The first Thanksgiving without my husband, Brad, we lit the turkey on fire. Not on purpose - although I wouldn’t have put it past us - but because grief is distracting and all-consuming.

We were all in our own little bubbles, just trying to make it through the day.

To be honest, I didn’t even want to celebrate. Brad and I had spent the last decade hosting the holiday in our loft in Detroit and getting on a plane to Pensacola - although with his family, who I loved – it just felt wrong. I wanted to be back in my home, hosting whatever misfit collection of friends and family who decided to show up for the day.

The idea of celebrating the holiday - any holiday - without Brad was too much.

The idea of being in a room full of people (even my favorite people) attempting holiday cheer was also too much.

AlI I wanted to do was avoid.

Instead, we lit the turkey (and the oven) on fire, setting the tone for the rest of the day.

Brad with roasted turkey

That first Thanksgiving, we didn’t know how to talk about the empty chair, so we didn’t. Maybe we all thought it would be too hard. But I remember looking around the table, his absence a thundering silence, and wondering why we weren’t talking. Even though it was on ALL of our minds, we attempted to move through the day as if there wasn’t a giant gaping hole at the table and in our hearts.

A lot of times we don’t bring up the people we lost out of fear - fear of making others sad, fear of being perceived as being stuck in our grief, or fear of being too emotional. But bringing up the memories and stories of loved ones is a reminder that they lived. A reminder that their memories continue to live on. But getting that conversation started, can be difficult.

Holidays are hard for many grievers because we feel as if we have to check our grief at the door. While everyone is being holly and jolly, it can feel like there’s no space for talking about the deceased.

But what if that wasn’t the case? What if you could talk about them? Remember them? Incorporate them into the day?

Box of Remembering A Life Journey Cards and some of the cards fanned out in front of the box

Remembering a Life helps to do just that. Not only do they provide countless resources, like tips for planning a memorial service and ways to find grief support, but they also provide easy ideas to help you remember your people, like the Journey Cards.

The Journey Cards deck is a fun and meaningful way to connect with your loved ones, providing 52 ways to honor those who are no longer with us, in addition to activity prompts, reflection prompts, storytelling prompts, and journal prompts. From completing an item on your loved one's bucket list to thinking about the things that made a loved one laugh, these cards help you preserve the memory of friends and family members you hold dear.

Framed note that says Breathe Sailor! I love you... Brad

The Journey Cards are an accessible way to bring in friends and family to help hold space for the empty seats at your table - and something I wish we had that first holiday season. I imagine us pulling the card that encouraged us to play Brad’s favorite game and pulling out Scrabble in his honor. Or pulling the card that suggested playing his favorite song and then having his playlist be our background music for the day.

Not everyone feels comfortable bringing up their grief, but Remembering a Life makes it easy for everyone. And I’ve since learned that most people actually appreciate when you bring up a loss. Some are even relieved because they, too, want to talk about their own grief.

So now, whether it’s carrying on traditions that were important to Brad (like making fondue on Christmas Eve) or sharing stories and photos, we make sure to incorporate him into the day. By doing this we are honoring both the past holidays we spent together as well as the present ones we are currently in.

As we enter this holiday season (or any season), remember it’s always okay to bring up your loss. It’s okay to talk about your person. And it’s okay to not check your grief at the door.