64 Tips for Coping with Grief at the Holidays

Holidays and Special Days Holidays and Special Days : Litsa Williams

Once upon a time, I made this random list of 64 things I wish someone had told me about grief.  In response, our readers shared about a zillion things they would add to the list. With December upon us, we’ve been inspired me to make another list about grief at the holidays, in hopes that we may get a zillion more comments with your thoughts and suggestions for coping.

So here it is – 64 pro-tips for coping with grief at the holidays.  Please share with us in the comments what has worked for you in holidays past, or how you plan to cope with the holidays this year. The holidays are tough for all of us, so the least we can do is share our tips and tricks with one another to make the season just a smidge more tolerable.

64 Tips for Coping with Grief at the Holiday

1. Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and they will be tough.

2. Decide which traditions you want to keep.

3. Decide which traditions you want to change.

4. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.

5. Decide where you want to spend the holidays – you may want to switch up the location, or it may be of comfort to keep it the same.  Either way, make a conscious decision about location.

6. Plan ahead and communicate with the people you will spend the holiday with in advance, to make sure everyone is in agreement about traditions and plans.

7. Remember that not everyone will be grieving the same way you are grieving.

8. Remember that the way others will want to spend the holiday may not match how you want to spend the holiday.

9. Put out a ‘memory stocking’, ‘memory box’, or another special place where you and others can write down memories you treasure.  Pick a time to read them together.

10. Light a candle in your home in memory of the person you’ve lost.

11. Include one of your loved one’s favorite dishes in your holiday meal.

12. Be honest. Tell people what you DO want to do for the holidays and what you DON’T want to do.

13. Make a donation to a charity that was important to your loved one in their name.

14. Buy a gift you would have given to your loved one and donate it to a local charity.

15. If you are feeling really ambitious, adopt a family in memory of your loved one.  This can often be done through a church, salvation army, or goodwill.

16. See a counselor.  Maybe you’ve been putting it off.  The holidays are especially tough, so this may be the time to talk to someone.

17. Pick a few special items that belonged to your loved one and gift them to friends or family who will appreciate them.

18. Make a memorial ornament, wreath, or other decoration in honor of your loved one.

19. If you have been having a hard time parting with your loved one’s clothing, use the holidays as an opportunity to donate some items to a homeless shelter or other charity.

20. Send a holiday card to friends of your loved one who you may regret having lost touch with.


21. Visit your loved one’s gravesite and leave a grave blanket, wreath, poinsettia, or another meaningful holiday item.

22. Play your loved one’s favorite holiday music.

23. If your loved one hated holiday music, that’s okay! Play whatever music they loved.

24. Journal when you are having an especially bad day.

25. Skip holiday events if you are in holiday overload.

26. Don’t feel guilty about skipping events if you’re experiencing holiday overload!

27. Don’t get trapped.  When you go to holiday events, drive yourself so you can leave if it gets to be too much.

28. Pull out old photo albums and spend some time on the holiday looking at photos.

29. Talk to kids about the holidays – it can be confusing for kids that the holidays can be both happy and sad after a death.  Let them know it is okay to enjoy the holiday, and it is okay to be sad.

30. Make a dish that your loved one used to make. Don’t get discouraged if you try to make their dish and you fail.  We’ve all been there (or, at least I’ve been there!).

31. Leave an empty seat at the holiday table in memory of your loved one.

32. If leaving an empty seat is too depressing, invite someone who doesn’t have any family to spend the holiday with.

33. Don’t send holiday cards this year if it is too sad or overwhelming.

34. Don’t feel guilty about not sending holiday cards!

35. Create a ‘dear photograph’, with a photo of a holiday past.

36. Skip or minimize gifts.  After a death, material things can seem less meaningful and the mall can seem especially stressful.  Talk as a family and decide whether you truly want to exchange gifts this year.

37. Put out a photo table with photos of your loved one at holiday celebrations in the past.


38. Go to a grief group.  When everyone looks so gosh-darn filled with holiday cheer, sometimes it is helpful to talk with others who are struggling.

39. Skip (or minimize) the decorations if they are too much this year.  Don’t worry, you’ll see plenty of decorations outside your house.

40. Don’t feel guilty if you skip or minimize the decorations!

41. Remember that crying is okay.  The holidays are everywhere and who knows what may trigger a cry-fest.  We’ve all been there and it is okay to cry (even if you are in the sock aisle at Target).

42. Volunteer in your loved one’s memory.

43. Let your perfectionism go.  If you always have the perfect tree, perfectly wrapped gifts, and perfect table, accept that this year may not be perfect and that is a-okay.  I know this is easier said than done for you type-As, but give it a try.

44. Ignore people who want to tell you what you “should” do for the holiday.  Listen to yourself, trust yourself, communicate with your family, and do what works for you.

45. Seek gratitude.  I am the queen of holiday funks, so I know this is tough.  But try to find one daily gratitude throughout the holiday season.  Write it down, photograph it, share it on facebook.  Whatever.  Just look for the little things.  Here are some tips if you’re struggling with it.

46. Watch the food.  Food can make us feel better in the short term (damn you, dopamine!) until we feel like crap later that we ate that whole tin of holiday cookies.  Don’t deprive yourself, but be careful that you don’t let food become your holiday comfort.

47. Watch the booze.  Alcohol can become a fast friend when we are grieving. If that holiday party is getting to be too much, head home instead of to the open bar.

48. If you are stressed about making the holiday dinner, ask someone else to cook or buy dinner this year.

49. If you are stressed about the crowds at the mall, cut back on gifts or do your shopping online.

50. Splurge on a gift for you. Grief can make us feel a little entitled and self-involved, and that is okay sometimes (within reason, of course).  Splurge on a holiday gift for yourself this year, And make it a good one!

51. Say yes to help.  There will be people who want to help and may offer their support.  Take them up on their offers.

52. Ask for help.  If people aren’t offering, ask.  This can be super-hard if it isn’t your style, but it is important.  Asking others to help with cooking, shopping, or decorating can be a big relief.

53. Have a moment of silence during your holiday prayer or toast in memory of your loved one.


54. Donate a holiday meal to a family in need through a local church, salvation army, or department of social services.

55. Identify the people who will be able to help and support you during the holidays and identify who may cause you more stress.  Try to spend more time with the former group and less with the latter.

56. Make some quiet time for yourself.  The holidays can be hectic, make quiet time for yourself to journal, meditate, listen to music, etc.

57. Practice self-care.  I know, how cliché.  But it is true – whatever it is that helps you recharge, do it.  You can find some self-care tips here.

58. Support kids by doing a memorial grief activity together.

59. Donate altar flowers or other holiday decorations at your place of worship in memory of your loved one.

60. Prioritize and don’t overcommit.  When the holidays are filled with so many parties, dinners, and events, save your energy for those that are most important. Look at everything you have to do and rank them in order of importance.  Plan for the most important and skip the rest.

61. Make a list and check it twice.  Grief makes it harder for us to concentrate and remember things.  When you have a lot going on at the holidays, make a list even if you aren’t usually a list-maker, and write things on the calendar.

62. Skip it.  Really.  If you just can’t face the holiday it is okay to take a break this year.  Before you get to this extreme, consider if you could just simplify your holiday.  If you do skip, still make a plan.  Decide if you will still see friends or family, go see a new movie, or make another plan.

63. Enjoy yourself! The holidays will be tough, but there will also be love and joy.

64. Remember, it is okay to be happy – this doesn’t diminish how much you love and miss the person who isn’t there this holiday. Don’t feel guilty for the joy you do find this holiday season.


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115 Comments on "64 Tips for Coping with Grief at the Holidays"

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  1. Coleen Murphy  December 2, 2013 at 11:48 am Reply

    My brother was killed in an auto accident that left our family reeling for a very long time. As we have moved through our grief one thing stands out to me: We have not taken a family picture since his death. It has been 9 years since his passing and I think it is time we have that done.

    Another thing, as I type this, is that I don’t think I have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” in its entirety in those 9 years. It was just about a year before his death that my four siblings all admitted to owning that video and watching every Christmas season, without each other knowing about it. The last years of my brother’s life were full of love and he was happiest in that life than I had ever known him to be before. He touched many people and life would not be what it is today if he were not to have been a part of mine and I miss him.

