Honoring Lost Loved Ones Through Thanksgiving Traditions


Thanksgiving and grief often go hand in hand when a family has experienced the loss of a special part of it. Whether you are approaching the first holiday without that person or you’ve lost count of the last time they were part of the festivities, sadly, that absence is always present.

During a time of year where tradition can so easily bring us back to times where our family felt complete, there are so many special ways to honor those who are no longer with us. Here are a few unique new traditions to choose from to help you feel close to those who can’t be at your table this Thanksgiving, but who remain in your heart.

Open with a Special Thanksgiving Prayer 

Whether you typically start your Thanksgiving dinner off with a prayer or not, this year it may be a nice addition. You can gather everyone around the table or join together in the living room before your meal and take a moment together in prayer. After choosing someone to lead this moment, they can give thanks for the opportunity to come together and honor your lost loved one and give thanks for the amazing person that they were.  

Share Their Favorite Dish and Recipe

There is something about home cooking that can bring you right back to your childhood or happiest of memories. It’s amazing what taste and smell can do! If the person you are missing most had a delicious dessert or side dish that they were known for, perhaps nominate a guest to recreate it this year and bring for dinner. You can even create a recipe card and make copies for each family member to have as a keepsake and reference when they are missing them.  

Leave a Special Place at the Table

While that person already has a special place in your heart, leave an empty chair at the table in their memory. You can create a special place setting that has their name or special pet names you had for them. You can have children or grandchildren draw pictures to display or put together personalized notes from each of you in a dish at their space. Carve out a space at the table to remind you that they are still with you in spirit.

Make a Difference in Their Name 

This time of year, there are often fundraisers, food drives, and other festive ways to make a difference in the community. If your loved one had a big heart for a certain cause or organization, this may be a great time to make a donation or donate your time in their honor. You can get a group of family or friends together to chip in or attend an event and make it a special time for all of you.

Practice Gratitude with Your Family

It can be so easy to concentrate on the somber feelings of missing someone that they can sometimes cloud all of the wonderful memories you have. Be intentional this holiday to open your heart and mind to the moments you miss the most with them. Look through photos, watch videos, reread old cards and sentiments as you can. There will be hurt and sadness at first, but the joy of those memories come pouring in as well. Take your family gathering as an opportunity to practice gratitude for the person you miss most and the time you had with them and the lasting effect they made on a beautiful family.





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