This will be an especially difficult Christmas for those who have lost family members and dear friends due to COVID-19.
Over 300,000 Americans died as a result of contracting the virus, leaving many empty chairs at this year's holiday tables. But grief experts say following old or creating new traditions can help ease the pain of loss.
According to NBC News, David Kessler, one of the nation's leading experts on dealing with grief, and the author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, this will be a holiday season like no other because of the massive funerals and continued COVID-19 vigilance.
"This will be such an isolating Christmas," he said.
Kessler and others point out different cultures have traditions and rituals that honor those who have passed. For example, during Hanukkah, Jews recite a commemoration for lost loved ones while lighting the menorah and tell stories about them during meals.
On the third day of Kwanzaa celebrations, called Ujima, observers remember those who have collectively worked and struggled for a better future. It is likely victims of COVID-19 will be honored on that day, according to NBC News.
In Poland, holiday celebrations often include an empty seat at the Christmas table originally meant to welcome unexpected guests that, over the years, has evolved to include remembering those lost to war.
Susan G. Groner, author of Parenting With Sanity and Joy, tells NBC News, a beautiful way to remember lost loved ones it to make their favorite holiday recipe.
"You can hang an ornament with a photo of the person on a tree," she adds. "You can sing their favorite song. In this way you're acknowledging them and making them a part of the holiday."
Other suggestions from grief experts include:
- Light a memorial candle and keep it burning. Scented candles help reduce the stress you might be feeling over their loss.
- Give a gift to a child or charity in your loved one's name. This ensures that your loved one continues to live in the heart of a needy recipient.
- Celebrate the season as a tribute to your loved one. Recall the good times you had together and engage in happy family activities he or she would have enjoyed — such as a snowball fight!
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