    • B. Hunt  December 9, 2016 at 9:00 am Reply

      Appreciate this list

  2. Alison  December 3, 2013 at 9:39 am Reply

    Thanks for this! As we did with the “Back to School” post, we thank you for giving us permission to share with our families who are coping with loss. Your posts are always so helpful. Thank you for what you do.

    Alison Sayers
    Hospice of St. Mary’s Bereavement Volunteer

  3. Litsa  December 3, 2013 at 9:43 am Reply

    Thanks Alison! We are so glad that you find the content helpful and worth sharing with your families.

  4. Kathy  December 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm Reply

    These are very helpful suggestions. Just reading them got me crying and laughing to think of all the things I should/could share with loved ones. I lost my youngest son and his girlfriend to vehicular homicide on 11/13/11. It’s only been two years and we all still miss them terribly. I will be using many of these points of advice to help myself and the rest of the family to make this a happy holiday indeed.

  5. Katherine  December 3, 2013 at 3:14 pm Reply

    Maybe you can all watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” together and take note as a group of parts that remind you of your brother. Even if everyone is in tears.

  6. Becky Christensen  December 4, 2013 at 6:48 am Reply

    I stumbled across your website from a friend who posted the original “64 Things I wish someone would have told me about grief” on FB. Thank you so much for your insights on that list as well as this one about the Holidays. My husband of 27 years, passed away on Dec. 19th, 2006. Needless to say, the Holidays can be treacherous waters to wade through. His funeral was 2 days before Christmas, so we kind of wrote that one off. The next year I took my three kids to Disneyland. We had a wonderful time having fun. He would have liked that very much. This year marks year 7 and I will take 2 of my grown kids, who will be visiting me, to the Hard Rock Cafe. He was a lover of Rock and Roll, so it seems fitting. I’ve learned to do unconventional things, if that’s what I feel like doing. That sometimes gets a rise from the other family members, but I’ve learned it’s not about them. The years come and go, we laugh, we cry, we love, we fight, and in the end, we are still his family. Although the pain seems to sit inside my pocket everywhere I go, I sometimes embrace it, sometimes let it sit for awhile and sometimes just smile and remember the good times we shared.

  7. Diana  December 4, 2013 at 11:22 pm Reply

    I lost two sons in 2006 … One was 32 the other was 28 … They died 4 months apart … I still grieve … I think a part of me always will … But we still do holiday’s … We do them differently … These are excellent suggestions …

    • Sarah Surgenor  December 2, 2016 at 7:28 pm Reply

      I lost my daughter 2001 my son 2015 so hard to cope ,one didn’t want to stay ,the other was so ill

      • Sa  December 2, 2016 at 7:32 pm

        I lost my daughter 2001 my son 2015 so hard to cope ,one didn’t want to stay ,the other was so ill

  8. Kathy Rez  December 8, 2013 at 12:13 am Reply

    My husband died suddenly near the end of September last year. With two kids and two family’s traditions to deal with during the holidays which seemed to arrive in rapid succession, I’m finding this year’s holidays harder to deal with than last year. Maybe I was still in shock. Maybe not knowing how I was going to feel made it easier. All I know for sure is that I’m praying that everyone will still be understanding even though “The First Year” is over. “The Second Year” stinks, too!

    • Katherine Kitts  December 6, 2016 at 8:26 am Reply

      I lost my great granddaughter on Oct 14, 2016 she was just 3 months old! It has been unbearable SIDS is so unexpected. She was health happy and so precious! I didn’t get the time I thought I would have with her! I live in Ohio they live in Tennessee! Not only did we loose her but her mother my granddaughter is having such a very hard time she doesn’t know how to cope with her death. I thank God she has a seven year old son who needs her and he keeps her going. I don’t know how to help them or what to say. With no family close to her she is feeling abandoned and alone to deal with this tragedy! I want so to help her and to see her smile as she remembers her baby!

  9. Litsa  December 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm Reply

    Absolutely. In December of last year things were probably still surreal for you and your kids. Hopefully others will be understanding that the holidays will still be difficult, not just this year, but probably over the next few years. The pain of the holidays never fully goes away for many grievers. I hope you guys are able to find some ways to make the holiday just a little bit easier this year and for the years to come.

  10. Nicola  December 10, 2013 at 4:24 pm Reply

    My husband of 19 1/2 years was murdered on 4/12/2012 and the trial of his murderer begins in 75 days. I still struggle through the day to day stuff. Our three daughters (21,21, & 18) were all scattered last Christmas, me in England, girls in three different states and I ignored it. My husband loved Christmas, he was a big kid at heart and we established many, many traditions. I can’t do any of them. This year, our youngest and I are going to visit friends in Hawaii (we live in Alaska) for three weeks. Christmas on the beach will be as far away from our family traditions as we can possibly get. I gave my self permission to stop participating back in April of last year.

  11. Claudia  December 11, 2013 at 7:49 pm Reply

    Second Christmas without Bob for me – first Christmas and all holidays I think I was just numb – went thru the motions – some things I don’t even remember – this year it is all so real – a year of reflecting and remembering and learning to do – but he does still live in my heart and thru the memories we shared and that helps bring a warmth into my heart – stories we tell and smiles we share of him. I smile because he was a part of my life and it was a good life….

  12. Kathy Rez  December 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm Reply

    Claudia – I feel the same way. The stories are so important. I keep reminding people that they don’t have to be afraid to share since many think they will upset me. I love hearing the stories, and so do the kids.

  13. Pam  December 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm Reply

    I lost my husband of 28 years on July 10th 2013, he got cancer and was gone in 3 weeks…I had no idea people could die that fast. I have 3 children 28,22,19 still at home and I am so happy about that. We haven’t lived near family since 1988 so being alone for Christmas is something we have done several times, we all agree we still want to have our Happy hour Christmas eve and Movie day on Christmas, I think my husband would be proud of us.

  14. Eleanor  December 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm Reply

    Pam, I’m sorry your family is facing your first holiday season without your husband. I’m sure he will be missed greatly is so many ways. How wonderful it is that your children will all be home with you, I know it won’t be easy for anyone but at least having each other helps a bit. I am sure your husband would have been proud of you all and BTW that Happy hour Christmas Eve sounds fabulous!!

  15. John Whitley  December 16, 2013 at 12:35 pm Reply

    Death is a life event and to that purpose I am encouraged and strengthened by the thoughts of Maya Angelou:
    “Courage is the most important of all virtues. Because if you haven’t courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others.” Maya Angelou

  16. Carolyn  December 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm Reply

    This will be the first Christmas since our youngest son was killed in an auto accident that the whole family will be together. He died in March of 2002. We have the added blessing of 2 grandchildren added to the mix and we are flying across the country to make this happen. There will be some sadness but the overall feeling will be one of joy and gratitude. God bless all the grieving souls this Christmas! <3

  17. WANDA MIDDLETON  December 24, 2013 at 12:25 am Reply


  18. Litsa  December 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm Reply

    Oh, I am so sorry about the loss of your mom and that they holidays have been so tough. I love that you made a cake. I have always found baking to be really comforting. I actually wrote a post earlier this year about making my dad’s favorite cake to make myself feel better around the anniversary of when my dad died: https://whatsyourgrief.com/grief-and-baking-a-cake/. Last year I planned to make my grandmother’s holiday cookies, but I failed! I did end up doing something cool with her old recipes, which actually ended up being really comforting. https://whatsyourgrief.com/recreating-and-remembering-family-recipes-and-epic-fail/

  19. susan gray  January 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm Reply

    My world came crashing down all around me on March 7, 2004. When I lost my ONLY two children and (my best friend) my ex- husband and his new wife of only two years. When they were ALL killed in a horrific car accident involving a tractor trailer that actually ran over top of them. My daughter was 10 and my son was 6 at the time of there passing. Even though it has been 10 years and we had to deal with court also, he was convinced and spent 4 years in prison. That is alot more to this case then I’m letting you know at least at this time. It would take me a long time to explain and not sure that I have enough space to tell you all of it any way. I have a hard time with all of the holidays because of their age, I guess. But their favorites where from Halloween through new years… So there for those are the toughest for me, I have tried alot if your suggestions, but for the most part you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feeling’s so you just put that mask on that I’m sure that everyone is familiar with… I have worn this mask just about everyday for 10 years just wondering if anyone can help me take it off and keep it off and hopefully throw it away… Thank you for listening to my story…

    • Anne  December 22, 2016 at 9:26 pm Reply

      I’m so sorry for your loss Susan. That is terrible. Praying for you during this season.

