Holidays—they insist on being recognized every year. They demand celebration with a whimsical cheer. They remind us it is a time of thankfulness and happiness.

But, for those who have lost loved ones, the holidays can feel like anything but festive bliss and getting through one can be a tremendous feat. With each one you feel an absence. It weighs heavily on your mind and leaves an empty pocket in your heart. It doesn’t really matter how long it’s been since you’ve lost this person, holidays are just plain hard. 

So, you smile. You put on your brave face. You push forward because that is what is expected. And for the most part, you get through.

But, what if instead of stumbling through the holidays in a semi-false state of cheer, you embraced your reality? What if you were real with yourself and acknowledged those you’ve lost—I mean really acknowledged them, invited them in?

Hear me out, I’m not proposing you do something unconventional. I’m simply suggesting you include them in some way that would be special for you. You are left here to go through this without them—why not make it meaningful by including them?

You should know, I’ve tried it both ways. I’ve gone through the motions in a zombie-like state because that was easier than feeling. I found myself starting to dread the holidays and I knew something needed to change. I’m a mama now, and although my boys provide a distraction to the void in my life, I still want to be able to genuinely enjoy my holidays with them. Short of having my parents back, I’ve done the next best thing; I’ve invited them back into our traditions. 

This holiday season, I encourage you to invite your lost loved ones into your celebrations. It will look different for everyone but here are a few ideas:

1. Invite them to the dinner table by sharing a memory of them over a meal.

2. Bring them into your cozy living room chats by reminiscing about them.

3. Dedicate a particular song to them while caroling.

4. Make a toast in their honor.

5. Buy a gift that they would have loved.

6. Hang an ornament that reminds you of them.

7. Bake their favorite cookies or dessert.

8. Make a donation in their name.

9. Light a candle for them every day during the season.

10. Look at old photo albums around the Christmas tree.

Anything. Big or small, keep their memory alive during your celebrations this year. Whatever that looks like for you, I ask that you try it.

I think we get caught up in trying to get through the holidays alone, hiding our sadness or masking our anguish. But here is the deal: just because they are gone from our lives does not mean they are gone from our hearts. Let’s do ourselves a favor and include them. It may make those sad moments a little more bearable. 

Some of you may have bigger gestures in mind. Some of you may just want to keep it simple or even private. However you chose to invite them in, send that invitation. Make this season a little more memorable by honoring the ones you can’t be with. They couldn’t stay, but your memories of them can. 

Cheers to those here and there. May your memories keep you warm and your loved ones keep you company during this blessed time of year. 


Jordan Pederson

A wife and mama embracing her imperfect happiness.