There can be many moments during the year when we miss loved ones who have died. For many of us, we miss them on a daily basis. Grief is hard at any time of year, but special holidays like Christmas, Hannukah, Diwali or Eid al-fitr for example, can be particularly challenging.
If you’ve lost someone special, our community is here to help. They share what they do to remember their loved ones during important holidays.
How to remember a loved one:
I do our favourite walk
“Mum died five years ago. I like to remember her during the Christmas holidays by doing one of our favourite things together, which was to walk from Exmouth along the Exe estuary to a pub in Lympstone. We’d make funny sounds to echo when we went under a railway bridge, and then stop and look out over the water. At the pub, they had an old set of Trivial Pursuit questions, so I’d drink a few ales while firing them off at Mum. She loved it.
“Christmas was always a really hard time for Mum, who didn’t always enjoy it. But I know in her heart she wanted to, so it means a lot to me to take some time to do our special walk and think of her.”
Join Hospice UK's New Year Walk to Remember a loved one this year.
We attend a Light up a Life service
“Ten years on and I’ll still never get used to George not being here. But the support from St Barnabas Hospice continues through their bereavement events. I remember the first time I went to Light Up a Life and how special it felt to be in a room with other people who were also remembering somebody they loved who had died.
“I continue to go to Light Up a Life every year with my sons and last year I sang in the hospice choir during the event. If you’ve never been, I would encourage you to go. It’s emotional, but in the most beautiful way. There’s no better way to celebrate the life of a loved one.”
I dedicate a tree
“I remember my wife Monica – who died nearly 8 years ago – particularly at Christmas by laying a place for her at the Christmas table and dedicating a tree at either the Woodland Trust or the National Forest in her memory.
“I remember her every day, as I’m sure all who have lost a loved one do.”
We make ornaments - and cook a special recipe
“I remember my loved ones by continuing the family traditions, like cooking a special recipe. We also put ornaments in the Christmas Tree that represent each one of them. Some have pictures, others are more generic.
“And we tell stories about what Christmas used to be like when they were around.”
We keep our promise to look after each other
"This will be our first Christmas without our Nana. Last Christmas, we had no idea that would be the case.
"I want to remember her by keeping our family traditions alive, like our Christmas Eve film with hot chocolate and family stocking presents, but also embracing the change. It’s okay that some things will be done a little differently this year.
"It will be a Christmas full of every emotion, but the best way I think we can honour her memory is by keeping the promise we made to her that we would look after each other.
"As part of our family stocking presents my brother gave each of us our own Lego figure highlighting some iconic family memories."
We share a meal together – and funny stories
“I lost my hubby and father of three at 46 to cancer. We always chose to celebrate his birthday rather than his dying day – and for the first good few years we shared a meal together, telling funny stories of special moments with each family member.
“For my youngest, who was 6 years old at the time, we made a scrapbook of her favourite pictures and told stories around these. Now 32, she visits her Dad's gravestone every year for quiet moments of reflection.
“I carry him in my heart still and have never stopped loving or missing him, whilst getting on with living life to the full.”
I bring new plants to their graves
"I like to remember my dad and my husband at special times. There is only one memorial tree separating them in the cemetery.
"I chat to them both as I remove dead leaves etc & add a new plant for each of them at the base of their trees. I leave little Christmas and Easter reminders too.
"The deer eat the fresh flowers as soon as I exit the cemetery so I tend to find nice artificial plants now. Then I have a wee look along the row at the other trees and tidy up a bit or pick things up that have fallen over.
"And if somebody has nothing left at their tree I put a little something down for them so they know someone was thinking of them. Maybe their families cannot face visiting them in the cemetery?
"On the way out I visit the grave of a girl who died when she was only 14. The daughter of friends of my parents. She died in 1980.
"Her grave has not been visited for a long time so I like to put a little something down for her too. And have a little chat.
"I go to the cemetery at Christmas, New Year, Easter, on their birthdays and on anniversaries. Sometimes I just pop in.
"I'd rather they were still here. I'd give anything to hear their voices again."
We buy a bauble for them
"We have a tradition in my family that we buy a Christmas bauble to commemorate loved ones who have died in the last year. I always look for one that reminds me of each person or has a link to them in some way – for example my late fiancé’s bauble is beautiful blue hand blown glass, as this was his favourite colour.
"When I put up the Christmas tree and decorations all the special baubles are hung up first, and I like to have them somewhere prominent so I can see them every day. Hanging them up and then seeing them over the Christmas period brings back so many happy memories and gives me a lot of comfort, that I always have them near and with us."
How to show your support
If you're feeling inspired by these stories, you can show your support for hospices, their staff, or tackling the stigma of death and dying, by taking part in our New Year Walk to Remember, or joining our Dying Matters community.