  20. Stevens mom  July 27, 2014 at 2:19 am Reply

    Help? Lost my 2nd son on Jan. 2nd of this year. Youngest son will be stationed overseas by thanksgiving. Do not want to spend Christmas at home with missing two family members. husband and young daughter are open to being away but what if I have to have a plan b due to finances??? And what do I do on the anniversary of my son’s death?? Please advise?

  21. Ann Pasko  November 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm Reply

    My husband died 4 months ago, we were married 45 years, I don’t want christmas this year and I’ve told all my family, some think i should just try, but I want no tree or anything as i have so many memories tied into putting up the tree. My children are grown and understand and say mom do just what you can. I still cry every day and night, I have no idea yet what christmas day will be like, I said I’m staying home alone, I feel if my husband can’t have christmas then i don’t want it either.

  22. Robert C. Peurifoy  November 26, 2014 at 9:40 pm Reply

    Thank you for all these suggestions. My wife and I have already considered some of them. Our only son died unexpectedly just 6 weeks ago. My Mom died this past February. He was only 26 and the picture of health. He was a diabetic and died of diabetic coma. My Mom was 90 and had Alzheimer’s the last 9 years. She’s been gone for a long time. I am overwhelmed over my son. I have been a Pastor for 39 years and my wife is the Chaplain for our local hospice. Over the years I’ve done dozens of death notifications, over 600 funerals, and a number of murders. My wife and I have worked all this time helping others. Part of our problem is we know all the questions. But we also know there are no answers. Since our sons death only one friend has been in our home. PIeople wanted to “bring us a meal” and then leave. I finally told them we would rather go out and be with people. I am on medical leave from the Pastorate but continue ministry out of my home, which makes me isolated. I’m very lonely. Went out and volunteered with a Christmas gift program today. It was just too much wrapping presents for children. I just kept thinking about my son. He was full of life, loved the outdoors, left a trail of friends everywhere he lived. I have few friends. Tomorrow my small family will gather. There are only 7 of us. Neither my sister or brother had children. We will be with our daughter, eating at a public restaurant. I don’t have the energy to do more than the usual chores. On top of this I’m on medical leave for bipolar disorder. For the last several years I’ve been stable and am afraid this will set off a major depressive episode. Next week I will be seeing both my Psychiatrist and Psychologist. I need to be around people, but then I feel over whelmed. I’m not mad at God but am mad that my son didn’t take care of his diabetes. He didn’t call 911 as a previous episode had left him in serious debt. He didn’t want any more debt.
    Sorry to ramble, just need to talk. This web site was referred to me and I appreciate the suggestions and help. Thank you.

    • Litsa  November 26, 2014 at 11:45 pm Reply

      Robert, there are no words and no easy answers to healing grief, as I am sure you and your wife well know. That said, connecting with others can be incredibly important. If you are feeling isolated alone, consider a group for parents who have lost children. It is a great way to mot only meet other people, but to meet others who have similar losses. Art and creative expression can be another way to express the complex emotions of grief, especially if you have some time of that you can dedicate to exploring these sorts of expression.

  23. Linda  December 3, 2014 at 1:38 pm Reply

    My husband of 33 years, passed away in October of this year. Sometimes I don’t feel like there is enough oxygen in the entire world for me to breathe. Not only do you have to deal with the grief of loosing my husband, but it’s the realization that I am now the only person do deal with life. I am sick, with just a cold, but it’s the first time in my adult life there is no one. No one to go to the store, no one to ask if I am feeling better, and yet I keep going. I sound like I am whining, and the truth is, I am. I HATE cancer, I hate I am alone, I hate the holidays are here and there is an empty seat that no one can fill…and I hate that I am not happy. My soul, my heart, my being is empty. These things help, if not for me, those who around me. Thanks for posting.

  24. liz Adam  December 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm Reply

    My 22 yr old Bobby was killed in 2012 This holiday will be the 3 rd since his passing His birthday is Dec 22 I just can’t seem to stop the abyss of despair I was hoping to do better this year but totally not feeling it

  25. Susan  December 14, 2014 at 6:56 pm Reply

    My husband of 37 years died 6 weeks ago today. I found your site today as I was looking for some ideas on how to cope. Some of the things you suggested I’ve done. My husband Loved Christmas – he was the biggest kid of all. I knew right away that this holiday would be a challenge. I tried going to a Christmas concert with my brother and his wife. I thought it would help but it made it worse. I’ve minimized what I do but have 3 young grandchildren and for them I need to make the holidays good. I will spend the days around Christmas at my children’s homes which will help some. I still cry endless amounts every day. Thank you for this site and the chance to share.

  26. Nikki  January 14, 2015 at 6:27 am Reply

    I lost my Great Grandpa in Feb 2010. He was my hero. Then in July of 2010, I became a widow. I was 25 and had to learn how to be a single mother to 2 beautiful children. Long story short I got engaged to be married in 2012. My fiance lost both of his grandmothers and his Mother in 2013. His mom was like my mom , we were very close. So I just hlt a new house and things are finally going my way , I turned 30 this November and I thought this new year was going to be the one. I get the call from my aunt that I need to get 7 hours away ASAP. I made it time to say goodbye to my Nana , the woman who raised me and my whole family was in the room when we had to take her off of life support. It was mortifying. That was 12-20-2014
    On January 8th 2015 my grandpa lost his battle with kidney cancer. I did not make it in time to say goodbye and the guilt is eating me up. Not much helps me these days considering I have 2 services to attend 7 hours away and have to travel with 3 children and stay in a hotel. Stress, grief and anxiety don’t mix well. I’ve been staying busy with little projects,, such as painting, gardening, yard work, cleaning, arts and crafts, going to the shooting range and.hunting for aggots at the beach. The list was very nice and I will definitely use it for next years holiday . wish I would’ve seen this sooner.

  27. Anita  September 14, 2015 at 3:31 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for these ideas. I’m going to use them for this years holiday in honor of my mother. She passed in July 2013, and the battle with family members kept me from grieving. However, this year I will devote it to her memory. I miss her so much and still love her. She was the only family I had as all relations with my sisters stopped after my mother’s death.

  28. William Carroll  May 9, 2016 at 12:43 am Reply

    It has been 7 months since my daughter lost her boyfriend. He died in a fishing accident 1 week before their son was born. He was only 25 years old, and the nicest young man you would ever meet. The grief between the 2 families is astounding. We got through the holidays and New year’s Day which would have been his Birthday, but today is Mother’s Day and my daughter spent most of it in a chair in the family room sobbing. I am so depressed because I just don’t know what to say to her. As men we think our purpose is to fix and repair things, and that goes for all aspects of life, but I just can’t fix this and I feel like I am letting her down. I hate all the cliches like ” It will get better” or “Time will heal things” so I just pat her on the back and pray that she will get better. Thanks for all these postings.

