— After losing someone you love, every day is painful. But around the holidays that hole seems to grow a little bigger.
I lost my mom, a mother to five and wife of more than 30 years, on my 23rd birthday in August and instead of ignoring the holidays, I wanted to honor her in a special way this year.
For our first Christmas without her, I reached out to Star-Telegram readers on Facebook for ideas on how they honor a loved one’s memory around the holidays. I received more than 60 comments and many more emails with numerous ideas.
No matter the holiday, if it’s your first year or the 20th without someone you love, I hope this list will help spark an idea on how you can honor your loved one’s memory.
Stefany Andrews Boyett, 46, was a wife, mother of two and nurse at Cook Children’s Hospital for 21 years before she lost her battle to cancer in 2015. One way that her mother, Gloria Andrews, celebrates her memory is by making baby blankets out of Stefany’s scrubs to give to children at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cook Children’s.
“Stefany had the biggest, giving heart you can imagine,” Andrews said in an email. “That is why celebrating by giving is what we do.”
This could be a donation, volunteering or raising money to an organization or cause that your loved one was passionate about. Or it could be a random act of kindness, something your loved one would do.
Certain tastes and smells bring back fond memories during all times of the year and honoring a loved one by cooking is one of the best ways to remember them.
Karen Pack Bayless said she uses her mother’s recipes. During the holidays, she places a photo of her mom by the food.
Kimberley Acheson Hoffman lost her mom in 2015, each person in her family brings one of their mom’s favorite dishes to the holiday gathering to honor her love of cooking.
Teach yourself to make something new, bake for someone else, cook something they used to love, or follow their recipes to feel their presence with you in the kitchen.
On the first Christmas after Bruce Barrick lost his son, Gabe, to suicide, Barrick requested that friends and family write a favorite memory of him. They placed each memory in Gabe’s stocking.
“Christmas morning after opening all the presents, we took time to read each one and remember all the wonderful things about him,” Barrick commented on Facebook. “It truly was a special, honoring time!”
Decorate their grave site, create a new ornament, write a song, travel, send out hand-written letters, or paint a picture, use your talents in a way that will help you remember that special loved one.
Allow yourself to be positive, remember the good times during the holidays and celebrate with those that are still here.
You could set a place at the table for them like Sherry Skov Key or hang their stocking above a mantle. Or maybe like Paula Dycus McKay, you wear their ugly Christmas sweaters — and love every second of it.
As for my family and I, we will likely do a combination of all of the above. We will listen to Elvis’ Christmas album (which my mom always had on during the holiday season), cook our favorite foods and play card games after dinner. Together, we will visit her grave and talk about memories that will make us cry, laugh and, of course, smile.