Memento Mori —
Coping with grief
during the Christmas season

Javier Fajardo

When we think of Christmas, we generally think of happy times spent with family and loved ones, times in which we create fond memories that we will remember and cherish for the rest of our lives.

Christmas or any special occasion can be daunting if you have experienced a loss, as you wonder how you will manage your emotions through the holidays without falling apart or spoiling everyone else’s holiday season. The anticipation of Christmas can sometimes be worse than the actual days themselves.

Coping with Christmas after a loved one has died is especially hard. Christmas makes us realize even more how much we miss our loved ones and seems to aggravate the pain. The sadness and loneliness might seem unbearable at times. It is important to find healthy ways to acknowledge and process such feelings.

Instead of trying to avoid the feelings of grief, embrace them, talk about them, and process them. In doing this, the road to healing can begin. There are different ways in which you can incorporate your loved one into the Christmas season.

The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Catholic Cemeteries has found a meaningful way to bring the warmth of Advent and Christmas to the cemetery with the Tree of Remembrance. We hope that it will help families to start a new tradition that includes those they mourn.

Throughout the month of December, families and individuals are invited to hang complimentary personalized spherical glass ornaments in memory of those who have died. Ornaments will remain on the tree until January 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

Catholic Cemeteries started providing the Christmas tree and complimentary glass ornaments in 2015. In 2016, the tree-lighting and blessing ceremony was added. About 400 people have gathered every year around our Nordmann Fir tree at Calvary Cemetery for this ceremony. This year Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will bless the live tree, which will be ceremonially lit as a Christmas tree on December 3.

Participants are invited to hang complimentary personalized glass ornaments on the tree in memory of loved ones. Hot drinks and pastries will be made available for those attending the ceremony.

Our offer extends to all people, regardless of where their loved one is buried or how long ago. It is our hope that these prayers and ornaments will honor the deceased and alleviate the pain and sadness of those mourning.

Javier Fajardo is executive director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Archdiocese of Louisville.


Brothers Jacob, above left, and Ryan Phillips, hung ornaments in memory of their grandparents and baby sister on the Tree of Remembrance at Calvary Cemetery Dec. 6, 2019. A live Nordmann fir tree is blessed and lit each year at Calvary during a special ceremony in early Advent. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)
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Coping with grief
during the Christmas season”