  29. Marilyn  October 24, 2016 at 1:13 am Reply

    It was just this last August 8th, 2016, that my five year younger sister, Alycia, suddenly died. She had surgery two weeks before, but although recovery seemed to be going ahead very nicely, she suddenly had abdominal pain and severe nausea.
    Of course, she was transported back to the hospital, but there, things became worse and worse, even though valiant efforts were made. In our family, we had often spoken of “what kind of death would we want?” By that, do we want every effort to continue by the medical staff, or do we want to stop those efforts (DNR) and be allowed to die on our own. Every one of us said to all the others, we want to die on our own if medical attempts to help were not successful. We promised each other that our wishes would be granted. Her wishes were granted. I am now 77, my sister, was 72. Frankly, I expected to be the one to go first, but that is not how it ended. Perhaps the grief of adult sister (or brothers) can be overlooked and not thought of as important as those of married couples and siblings. We had association and friendship since our young childhoods, gone through difficult times together, and even like Alycia and me, recently shared a home together. So now, the house is deafeningly silent, unless I’m talking to myself, have the TV on or visiting friends have stopped by. Yes, grief is present, and lots of tears as well. (I should own stock in the tissue company! 🙂 My sister’s absence is sometimes overwhelming, at other times it is more subtle, but it is still there. I also feel the financial crunch of being the only one trying to keep our home, paying bills, making repairs, etc. I do not want to move, but in time, it may become inevitable. So, when you see a surviving brother or sister, give them a hug. I do miss hugs and being touched. I keep recent pictures of her throughout the house, she makes me smile…and that is good. Being around more than three quarters of a century does have its advantages. I have been on the “grief train” many times, I know what my pattern is like, how I react and that I will survive. I will not push myself to do things by anyone elses schedule, I will allow time to laugh and cry, time to reflect with joy and sadness, and give my aging body time to rest. She was a great sister, fun to be with, compassionate, and most of all, a dear, dear “real” friend.

    • Litsa  October 31, 2016 at 10:38 pm Reply

      Ah Marilyn, I am so sorry for the death of your sister. If you haven’t seen it already you may want to check out our post on grieving the death of a sibling. This is such a devastating loss that, as you mention, is all too often overlooked by others. You can check out the link here: https://www.whatsyourgrief.com/death-of-a-sibling/

  30. miley Edith  November 8, 2016 at 7:02 am Reply

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  31. anne  November 21, 2016 at 7:49 pm Reply

    this will be our first holiday without my son. He passed in jan. of this year. we will be doing things differently and will try to enjoy those family and friends we will be celebrating with. my son was 36 years old and he took his own life. we do have an angel among us and that is our first grandchild, a little boy. he has helped us all through this hard time.

  32. Debra P  December 6, 2016 at 2:58 pm Reply

    How hard it is to cope this time of year. Lost my 23 year old granddaughter in July due to the negligence of the driver of a tractor trailor. We raised she and her twin brother since they were 4 so seems more like losing a daughter. One thing that has helped has been joining a prayer group at out church. Praying for others has helped my own healing process. It is still hard to live with self imposed guilt and regret, the woulda,shoulda, coulda’s. It is hard to come to grips that as parents or loved ones this is something we can’t “fix”. All we can do is be here for each other.

  33. Claudia Claypoole  December 8, 2016 at 9:25 am Reply

    It will 1 year on December 9, 2015 since our daughter Audrey was welcomed to her heavenly home. It has been a difficult year without her. I have coped with the loss of a sister, a Dad and a Mom but the loss of our daughter is just overwhelming. I can be OK and suddenly break into tears as I am doing now. Audrey brought so much to our family. She was the 3rd of 4 children and she was in the center of all our lives in various ways. She left behind a husband and a daughter 22 years old. I think so often of all the things a Mom and daughter share and it grieves me that my granddaughter will not have this. I could go on and on of all that I am feeling but the result is all the same, a very empty hole in my life.

  34. Rebekah Keizer  December 8, 2016 at 12:19 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for this post on handling grief during the holidays. It is meaty but easy to read. I am a life coach and wrote a post about coping with loss through the holidays. https://www.rklifecoach.com/coping-with-loss-during-the-holidays/ I really appreciate being able to link to you post in post to give my clients additional resources. Thank you!

  35. Lisa  December 10, 2016 at 12:26 pm Reply

    My sister/bestfriend took her life Christmas of 2014. It feels awkward to celebrate.

    • Carol  December 10, 2016 at 7:00 pm Reply

      Out of the Darkness walks assist in the healing. I’ve volunteered for the past 9 years and it helped my husband in the healing of his sister’s suicide. One of the biggest walks is here in Va Beach, VA. Please visit the website!

  36. Carol  December 10, 2016 at 6:57 pm Reply

    Thank you for these suggestions. My husband died in April. Thanksgiving was numbing. Our anniversary is Christmas Eve. We were married for 33 years. I’ve had a good week since April , but the depths of despair are evident again. Thanks for the suggestions. It justifies my actions during Thanksgiving and will alleviate the guilt in staying in the comfort of my home this Christmas. God bless you!

  37. Pam  December 10, 2016 at 10:20 pm Reply

    I lost my sister this June. Two days after my grandson was born.. She was so happy for me. I miss her so much. I was so list most of the summer. My boyfriend said I had to remember the good times and how my grandson was sunshine she brought me before she died. On the nite of her 3rd month since pasted I cried to my boyfriend Bob how much I missed her. The next day Bob call me and we made dinner plans. As I went to his home things felt different. I went in and thought it was quite. Usually he greeted me. I went upstairs and found him on the floor. He was already gone. We talked of death the night before. I never got to tell him how much I loved him and how happy he made me. We were just starting to rebuild a life as we are older. It was memorial day weekend for my sister and Labor Day weekend for Bob. I am trying to be positive for Christmas with my new Grandson. Bob told me not to let death linger on and think of all the good times and never forget. I’m trying to be strong like he told me that last nite we talked. As I write this I know he is saying, live on through me and be strong. I’m trying. May there be peace and love through this holiday for all who are grieving. And remember to cherish your memories. Happy Holidays,. Pam

  38. Pam Bom  December 10, 2016 at 10:23 pm Reply

    I lost my sister this June. Two days after my grandson was born.. She was so happy for me. I miss her so much. I was so list most of the summer. My boyfriend said I had to remember the good times and how my grandson was sunshine she brought me before she died. On the nite of her 3rd month since pasted I cried to my boyfriend Bob how much I missed her. The next day Bob call me and we made dinner plans. As I went to his home things felt different. I went in and thought it was quite. Usually he greeted me. I went upstairs and found him on the floor. He was already gone. We talked of death the night before. I never got to tell him how much I loved him and how happy he made me. We were just starting to rebuild a life as we are older. It was memorial day weekend for my sister and Labor Day weekend for Bob. I am trying to be positive for Christmas with my new Grandson. Bob told me not to let death linger on and think of all the good times and never forget. I’m trying to be strong like he told me that last nite we talked. As I write this I know he is saying, live on through me and be strong. I’m trying. May there be peace and love through this holiday for all who are grieving. And remember to cherish your memories. Happy Holidays,. Pam

  39. Melodie Boone  December 17, 2016 at 12:14 pm Reply

    I just found your site and thanks for the suggestion. We lost our only daughter 10 years, December 23rd. Our lives have found solace in our precious memories and just knowing that she isn’t suffering from cancer anymore. She was only seventeen when she died…it was heartbreaking. But I wanted to share with everyone, don’t allow anyone to tell you how long, or when to greive. Your grief will be a part of you for a very long time. But in saying that I must say this…give yourself permission TO LIVE. Yes, your heart is broken. Yes, there will be days you don’t want to do anything but cry. But give yourself permission to live again. Go outside and enjoy anything that gives you pleasure…the blue sky, the falling leaves, the grass, anything…find comfort in anything that will allow your heart and your mind to enjoy again. It will take time, but it will get better. Will your heart heal completely, I doubt it. But you can live a productive and loving life again…if you only give it a chance. I have the love of my husband and my two sons…it is perfect…no, Britt isn’t here. But I have decided to put grief in its proper perspective and I have decided that I want to live. I will live a life and I will give myself permission to love my family, to love my life and to love the memories of my precious girl. I miss her so…and yes, there are days, even after ten years, that are filled with tears. This Christmas season give yourself the best gift you can give yourself, and that is to live a life that would bless your departed loved one. Give yourself a life of love, forgives, happiness and peace. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all. Blessings, Melodie
    Remembering Brittany Kiara Boone April 14, 1989-December 23, 2006

    • Linda Drochmann  December 7, 2017 at 2:41 pm Reply

      Thank you. I found comfort in your inspiring words. My husband died a year ago and it’s tough, he was a gorgeous tough Aussie who was an inspiration to me in how he handled his illness, with quiet unassuming courage so I’m trying to be tough too and live the way he would want me to. He sends me messages and I believe yours was one of them. Thank you,. Linda

    • JD  November 21, 2018 at 4:51 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing. I am searching for ways to support my boyfriend this holiday season. His son took his life last February and it is devastating to him. I know the holidays will be especially difficult for him and his other children. He feels like he is just existing from day to day and can no longer find joy in life; only brief moments of happiness here and there. And when he does have those moments of happiness, the guilt sinks in. I miss the vibrant, fun loving and charismatic man I fell in love with. I want to be sympathetic to his pain but also want to encourage him to move forward so that he can enjoy life. It is such a fine line for me to walk. If you have any suggestions on how I can support him through these coming months, I would love to hear them. I love this man dearly…with all my heart. Although I haven’t lost a child, his pain is my pain. I want us all to live a full life again and have hope for a happy future together.

