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Healing Rituals for Holiday Grief

Holidays without your loved one can be painful and lonely. Especially if it’s the first time the holiday has rolled around after your loss. Sometimes it’s helpful to create a small ritual to help you remain connected to your loved one while still acknowledging your loss on this special day.

Get your closest friends together, the people you feel the safest with, and create a ritual to remember your loved one during a holiday. Or do the ritual by yourself. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Write a letter to your loved one expressing your feelings during the holiday. Put it in a box and gift-wrap it. Then, put it under the Christmas tree or on a table – wherever you used to place it when your loved one was alive – and keep it as long as you like.  Or try these ideas with your ritual group: bury the box in a special place outside; burn the box and visualize releasing your feelings as the ashes float upward; have one of your friends open the box and read the letter to your ritual group.
  • Ask your ritual group to gather and have each person recall favorite stories about your loved one. You might want to structure it by having them tell stories about their holiday memories of your loved one, how they met your loved one, or what your loved one would say or do that would make them laugh the hardest.
  • Have an evening gathering at the graveside or memorial area for your loved one. Prior to the gathering, tell your ritual group to be prepared with poetry, a song, or a story about your loved one. Ask everyone to bring candles. Put a large unlit candle in the center of your gathering. As each person tells their story, have him/her light his/her own candle. When everyone finishes, have the whole group put their candles to the unlit one in the center and, as it lights, invite all to say a word or phrase to your loved one at the same time. Examples might be: “Blessings,” “I miss you,” “You are loved,” “laughter,” etc. End the ritual as you wish. Perhaps by having everyone blow out their own candles and meditating on the center candle. Or ask people to blow out their candles when they are ready. You blow out the center candle when you are ready.
  • At dinner for the holiday, ask everyone to close their eyes, and when ready, say the name of your loved one and names of people your guests have lost. You can do this quietly to yourself, too, if you would rather not have the larger group do it.
  • Buy or make a card for your loved one at the holiday. Write a letter to him or her sharing your feelings and your journey of grief. Put the card aside in a special box. Do the same as each holiday passes. Not only have you connected with your loved one, you are also keeping a journal of your journey.

You are welcome to create any ritual you wish that will help you honor your loved one and ease this time of year for you.

Here are a few more online resources for making it though holidays without your loved one:



Coping with Holiday Grief

BlogHer: Grief During the Holidays

Finding Light in the Holidays

I wish you peace and healing at holiday time.


Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.