Save a Seat

Thoughts on Grief During the Holidays and Major Events by Jessamyn Putnam

The holidays are here, and whether it is your first holiday following the loss of a loved one or not, suffice it to say, this is usually a rough time of year for those grieving the loss of someone they loved.

So what do you do?  While there is no “one size fits all” approach, grief does not take a sabbatical at Christmas, or weddings, or birthdays.  First and foremost, allow yourself and others the right to grieve.  Everyone grieves differently, and instead of telling someone how to grieve, allow them the freedom to grieve in their own way and do not take it personally.  I have twin boys, and while identical, they grieve differently.  One acts out and says mean things, the other just cries and cries with very loud, heart-wrenching sobs.  I acknowledge their loss and give them space and forgiveness, while also allowing myself the opportunity to step away and cry my own tears.  We can also be hard on ourselves, but this is not the time.  We must give ourselves grace and space to grieve.  Stifling or denying grief leads to unresolved grief which can cause physiological problems and make you physically ill.

Recognize and commemorate your loved one by saving a seat.  Set a place at the table, include a favorite shirt on the chair, shoes on the floor, and/or photo on the place setting.  Your loved one might be physically gone but will remain ever present in your thoughts for some time to come.  Encourage family and friends to share their memories or stories.  While a loved one might no longer be with us, it is important to remember the good times, to laugh about funny things they said or did, and to acknowledge that he or she is missed.  Yes, there is a strong possibility of tears, but it is also a time for family bonds and bonds of friendship to grow stronger.

Know you are not alone.  Friends oftentimes do not know how to respond to someone grieving the loss of a loved one.  They would love for you to reach out and tell them what you need.  At the same time, it is important for friends to offer specific ways of assistance – cooking a meal, mowing the lawn, folding laundry, a cup of coffee.  Every day tasks can often feel overwhelming when someone you loved has died.  Lean on your churches, funeral homes, hospices, and social/service organizations as many offer grief programs and/or assistance with daily tasks.

Remember to breathe.  Take each day at a time.  And save a seat for the one you loved.

©2019 Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory

Finding Hope During the Holidays

We published this video on our website last year and are reposting it due to all of the positive comments and gratitude we received.  If you or a loved one are struggling with grief this holiday season, then please take the time to watch this brief video in which Dr. Jason Troyer shares how to deal with “grief bursts,” planning time for remembering, and adjusting your traditions.


Find Hope During the Holidays with Dr. Jason Troyer from Jason Troyer on Vimeo.


Dr. Troyer has a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Kansas.  He is also certified in Thanatology and a member of the Association for Death and Education Counseling.  He is a professor in East Tennessee and teaches on death and dying, abnormal psychology, counseling, and related topics.

DIY Projects to Help Memorialize a Lost Loved One During the Holidays

When we talk about the “true reason for the season,” many of these reasons are steeped in holiday remembrance: Family traditions that have carried over generation to generation, stories of holiday pastimes that are told around the fireplace, and even meals and movies shared that carry a special significance.

So with so much remembrance surrounding this festive holiday, it’s no surprise that families want to make their loved ones a part of the celebration… especially if they may no longer be around to take part themselves.

Here are some crafts and DIYs to help you memorialize a lost loved one this holiday season.

1. Memorial Candle

Learn how to make gorgeous personalized candles with your favorite photo on them with an easy packing tape transfer. Easy handmade gift idea only takes about 15 minutes and costs just a few bucks!

Candles have a special place in memorialization. They help us feel as though we are actively honoring or celebrating someone, by lighting a candle in their memory. One way that you can help families feel this connection even further is by helping them create a personalized memorial candle with their loved one’s photo on it, or even one of their favorite quotes.

Click here for instructions.

2. ‘Save A Seat’ Sign

Help families feel as though their loved one is still very much a part of the Christmas festivities with a beautiful sign that calls on people to remember. This beautiful plaque reads: “Christmas in Heaven. What do they do? They come down to Earth to spend it with you. So save them a seat, just one empty chair. You may not see them, but they will always be there.

Click here for instructions.

3. Wooden Photo Ornaments

Photo Transfer Christmas Ornaments | Love this idea to display holiday memories on the Christmas tree!

