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Thanksgiving Traditions that Honor Someone Who Died


There’s something so comforting about Thanksgiving.


The delicious food. The time spent with family. The traditions that bring us joy.


But when a Loved One has died, the holiday may feel different than it did before. Thanksgiving is all about gathering with the people you love, and when someone is no longer a part of that, their absence can change how you experience the day.


Even though your Loved One will not be physically present at your celebration this year, there are still ways that you can include them so that you can continue to feel their presence.


Light a Memory Candle

person lighting a memory candle

To many people, a candle’s flame can symbolize their Loved One’s presence. Consider lighting a special candle at the start of the day that you can keep with you as you prepare the meal, welcome guests, and enjoy the day together. Subtle, yet beautiful, the candle will help remind you of your Loved One throughout the festivities.


Cook Their Favorite Dish

plate with pumpkin pie

Because Thanksgiving is such a food-centric holiday, you can feel connected to your late Loved One again by cooking a dish they loved. Bake a pumpkin pie with their famous recipe or make that seven-layer salad they devoured each year. The dish you choose to cook—and share with the rest of your family—can help bring you immense comfort on the holiday.


Find a Way to Keep Them Close

yellow gold heart fingerprint necklace

Watching other families get together with everyone they love on Thanksgiving can be extremely hard when you’re missing someone you used to spend the day with. Thankfully, you can find ways to feel your Loved One with you. For example, you can set their picture on the table, listen to their favorite music while you eat, or even wear Jewelry engraved with their fingerprint.


Share Why You’re Thankful for Them

family holding hands and giving thanks on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to share why you’re thankful for your Loved One. This can be as simple as writing your thoughts down in a journal and taking a few minutes to reflect on your favorite memories together. You can also invite your guests to say why they’re thankful for your shared Loved One by starting a toast or prayer in their honor.


Go for a Walk with Family to Their Resting Place

man laying flowers on a grave

A lot of families will join together after the big meal to go for a walk around the neighborhood. If your Loved One’s grave is nearby, suggest to the group that everyone take a walk to visit it. You can bring festive flowers to leave at the cemetery to make the trip even more special. 


Donate a Meal in Their Honor

thanksgiving meal donations

Doing a good deed in your Loved One’s memory is a great way to honor them, especially around the holiday season. Consider cooking a meal to give to someone in need or making a monetary donation to a trusted organization that feeds people who are hungry. Even a small act of goodwill can help your Loved One’s legacy to live on in an impactful way.


Start a New Tradition

family taking a photo together on Thanksgiving

Some of your old family traditions may not feel the same now that your Loved One has died. You can always change those to make them fit your current family dynamic, or you can start new traditions that upcoming generations will look forward to each year. Some traditions you could start include taking a family photo under the same tree in your backyard or walking a 5k for charity. Moving forward with new plans can help you to heal while finding even more things to be thankful for.


Enjoy Time with Relatives

dad and daughter on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to slow down and appreciate the people we know and love. This holiday, even though you may be hurting, do your best to stay in the moment and make the most of the time you have with your family. Encourage everyone to put down their screens and play a card game together or simply catch up over a mug of cocoa. By doing so, you’ll make memories that you can cherish for years to come.


Find Reasons to Be Grateful, Even While Grieving

Being grateful can be hard when you’re grieving.


It’s okay to be sad about losing your Loved One or even upset that your Thanksgiving holiday is forever changed. Give yourself the time and kindness it takes to experience and come to terms with your emotions.


As you process these feelings, try to center yourself in gratitude. After all, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Reflect on the good memories you have from years past and list a couple of things you’re thankful for right in this moment. By viewing the holiday through this positive lens, you can begin to heal while enjoying the day.


Please accept our deepest sympathy for your loss. We understand how difficult the holiday season can be. If you want to talk to someone about what you’re going through, please reach out to a professional grief counselor or support group.