When a loved one leaves our life through death, it changes our reality.

And anniversaries, birthdays and holidays seem to be the most difficult times to accept that new reality. And these holidays affect people differently. Some love traditions and that helps move them through those tough days, while others want to throw away any reminders of the lost. And while some people look to celebrate, others sit in the grief of the empty chair—that chair where their loved one used to sit—that is now empty, possibly for the first time.

There is truly no right way to grieve. While others seem to process grief quickly, others need more time. The most kind way to handle someone who is grieving is by allowing them the space to do so. It is also a time where you can begin to create some new traditions that reflect a part of the new reality that exists now that your loved one is gone.

  1. Set aside that empty chair. Adorn it with some of the favorite things the person would like. This can become an altar of sorts- an area to reflect.
  2. Place a notebook with your loved one’s name on it. Allow guests to journal in the notebook- sharing their favorite stories. Guests can read the other stories, or you can read them together, whatever feels right.
  3. Some cultures light a candle in remembrance of a loved one. Consider placing a candle somewhere that when lit it becomes a reminder of their spirit.
  4. Plant a flowering tree. Trees grow in maturity and become more beautiful with the passing of time, much like the grieving process.
  5. Create a memorial piece of art. Shadow boxes, cedar chests filled with keepsakes, portraits or collages are all great ways to celebrate the person who is no longer with you.
  6. Make a donation or volunteer with your loved one in mind. Donating to something that was important to them, or offering to serve in a way they would, could rekindle a connection.
  7. Celebrate by deliberately choosing a food or practice they love- such as enjoying a favorite glass of wine, food or dancing to Sinatra. Allow your celebration to bring them back in the memory of them.
  8. Call someone else who shares in the loss. This could also be a post card or other communication to just reach out and say that you are thinking of them on the holiday that is possibly as hard for them as it is for you.
  9. Throw a party. Buy balloons and a cake, and celebrate the life of the loved one, just as they were still there. Celebrate with their favorite things and favorite people. Bring people together to remember the good.

If the grief you are experiencing feels like more than you can bear alone, reach out. There are grief support groups, hotlines, and friends who are there to offer support.

What other ways have you found to honor your lost loved ones? What will you do this year with the empty chair?

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