How to Include Memories of A Lost Loved One As Part of Your Holiday Tradition

The holiday season is here again, a time of celebration & gratitude spent with family and friends

Many have very happy memories associated with the holidays: for example; a baby’s first Christmas, decorating the Christmas tree, gatherings of family and friends and more. Some have sad memories associated with the holidays: for example: the loss of a loved one, unemployment, loss of a beloved pet, personal health crises and more. Our perspective and experience can have a significant impact on not just us, but others around us during this time. So how can we reconcile this duality of emotions creating potential havoc?  

Consider creating a holiday tradition using positive shared memories at holiday gatherings

A dinner prayer

Offer up a dinner prayer that includes those we remember. This expands the dinner guest list to more…those no longer with us and creates a feeling of their presence. It also opens the door for memories to come forth with honor, acceptance, a few tears and even a laugh or two.

An honored place at your table

Leave a chair empty at the holiday dinner table in honor and in memory of the loved one no longer present. This creates a feeling that it is okay to speak about those not present and may ease some tension.

Memory Christmas tree

Create a Memory Christmas Tree. Each person brings an ornament to the holiday party and presents their ornament and the story/memory that it represents and places it on the tree.

A special memory

For the holiday, plan ahead and ask each person to write down a special memory to bring and put them all in a festive jar or bag and pass it around for each to pick and read the memory. Or just let each person read their own shared memory.

Creating new memories

Let someone else host the usual holiday, family dinner creating new memories and including old memories. This can also work to help ease the stress of those not able to financially host the holiday feast due to loss of job. Also a potluck dinner can be a creative solution.

Let the day pass quietly

Sometimes, if the pain of loss is too new and you need to withdraw from others, just let the day pass quietly. You can take a walk, watch a movie or stay in bed until it’s over. However, consider the power of friends and family can make the healing less painful. Don’t stay alone too long. There are many happy memories to be enjoyed.


Shared memories help you stay connected to others in your life and reinforce all the positive experiences shared — both past and present. Make room in your holiday for a tradition of shared memories.



Cheryl A. Barrett, RN, MSN, NC-BC, is a skilled nurse of 30-plus years who has recently lost a husband, after nearly a half-century of marriage, and has gone through the process of mourning his death. She shares her extensive experience with death, grief, and loss, gained as a nurse caring for patients, families, and loved ones in a variety of roles and locations, including nursing at the bedside and in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU). She’s been an administrative supervisor in a hospital, an editorial director for a nursing publication, an educator and director of education in home care, and a nurse coach and mentor as a professor of nursing.

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