our haves, for right now. Maybe it’s a particular ornament or yankee swap gift that is passed around the family every year and is there’s to secret santa to another family member during Christmas time. Light a candle every year in their memory and choose a different member of the family that embodies a quality of the deceased be the one to light it. These traditions not only create lasting memories within the family unit but they also assist in keeping the memory of the deceased a vital and integral part of the celebration and the holidays.
Write them a letter.
When we put our words down on paper, we give life to them. It takes thought and effort to actually form the letters, write the words, have the thought. If there were things left unsaid, say them. If there are apologies to be made, ask for forgiveness. Dreams that weren’t discussed, news that wasn’t shared - write them a letter and let them know. You can place the letter in a safety deposit box or safe, tuck it away in a family bible, tie it to a balloon and set it free, burn the letter and release the ashes in a special place.
Cross something off their bucket list.
This is our personal favorite. Do something on their bucket list. Something big, something small, something maybe silly. Take the opportunity to do it or make the commitment to make it happen in the upcoming year. Maybe you lost a child that never got to go to Disney or that didn’t get to celebrate a birthday. Have that party for them. Perhaps they always said they wanted to go sky diving and they simply never got the chance. Do it. It could be that seafood they were always afraid to try or doing the Polar Plunge in town on New Years Day. Whatever it is that they didn’t get the opportunity to accomplish - take the reins and do it for them.
The upcoming holidays serve as an opportunity for us to not only spend time with family and friends but to also be grateful for all that we have. Taking the time to not only be grateful for those haves doesn’t lessen the pain of being without our loved ones but with some thought, some ingenuity and some reflection on the qualities and passions there were important, you can honor them in a personal and touching way.