      • Chris  November 23, 2018 at 10:45 pm

        I am so sorry for the loss of your boyfriend’s son. My 29 year old son battled bipolar disorder for nine years and I attended support groups for persons who love someone with mental illness and to learn coping skills for themselves while supporting their loved one. Being surrounded by those who understand your grief/troubles is a tremendous help so if your boyfriend feels he can reach out to find an organization in his local area that has resource, he may find his way to some peace. My son died from sudden cardiac arrest on September 4th this year, and I have a lot of anger at God for taking my son when his life was going fairly well after all the struggles these past nine years. I am in grief counseling through a resource, and, I am finding some relief each time I go. My grief counselor guides me to a different way of thinking about things, as I have guilt that I didn’t push my son to take better care of his health. We don’t know if he had a heart problem, nothing from any medical throughout his life showed this, so it’s really hard to process. I am speaking with someone who has lost a child also, so she can understand my pain as a parent. May you all find some joy in the holidays. We hosted Thanksgiving, as we always have, and it was hard, but we did have a peaceful day and being surrounded by family was a tremendous blessing. I am just posting my personal experience and how I am trying to find help for my grief.

      • JD  December 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm

        Thank you so much, Chris for sharing your experience. I am so so sorry for your loss. I can relate to your anger toward God. This tragedy has damaged so many lives and I struggle to understand the purpose. I have been a believer my entire life. As such, I feel that I know who God is. I know he is loving, merciful, good, faithful, just, and generous. I have also come to realize that although I know God, I will never understand God. The Bible tells us that his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. At times this frustrates me and then I realize that if I really understood God, it would mean that I was as wise as he is and I don’t want to serve a God who is my equal. He is God, and I am not. I hate suffering. I hate the damage that untimely death inflicts on those left behind. And I am exhausted by all of the heartache. I pray one day in heaven we will all finally understand exactly what it all was for. Until then, I’ll continue to grow in my knowledge of who God is and who he wants me to be. May God continue to bless you and may you continue to grow in your knowledge of him.

  40. MaryCardamon  October 1, 2017 at 12:18 am Reply

    I have never been the same since my mom passed away in May of 2013. She has been gone 4and a half years now and I still cry everyday. I can’t wait to see her in heaven again someday.

    • Romelle Lysenko  October 29, 2017 at 4:30 pm Reply

      Mary, if the grief is so hard after 4 years you may be experiencing something called Complicated Grief. Please Google it, there is help for you to feel better. I wish you all the best.

    • Kathleen Sheedy  November 26, 2018 at 1:38 pm Reply

      I fully understand your situation and grief. I also cry over my mother’s 2016 passing. We grieve and cry for our loved ones, mothers, because we love them and formed a strong and positive core bond with them The loss of family love is grief. I posted, 2x, comments to anonymous, but consider the second one for you. I will pray for all of us grieving over the loss of family members.

  41. Jenny  October 11, 2017 at 5:30 pm Reply

    This is great! I lost my son Andy in 2011, he was 22. Each year gets harder, with last being the worst yet. We do several things on the list and will try some more this year:)

  42. Sue Nelson  November 30, 2017 at 12:00 am Reply

    Please inbox me more on grief

  43. Jackie cooper  December 10, 2017 at 5:33 am Reply

    Thank you for this it has changed my thinking and dragged me into a better more positive change of mind. I am volunteering over the Christmas period at the hospice, having a Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, I have bought a ring that my late husband would have loved me to have, I shall raise a glass of gin and tonic his favourite drink in his honour, and have decided to buy a living Christmas tree decorate it and then plant it in his memory in the garden where he would see it from his favourite chair. Bless you.

  44. Stephanie  December 14, 2017 at 9:51 pm Reply

    Before my mother died in February of this year, I spoke to her about leaving me ways of knowing she was still with me. I asked her to leave flower petals or leaves in the house and I would know she was there and with me always. I now have a mason jar filled with all the leaves we have found in bedrooms, in the cars, and in places where leaves don’t just blow in. It brings us all comfort to find those leaves and we are collecting them everyday. I’m so thankful that we have that connection to her now.

  45. Theresa  December 15, 2017 at 4:54 pm Reply

    I’ve never seen your website before. I lost my husband of 10 years on July 15, 2017. It was a second marriage for both of us and we felt that we knew each other for a long long time. As if everything was in place for us to be together to enjoy our lives. I’m 64. My husband was 68. We were so very very happy. We enjoyed the same things and looked at life the same way. We had such plans to enjoy our upcoming retirement back home where he was raised. I feel as if there is nothing left for me. The holidays mean nothing. All I want to do is cry. It doesn’t make a difference where I am or what I am doing. I miss him with all my heart and soul. I feel like an outsider looking in no matter what I do or where I am. Thanks for the suggestions. All I can say is I will try.

  46. DJ  December 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm Reply

    my husband passed 2 months ago and for the last 3.5 years he was terminally ill and although I feel I have been grieving his loss for that long, since he passed I just feel like I’m on an island alone. Even though I’m getting emotional support from various groups and individuals, I’m missing my beloved every minute of every day. Most people….they just don’t “get it”. I stay away from those people and stick with others who understand the experience.

    • Joe  November 22, 2018 at 12:37 pm Reply

      Thanks for your words. I share the same experience and feelings.

  47. Mendy Perry  December 22, 2017 at 9:21 pm Reply

    I lost my only daughter, Shea in August of 2011, she was 22. Nothing gets easier or less painful, actually just the opposite. I feel like I’m just existing going through life day by day, I have no motivation at all, I try hard, I really do, for her daughter, my beautiful granddaughter, it’s bittersweet. I get to raise her and my focus is on her and making sure she stays happy, she also lost her daddy a year and a half later from a motorcycle accident, poor thing, she has been through so much and hasn’t even begun to process it all. Anything I get from you I read it, sometimes over and over. The pain of course doesn’t get lighter, you just learn to adjust to each new day and do your best to get through it. I talk about Shea all the time, somehow it kinda makes me feel as though she’s still here. I know she’s not but it helps me. Holidays suck! Halloween and Christmas are Shea’s favorites, I guess I thought the world would stop when I lost her, like mine did, but it didn’t and hasn’t. I know, I ramble, I miss her terribly, I will give your list a try and do my best to stay positive. Please keep anything you have coming, I look forward to it

  48. Madeline Stewart  December 23, 2017 at 6:48 am Reply

    I lost a brother through a massive stroke just before Christmas 1983. He was only 46. At his funeral, the minister said something which I will never forget and which helped me to cope. He said that we need to respect the way a person chose to live his/her life. To me, that means to respect his karma. We need to do that for the living as well. If we know someone whose lifestyle is harming them, we can point out what could be the result of their choice, but if they continue, then, in my opinion, we have to respect their choice and not persevere in trying to change their karma, which could thereby negatively affect our own. I’m not saying we should not try to help, just that if they choose not to accept help, it’s OK to stand back but be ready to help if they later change their mind. Above all, I wish you all peace.

  49. Jackie Brickhouse  January 1, 2018 at 9:07 pm Reply

    We lost our son January 31,2017 and he was sixteen years old. He had a smile that would light up a room. I did many of the things on your list and we made it through Christmas. Everyday I think of hi I’m and wish he was here. But he is with God now and that was his plan. I don’t think it will ever get easier, you just have to learn to push forward for those still here and for yourself. I will see him again and I will always have him in my heart.

