The holidays can be bittersweet when you’ve lost someone. You might find you can’t fully appreciate the music, food and festive gatherings of the season without that special person by your side. Then, when you DO find yourself singing along with your favorite Christmas carol or laughing and enjoying yourself with family, you’re suddenly flooded with guilt.

All that is totally normal. No matter how strongly you believe in the afterlife, when someone you love dies, it’s hard to be the one left behind. While you’re on this earth, you want your loved ones to be here in the physical sense, and you miss them when they are gone.

But don’t let grief rob you of joy – as someone who speaks to the dead just about every day, I can tell you the last thing your loved ones in the Spirit world want is for you to be unhappy! Instead, include them in the festivities. Here are some tips for enjoying the holidays with ALL your loved ones around you, including those who have passed.

1) Honor old traditions. If Christmas dinner won’t feel the same without Grandma’s stuffing or that great desert Mom used to make, dig out their recipes and get cooking. To make the Spirit connection even stronger, prop a picture of the departed in among the mixing bowls while you’re recreating their specialty. Feel free to ask your Spirit friend for their advice as you cook, and share stories about them while you enjoy your meal!

2) Share love, laughter and memories. Set a place for Spirit at the table – either literally or figuratively. Do whatever it takes to remind those who are gathered of the deceased in a joyful way. Happiness and laughter make your Spirit friends want to come closer. Have fun together, and mention them often, and you’ll feel their warm presence beside you.

3) See things through their eyes. A friend once said a funny thing to me. I was showing her a new jacket I’d bought for an upcoming event. “Oh, that’s beautiful!” She said. “Take care of it!” She explained that whenever she had bought herself something special, her grandmother would say those words. “I find myself saying that to other people, it makes me feel closer to her.”

4) Perform an act of kindness in their honor. When you’re feeling sad, it helps to get out and help others. Focusing on those less fortunate gets you out of your own grief, and you can take things a step further by picking a charity that your loved was involved in and cared about. Plant a tree, help out at an animal shelter, bring toys to a children’s hospital – and while you’re at it, imagine how happy your loved one would be to have you carrying on their good work!

I called this blog “A Place Setting for Spirit,” to encourage you to include the people you’re missing in the holiday celebration – but I want to be sure to remind you to pay attention to your own feelings too. Maybe you’re just not feeling up to going to a particular event, or the idea of sending out holiday cards seems overwhelming.

Listen to your feelings and let yourself off the hook – just don’t feel that your loved one in Spirit expects you to be in mourning. They’re in a beautiful, light filled place free of pain, and their fondest wish is for you to experience joy during the holiday season – and every day of the year!

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