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How to remember a loved one at Christmas

23 November 2022
A photograph of a grandmother and two young granddaughters looking at a photo album, with a Christmas tree in the background.

The weather is getting warmer, and the shops are filled with decorations. For many, it’s a joyous time – there are family gatherings, festive foods and holiday traditions harking back to childhood.

But if you have lost somebody close to you, the Christmas season can be immensely challenging.

Whether your loved one has passed away this year, or in years gone by, the pain of anticipating spending that time without them can make the leadup to the holiday season especially difficult. According to the Australian Center for Grief and Bereavement, planning how you will spend the time in the leadup to milestone events like Christmas or the New Year can help ease some of the anxiety or stress.

While they cannot be with you in person, planning some activities to help you remember your loved one at Christmas may help. Here are our suggestions.

1. Make their favourite food or drink

Meals or drinks can evoke strong memories – especially at this time of year. Was there a Christmas food or holiday dish that your loved one enjoyed? Preparing it in their honour may help you reconnect with memories of them, allowing you to continue your relationship with your loved one despite the changes that have taken place. If you feel like spending time with other people, you may even wish to invite other friends or family to enjoy the food (or drink) with you while sharing stories about your loved one and what made them special.

2. Write them a letter (or a Christmas Card)

Writing a letter to your loved one is never going to replace being able to share time with them in person, but it can still help. Sharing your thoughts with your loved one in a letter or holiday card can be a beautiful way of remembering them at Christmas. There is no right or wrong way to do this, or nothing you should or shouldn’t include – allow yourself the freedom to write whatever comes to mind. There’s no obligation to share this with anybody else, unless you want to.

A close-up of a woman's hand as she writes a Christmas card
Sharing your thoughts with your loved one in a letter or holiday card can be a beautiful way of remembering them at Christmas.

3. Place an ornament on the Christmas tree in their memory

Whether or not you would normally have been decorating the Christmas tree together, placing a special ornament on your Christmas tree can be a powerful way to include your loved one in Christmas celebrations.

A close-up of a snowflake-shaped ornament hanging on a Christmas tree.

4. If you want to, talk about them

We all handle grief differently, and this can depend on our personal and cultural preferences. If you find yourself wanting to talk about your loved one, don’t hold yourself back. Supportive friends or family members will understand that their role in helping you through this time is to listen without judgement. If you don’t have somebody in your social circle you feel comfortable talking to in this way, reaching out to a support organisation may help – we have listed some of these below. If you prefer writing down your thoughts, journaling can be a powerful way to let them out in a safe space.

5. Attend a special event

Coming together with members of the community who are also feeling the absence of a loved one can be a powerful reminder that you are not alone in your grief. Some organisations hold memorial services or other events that can provide a safe place for you to acknowledge what you are feeling. They can also help to connect with your loved one’s memory in a positive way.

A close-up photograph of two hands holding LED candles at an outdoor remembrance event.
Community events can be powerful reminders that you are not alone in your grief.

On Friday 2 December, you are welcome to join the SMCT community for our annual Christmas event, Together by the Lake, at Bunurong Memorial Park. This mix of live musical performances and moments of reflection takes place in picturesque outdoor surrounds. For more information or to register your free ticket, visit our Together by the Lake event page.

This can be a challenging time. Please remember that you are not alone in your grief. Be kind to yourself and understand that your feelings may change. It’s ok to change plans or decline invitations if they are going to be painful for you.

The below organisations may be able to provide additional support or resources.

For additional information, visit our grief resources page.

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