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  51. Brenda Kuhn  November 12, 2018 at 2:04 pm Reply

    This will be my first Christmas without my husband. He died January 11 2018 due to massive heart attack brought on by complications of diabetes. Our 3 adult children were with him all through the time he was admitted to hospital, January 6, till he passed. I know this will be hard but we have working through it. November 13 is his birthday. I’m going to try to get a cake for us in honor of him.

  52. Anonymous  November 23, 2018 at 1:11 pm Reply

    This is my first holiday without my beloved younger sister. Since our mother died, my sister and I always continued to share the holiday and make it meaningful. Now they are both gone, and I find myself dreading the holidays. When my sister died only 6 months ago, all joy went out of my life. We have another sibling, however she chose not to be in our lives for the last six years, never even sending a holiday card, or acknowledging any of our attempts to reach out to her in all of that time. For those first few years, my younger sister and I often spoke of how healing it would be if all three siblings could celebrate the holidays, and share memories of our mother in happier times. When it was evident there was no hope for that, my younger sister and I did our best to have a pleasant holiday anyway. The other sibling then returned briefly when she” indirectly” heard of my younger sister’s serious illness. She has a supportive husband who is there for her, and I am alone. This is the first time I will not celebrate holidays, because the best part of the holidays was having my sister and my mother to share them with. I am further saddened when others speak of their “plans,” and the TV portrays gleeful families gathering together in the glow of Christmas lights. I believe my mother and sister are together, but I miss them so much, and wonder why I was left here to go on without them. last year at this time my younger sister was managing her illness so well, and we had so much hope for her survival. How different things are this year. I used to be known as a very “festive” person, but like some other posters, I need time to myself this year, and that is not always a bad thing. Thank you for the suggestions.

    • Kathleen Sheedy  November 26, 2018 at 1:25 pm Reply

      I understand your situation and feelings. When my mother passed away summer 2016 I also lost my core original family. My brother is very similar to your other distant sister. No contact, no Christmas cards, or if I get one it comes in March so that he fully demonstrates that I do not have the tiniest place or value in his life. He shows up for the final illness for $$$$$.
      Here are some of my coping methods and I pray that one helps you:
      1. Create your own family. select your kindest and most understanding friends and have them as your honorary family. If you are up to it plan a slumber party, dine out, attend a concert or special event.
      2. Since my brother does not wish to bother with Mom or myself she”” adopted “celebrity sons-David Hyde Pierce, and Michael J. Fox. we created wonderful stories and inside jokes about them being the ideal son and brother figures. My husband even gave us theater tickets to see David Hyde Pierce in a Broadway play on mother’s day! He, being the wonderful guy we imagined, wished every audience mom a very happy mother’s day. My Mom, in her orchestra seat, believed that he was speaking directly to her. When I need a brother I go youtube and watch an interview of David and Michael J.. I say a quick prayer for them and express appreciation and gratitude for them. I would never actually bother them. My prayer for their health, happiness and gratitude for their lives lifts my mood.
      3. Use humor to help improve your mood. I watch the movie “Christmas Story” pink bunny outfit scene which always brings laughter and positive energy to my low Christmas spirit.
      4. Write a list of your favorite words and carry with you. If you need a quick relief from grief pull it out and read it
      5. I will help by praying you through this Christmas season. Please know someone cares and understands you

    • Kathleen Sheedy  November 26, 2018 at 1:27 pm Reply

      I understand your situation and feelings. When my mother passed away summer 2016 I also lost my core original family. My brother is very similar to your other distant sister. No contact, no Christmas cards, or if I get one it comes in March so that he fully demonstrates that I do not have the tiniest place or value in his life. He shows up for the final illness for $$$$$.
      Here are some of my coping methods and I pray that one helps you:
      1. Create your own family. select your kindest and most understanding friends and have them as your honorary family. If you are up to it plan a slumber party, dine out, attend a concert or special event.
      2. Since my brother does not wish to bother with Mom or myself she”” adopted “celebrity sons-David Hyde Pierce, and Michael J. Fox. we created wonderful stories and inside jokes about them being the ideal son and brother figures. My husband even gave us theater tickets to see David Hyde Pierce in a Broadway play on mother’s day! He, being the wonderful guy we imagined, wished every audience mom a very happy mother’s day. My Mom, in her orchestra seat, believed that he was speaking directly to her. When I need a brother I go youtube and watch an interview of David and Michael J.. I would never actually bother them. My prayer for their health, happiness and gratitude for their lives lifts my mood.
      3. Use humor to help improve your mood. I watch the movie “Christmas Story” pink bunny outfit scene which always brings laughter and positive energy to my low Christmas spirit.
      4. Write a list of your favorite words and carry with you. If you need a quick relief from grief pull it out and read it
      5. I will help by praying you through this Christmas season. Please know someone cares and understands you

  53. kristy  November 25, 2018 at 3:06 pm Reply

    Thank you for making this article. My best friend died December 11th 2016 and all holidays have sucked since. New Years, Christmas and her anniversary are so close together it makes me feel dizzy. This article made me laugh and cry. My First Christmas, terrible. Second one was somehow worse because I didn’t expect to feel just as bad as the year before. Third Christmas will be better I know I will be happy and sad and I’m ready for both. I’ll always miss our sleepovers during holidays, family dinners at my house and stealing a little more wine than we should have. All my friends are out of high school and we are going to have a Christmas dinner party. I can’t wait to be surrounded by friends and good times but I’m nervous for the moment I feel the empty spot she should fill. Some of these friends never met her! I hope as a friend of mine, they’re okay with a toast to her and some tears. I planted a Christmas tree for her one year but someone removed it!! I even decorated it and stuffed an ornament with a letter for her! This year I’m thinking a locket, a little bonsai for inside and some crafty diy presents for my living friends so they know I love them endlessly too. There will also be the annual memorial volleyball tournament for her at our old high school and since the immediate shock has finally settled down, I truly look forward to it and the little temporary tattoos with her initials on it!

  54. Ellie  November 28, 2018 at 4:11 am Reply

    I lost my Granddad on 24th December my dad on 23rd December and this year I have just lost my husband on the 3rd of this month. So I shall be making the biggest effort yet to enjoy Christmas. The reason I say this is because when we lose people we not only grieve but we realise how tenuous is our and our beloved ones hold on life and with this in mind is seems to me we should not waste one single opportunity to enjoy our treasured moments with loved ones.
    Of course my heart goes out to those with no one left and I feel we should all make an effort to include anyone like that in at least some of our celebrations (Only if they wish please don’t make anyone).

  55. HLL  December 3, 2018 at 7:56 pm Reply

    This will be my fourth holiday season since my wife died suddenly while sleeping. While I thought that time would make it easier, it does not. I have kept up a tradition we started many years ago hosting a Christmas Eve party, but each year I find it more difficult to decorate and plan. This year has been even more difficult because I have not been 100% physically either. I am ready to end the holiday season and just go away for the month of December, return on January 1 when it is over.

  56. Dave  December 5, 2018 at 5:45 am Reply

    My mom just passed in May of this year…..she chose to let go and stop Dyalisis. We sat by her day and night for 3 weeks tending her every need till she let go. Now its almost Christmas and its hitting me hard, as I have yet to really grieve as I had to be strong for others who couldn’t be. This was moms holiday….she loved Christmas and this year without her it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all.

    • Meredith Maville  December 20, 2018 at 1:14 am Reply

      * hugs* to you. I was in the exact same boat as you. So trust me your not alone. My mother died in June of this year. She was battalion a brain tumor that had turned into cancer n took her life 2yrs to the day. The last 3 weeks were hard taking care of her every need but I’m so happy I could do it. I also understand your struggle having to be the strong one for your family as I filled those shoes as well and continue to do so. Moms favorite holiday was Christmas as well so I haven’t been able to get into the spirit. Glad to know I’m not the only one 🙂

  57. Shannon Vogel  December 10, 2018 at 6:25 pm Reply

    Thank you for this post! Thank you for putting it in list form. Thank you for reiterating some of the points with the “don’t feel guilty” follow up points. Thank you for using sarcasm and humor. Thanks for keeping it real. Thank you for providing a tool to get me through one more day. Thank you for number 44. As a former blogger, great call on number 65. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  58. carmen  December 17, 2018 at 6:58 am Reply

    My only son passed away day after this Thanksgiving. He was 36 and passed peacefully in his sleep from sleap apnea (he didn’t like using his machine). We spent a beautiful Thanksgiving together and got to watch football and cuddle. The pain is overbearing. I can’t even imagine ever celebrating the Holidays again. I will keep this list for next year. This year husband and I plant to do no celebrating of any type we are just too heartbroken.