Decorating the tree is one of the most important and memorable parts of the Christmas season. So why not help families make their loved ones a part of the decorating, even after they are gone. These simply to make photo ornaments are a beautiful addition to any Christmas tree, and help bring memorialization into the tree decorating process.

Click here for instructions.

4. Christmas Memories Wreath

picture frame memory wreath

Another great way to help families bring photos into their holiday decor is with a beautiful, one-of-a-kind photo wreath. This wreath could be made up solely of loved ones that families want to remember at Christmas time, or even of all of their favorite holiday photo moments – including photos with their loved ones around the Christmas tree or opening presents.

Click here for instructions.

5. Remembrance Stocking

It wouldn’t be Christmas morning without the opening of our Christmas stockings. Help families complete their family Christmas mantle display by creating a stocking that is truly representative of their loved one – because it is made with some of their favorite worn items! Encourage families to bring in their loved one’s favorite dress, jeans or even Christmas sweater, and help them make a personalized stocking that can hang on the fireplace for years to come.

Click here for instructions.

6. Christmas Shirt Pillow Cover

DIY Repurposed Shirt Pillow Cover

Speaking of ways to repurpose a loved one’s favorite clothing items, another great DIY that families can incorporate into their holiday decor is a Christmas Shirt Pillow Cover. This is an especially great craft to do with Grandpa’s or Dad’s favorite flannel or button-up shirt. You could even stick holly or pine cones into the pocket square to really help bring the Christmas spirit inside.

Click here for instructions.

7. Holiday Photo Luminaries

Easily make Picture Frame Luminaries with a few frames, glue and tea lights!

Bring light to the holidays ahead by helping families create beautiful picture frame luminaries, which work great as festive holiday decor or even as a personalized gift for others. Not only are these unique display pieces a wonderful way to brighten up the home around the holidays, but lighting these memorial luminaries would be a great activity for any family to add into into their Christmas Eve traditions.

Click here for instructions.

8. “A Few of My Favorite Things” Ornament

Learn how to make DIY Memorial Ornaments to help honor and remember loved ones who have passed. This project uses a loved one's old clothes and handwriting to create a Christmas ornament that will be cherished by anyone who is missing their loved one.

While we love the idea of a DIY photo ornament, like we mentioned above, a photo is not the only way to remember someone around the holidays. You could also make a wonderful ornament memento with some of their favorite items or pieces of clothing. In this tutorial, the author uses fabric shears from her late father’s different shirts and combines them all into a clear glass ornament to hang on her Christmas tree – complete with a personal note from her dad that she will always cherish.

Click here for instructions.

9. Night Before Christmas Pillow

This DIY Song Lyric Pillow is the perfect way to personalize any bed in your house. Visit for a full tutorial!

For many families, the sounds of Christmas are just as memorable and important as the sights and smells. Maybe it was a favorite Christmas story that you used to get read before bedtime, or a favorite holiday song that you would always listen to while baking cookies. No matter what words they may have been, help your families visualize them on a personalized pillow that they can lay their head on the night before Christmas.

Click here for instructions.

10. Holiday Card Book

Over our lifetime, many of us save up a nice collection of greeting cards, whether it’s for birthdays, holidays, weddings, you name it. But we never actually do anything with these cards, other than when we run across them while moving or cleaning out old boxes. With this DIY, help your families put sentimental holiday cards from their loved ones on display in a beautiful book that they will actually flip through and look at each holiday season.

Click here for instructions.

11. Sweater Letters

Brave Girls Club - 1 thrifted sweater - 23 projects! - XO Letters

One of our favorite ways to decorate for the holidays is to put some of our favorite festive sayings up around the house, like “Ho Ho Ho” or “Oh What Fun!” Help your families do the same – but with an extra special personalized touch, by adding some of their loved one’s favorite items onto the letters. This DIY is easy… simply grab something fabric that was special to a loved one (a blanket, a shirt, a stuffed animal, etc.) and cut out the shape of the letters you are creating. Next, just glue the fabric onto the letters. Voila! That’s it!

12. Year In Remembrance Video

Last but not least, you can celebrate, honor and remember your loved ones at Christmas time by putting together a beautiful Year In Remembrance video, set to a cozy winter theme. Whether you choose to do it yourself or use a local videographer (such as Matt Turner:, this is a gift that will be treasured by all.

Hope During the Holidays