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Holiday Memorial and Sympathy Gifts

by Linda Banks

My brother Bob passed away just before Thanksgiving a few years back, and I remember my sister and I spent the day preparing the holiday meal he had planned.  Our family had gathered to over-eat and play board games, but instead we mourned and comforted each other. For the next month I received a steady stream of sympathy cards interspersed with Christmas cards.  Some cards had messages of sympathy hand-written beneath pictures of Christmas trees and dancing reindeer. It was surreal to experience grief while everyone around us celebrated.

Cards of sympathy and flowers are traditional gifts given when someone passes away, and are appropriate to give during the holidays.  Food is always a comforting gift.  There are many other appropriate memorial gifts available as well, such as keepsake boxes, wind chimes, memorial candle urns and more.  If the deceased one chose cremation, you may give a keepsake urn or sharing urn for ashes.  Memorial cremation jewelry is also an appropriate and personal gift that lets the wearer keep a loved one close.  Tiffany style memory lamps are beautiful gifts that provide a warm glow and loving reminder of the deceased. 

Showing you care really helps

Everyone experiences grief differently. For many, losing a loved one during a holiday would be unbearable, but for our family, the holidays were a blessing. We were together. Friends were in town and stopped by to share stories of our brother and remind us we weren’t alone in missing him. For us the holiday didn’t magnify our sense of loss; rather we found the traditional rituals comforting. We embraced the holiday and celebrated our brother’s life. It was Thanksgiving, and we were thankful for each other.

We naturally reach out with condolences when the loved one of a friend dies. However, when a death occurs during the holidays some find it difficult and think it best to leave the family to grieve alone. No one wants to intrude into the personal family time of mourning, made more difficult because of the holiday. But our family welcomed the contact from friends and hearing their stories about Bob. We wanted to remember him and we wanted his friends to remember him too. Neighbors and friends dropped off turkeys, casseroles, baskets of food and flowers. The gifts comforted, and were kind reminders that my friends cared about our brother.

Offering support and caring for a grieving friend or family member is always appropriate, no matter what the form takes. Kindness is always appreciated. It can be a lonely time when families leave and when the activities associated with the holiday end. Visits, cards and condolence gifts are welcome after the holiday, as well.

At Christmastime, items such as personalized Christmas ornaments, with the name, and even a photograph of the deceased can be an appropriate gift. Children especially may find comfort in the act of hanging a memorial ornament on the tree every year and remembering someone very special.

Linda Banks provided extended end-of-life care for her beloved Aunt who was like her mother. When her brother suddenly died, she was instrumental in orchestrating all of the details of his final wishes to be cremated. Linda has been an active blogger for ten years, including blogging about Willie Nelson and his family. Willie told her recently that he reads her blog every day.  

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