    • Pamela Gay Conley  November 25, 2019 at 12:22 am Reply

      My sweet boy David, passed away from Pnumonia at 7:28 pm on December 17th 2018. He was 33. I, my older son and my daughter had to drive to Everett Washington to turn off his life support. The ICU and Pallative doctor told us he would never be off the ventator or feeding tube if he woke up. We knew he wouldn’t want to live like that so we allowed him to go to Heaven with Jesus. The next day was my daughter’s 31st birthday. We stayed in Everett for 8 days to settle things and set up his cremation. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. He was single, no girlfriend or children. He was living in a special group home for mental illness and Prader Willie Syndrome. I find I have no desire to decorate for Christmas or even celebrate it. His ashes wouldn’t all fit in the state urn for the mausoleum so I put as much of him as I could into the vault and kept the rest. Later, I saved some out to put into the Pacific Ocean when I go to see my dad, placed some in the river in Montana where he loved to fish snd took some to Boston where my daughter lived. We took them to Reventor Beach in Massachusetts and sprinkled them in the Atlantic Ocean. You see, because of his weight and cronic illnesses, he was unable to travel, so I took him all around the country. I saved a small amount of ashes to have blown into a piece of blown glass jewelry and have a small urn with his ashes inside. This will be the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without him, without his sweet voice telling me he loved me. I do miss him so very much and the grief has been so overwhelming! It is going to be very painful this year.

  59. Jo  December 19, 2018 at 6:02 am Reply

    Thank you for your article it made me feel sane, after getting over whelmed at the mall today I had to leave without getting what I needed. It’s almost as bad as the first month after my husband passed in June, when I couldn’t take the added stimulation of even just going for coffee. I was doing really well in months five and stuff six, but despite cutting back on heaps of xmas stuff, no decorations, just the spiritual things really, it’s still getting to me. I feel totally exhausted. The in-laws are no help, they just carry on as normal.

  60. Louise  December 21, 2018 at 4:50 pm Reply

    My dad passed away very suddenly when I was younger and my mum became ill this year with cancer and passed away only a few weeks after she was diagnosed. I found myself having lost both parents by the age of 30. I have an older brother but have not seen or spoken to him in around 4 years. He also refused to see my mum, even when she was very seriously ill in hospital he wouldn’t answer any calls or come to see her in her final hours. It would have meant so much to her. He only lives a couple of minutes from the hospital where she died. He wouldn’t answer either when my aunt and uncle both called and texted to tell him that she had passed away and he didn’t come to the wake or funeral. I was left having to organise these things entirely by myself and many people were asking me where he was so it made things even more difficult. The first I heard from him after she died, and the first contact he’s made with me in 4 years was a text message telling me to forward on some post that he had got delivered to her house.
    This year I’m really struggling to cope with the run up to Christmas. It’s the first time I’ll be on my own for the day; it’s hard to believe my once-happy family of 4 has reduced to just me. I of course have received a couple of well meaning invitations but I really don’t want to intrude on someone else’s family celebrations or be under any pressure to put on a front. I plan to take my dog out for a long walk, watch tv and just allow myself to grieve. I’m sure the run up is worse than the day itself. I’ve been through grief before, albeit as a teenager, so I know it will eventually get easier but right now it seems so unfair. My friends will be sharing their Christmases with parents, siblings, even grandparents. I’d never ever wish for any of them to lose any family member, but I can’t help but feel hard done by when I’ve lost so many.

    • Lynn  December 24, 2018 at 10:39 pm Reply

      Hi Louise – Your comment struck a chord with me. I lost my older brother at the end of September and have another brother and mother who are still alive. I am unmarried with no children so my family of 5 is now down to 3 and my other brother informed me that he wasn’t celebrating Christmas anymore. Since September I have been dealing on my own with my brother’s estate and his apartment (he was mentally ill so the apartment was a nightmare). My other brother didn’t seem to care and didn’t help with anything and is now going it alone at Christmas. I find Christmas hard at the best of times and this year it is non-existent. I can’t even talk to my mother as she is elderly and seems so disconnected.

      I finally came to the conclusion that you have to do what you can do to nurture yourself through this difficult time. Christmas is hard on everybody at some point in their lives and this is your time so do what you need to comfort yourself and know it will get better with time. Have a blessed Christmas and know you are loved.

    • Dana  December 21, 2019 at 9:19 am Reply

      I hope this year is finding you much better than last. As I read your frustration and grief I find myself with similar disbelief in the actions or lack thereof from my siblings since my Pop’s very recent passing. Their answer as to why they didn’t visit was they wanted to remember Mom the way she was when they where children. As you see I’m the baby by 15-11year difference in ages, so the 3 oldest were one family then me 11years later. Oops. Now Pop has passed and they are all still amazingly too busy and keeping up childhood memories. Curious if you at least got a lame excuse? I’m very very sorry you were left alone during this hard time and to make matters worse holiday season. Sorry for the loss of your parents too. It doesn’t matter how old you get, it still feels like you’re an orphan, lost, raw, and bare.

  61. Barb  December 22, 2018 at 5:44 pm Reply

    Wehave a family of seven. Our 34 year old son passed away in a jeep accident 2 and a half years ago. But we still say we have five kids. People said in losing a child, just get through the year of firsts. I made a special effort to change things up. I have my sons stocking and write a memory in it every Christmas, it hangs along side everyone else’s at Christmas. I took his birthday off work, looking through pics, mementoes, laughed, , cried and talked about him all day the first year.

    I realized that I thought year two would be easier and when I made it through that year, for me I realized it was harder than year one. People tried to tell me things would never be the same. I guess now I understand that..(and I had lost a brother at 19, one at 57 and parents and friends). Never did I go through all the “stages of grief” before this. Grief was no stranger to me.

    So to encourage you, I would say, go ahead and cry. You have to work through it, the way only you can. Don’t ever feel like you have to let go of your loved one.They will always be a part of you. Try not to be morbid, open the windows and let some sun shine in if you recognize yourself slipping into depression. I scared myself a few times when I seriously could not muster up any emotion or feel anything. I couldn’t even pretend to be ok. . I will say, music helped me a lot. But finally there came a day, the sad melancholy songs did not resonate anymore.

    Today, I am trying to get ready for my Christmas without Thad here, we’ve cut back on some traditions, eliminating pressure. Will I be thinking of Thad, the question is not will I, rather when won,t I. I have kids and grandkids that have yet to live there lives and a lot to look forward to, so I try not to let my missing him sink me!

    I remind myself a lot of the day after my sons funeral, looking down from a bench close by was the grave of a baby that had not lived one day! I instantly gave thanks that I got 34 years with my son! We have no guarantees how many days we get to share, as time goes on I try to remember to live good, even when it hurts.
    Many placating things are said by well meaning people, I hope this does not sound trite. I hope you can hold on for brighter days! I say this with a heart full of hope for you freind, and eyes full of tears!

    • Lynne  April 21, 2019 at 8:22 pm Reply

      Thank you for sharing this Barb. I lost my 38 year old Son a little more then a month ago. I can’t even think straight and I’m doing the best I can. I have a Daughter, and my Son had a Fiancé and two step children. Today (Easter), I didn’t cook, we went out (that’s new for me) but now I’m in the place where my heart is breaking.
      Your words let me know that I’m not alone, that I will never forget him, and that I will make it.

    • Wendy  September 18, 2019 at 11:17 am Reply

      I find what you wrote very helpful and comforting. holidays are getting close and this will be the first year without my son. I lost my son almost 3 months ago just short of his 19th birthday in a tragic car accident. And my mother in law 6months ago. I have mixed feelings with the holidays coming . I have a 23-year-old daughter and Thanksgiving and Christmas are her favorite holidays and she looks forward to the traditions, I had told her that we might need to start some new traditions. To my son holidays weren’t important to him it was just another day I do plan on putting his stocking out putting his ornaments on the tree making his favorite foods. I do totally agree when I hear people say the feeling and grieving is different when you have lost a loved one versus losing a child.

  62. John D.  January 3, 2019 at 2:59 pm Reply

    My life partner of 41 years died on December 6th, 2018. We have three adult children, and they’re shattered. My older daughter is bi-polar, and it sent her right into the psych ward, where she still is. I’ve gone to one group support meeting, and I could barely choke out the words. I don’t know where to start. I’m looking for a grief counselor to meet one on one. This holiday season was nothing to be happy about. I’m glad 2018 is over. Not looking forward to all the other “firsts.” I was told at the group that the second year is worse, because you’re gradually coming out of shock, and the reality hits with more clarity.

    Mary was a trailblazer for women. She was the first installation foreman at New Jersey Bell. I first saw her on top of a pole. I said who is that, and I have to meet her. She also loved drag racing at the quarter mile track at Englishtown Raceway. Men either loved her or hated her. I loved her, and I was the luckiest man on earth that she loved me back.

    There are so many memories. I spent 16 hours straight going through photos and videos. It seems masochistic, but I have to, and want to do it. I don’t what to do. I had been her caregiver for 10 years. She smoked, and died from COPD, Lyme disease and CRPS, the worst pain condition there is. Worse than child birth, or amputation without anesthesiology. She endured that from 7/24/2011 to 12/6/2018. A good day was 8.5 on the pain scale. I’m angry at the medical industry for being unwilling to manage her pain. A doctor actually told her it’s all in her head. It’s unconscionable to tell that to someone who’s in pain. Also, that she’s a “seeker.” Only until she entered hospice did they treat her pain with massive doses of morphine. At the end, she was 5’8″ and weighed 75 pounds.

    Sorry for the long post. I’m looking for a good online support group, and hope this will help.


    • Evelyn  April 3, 2019 at 4:56 pm Reply

      I know this may not help and it is not the answer to your question, but after reading your post I just wanted you to know that I will pray for you and your family. Some people don’t believe in prayer and I hope this doesn’t offend you. I believe in the power of prayer and I hurt just to read your pain in the post. I would say I’m so sorry for your loss, but that may not help you either. I don’t have the correct words to say, all I can say is I read your post and I cried for you all. Your pain is great and I am deeply hurt that she died 5’8 only 75lbs because people that could help did not do their jobs and help her. I am an adult and back in college preparing to graduate in Human Services/Mental Health because I just don’t think there is enough empathy in the world and enough people that are suppose to help, helping. I am sorry for your great loss.

    • Loretta  December 2, 2019 at 9:57 am Reply

      Dear John my prayers and blessing is. With you.i lost my husband on February 8 2019 I miss him so very much my husband was put into hospice on April 21 2017 he was heavenly medicated on morphine he was not for it so we revoke hospice on April 24 2017 and I was determined to. Give my husband more life and love and take care of him he passed on.i. wish I had more time With him.

  63. Central IT  March 21, 2019 at 11:32 pm Reply

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  64. Not Single By Choice  April 25, 2019 at 9:43 am Reply

    And it is even much worse when many of us single men Don’t have a wife and family to share it with.

  65. Kiera  November 14, 2019 at 2:45 am Reply

    Also, watching a funny movie is a way that I often do to deal with grief. Thanks for the meaningful sharing.

  66. Lea Johnson  November 14, 2019 at 11:08 pm Reply

    My precious, wonderful husband died August 5, 2019 of liver cancer. We have two daughter and four grandchildren and one great grandchild. We had a wonderful life together of fifty three years which is a blessing I cherish everyday.
    I have done some thinking of the holidays that will be here soon and the ” list on ideas on how to get through it”, is appreciated and thank you very much. My thinking on the grief we all (family) are having just getting through each day, is the realization that it will never go away. It may lesson some I suppose but sure doesn’t feel like it now.
    My husband was gifted with a beautiful singing voice but his true love was songwriting which he did. I have spent time putting together songs he wrote, sung and recorded so I made them into a CD. I found from searching on the internet a music distributor who I paid 58.00 to get them on the net and now are on a few big ones like itunes, spotify and Amazon music. The name of the songs are “The Songs I Wrote”….Gary Johnson. This has been very good therapy for me and I hope a great legacy in honor of the wonderful guy he was. Maybe he will be happy sitting in Heaven seeing his songwriting talent appreciated.
    I have the unfortunate situation of having lung cancer stage four Both Gary and I have been doctoring at the Seattle Cancer Center for two year or so. Gary lost his battle, but I am determined to continue to fight this terrible disease. Gary’s cancer was just too extensive.
    I will continue to follow this site. I pray for all of you that you continue keeping your Faith and walk in his Grace.

  67. Debbie Scott  November 24, 2019 at 2:51 am Reply

    I lost my mom dec 19,2018 now nov 19,2019 I just lost my husband I think have I done something wrong or am I being punished it hurts so bad and yes I feel like a orphan I cry and cry some more all I have left is our two dogs Robert liked to decorate our house but I don’t think I’ll do anything I miss him so much even knowing he’s in heaven I still want him back

    • Carolyn Bjornstrom  December 18, 2019 at 2:41 pm Reply

      I lost my husband 3 months ago, in Sept. 2019. Over 40 years of marriage. The grief is intense, even though his last days were strengthened by receiving Hospice care. And yes, I was with him at the hour of his death.
      October, I couldn’t cry. I was like a zombie.
      November, the tears started, all of a sudden, out of the blue. Buckets of tears. Up and down emotions.
      December, current time. I am having some better days. Not good necessarily, but better. Not every day either. I do find myself a bit more able to accept his death in a larger context of my life.
      My point: I hear you. Trust me, there will come better times. Moments. Hours. There really is hope.

  68. Poppy Clark  November 24, 2019 at 8:08 am Reply

    My oldest daughter, Julie, died by suicide on March16, 2019. Christmas last year was the last time I saw her before her death. I can’t write anything else right now. Maybe later.

    • Linda Altaffer  November 25, 2019 at 9:03 pm Reply

      So sorry to hear about your daughter. I am replying to your comment because my daughter Julie passed on March 14,2019. She also tried to commit suicide two times before but didn’t succeed. In late February 2019 she was told she had liver cancer, that is how she died. We had a little time to prepare for her passing but with suicide you don’t have that. Christmas will be very difficult for all of us. I am and will be thinking of you. Love Linda Altaffer

    • Peter Williams  December 13, 2019 at 7:39 pm Reply

      Hi Poppy-

      I lost my daughter Elizabeth to suicide in 2017, six months after her boyfriend completed suicide. This is my third holiday season and it’s the hardest yet. I can’t talk about my grief because it’s so overwhelming – I just cry at people. The most helpful thing I’ve done is consciously made a decision not to evaluate my grief in any way: no milestones for feeling better, no time limit for feeling inconsolable and no judgement about how my grief looks compared to anyone else’s grief. I just let the waves roll over me. Sometimes it’s shorter, sometimes longer, but I always eventually come up for air. I breathe in and out. And repeat. I’ve experienced grief before, but suicide is a different, harder grief – especially for a child. Sometimes it feels like I will die from the pain – sometimes I want to. When you get angry watching holiday commercials, when you can’t stop crying, when you’ve been awake for 30 hours and still can’t sleep, when you finally do sleep and can’t get out of bed – you are not alone. I’m doing the same things. And all of those things are OK. They are all part of the path we’re on.

  69. Stan  November 26, 2019 at 5:34 pm Reply

    My elderly father unexpectedly died a few months ago. Although he and I got along very well 99% of the time, our final visit was tough. I spoke tersely with him a few times. We still parted with “I love you,” as usual, but I was eager to leave and I think he sensed it. I do believe he is in a better place now and not the least bit concerned about our visit, but that final in-person memory is a heavy weight that I want to set down. If anyone reads this, I can promise that you would have liked my Dad. Especially in his older years, everybody loved him. He was kind, loving, and an incredibly decent man. He was not perfect, as he would admit. But if every Dad were like mine, what a wonderful world we would have. I pray to be like him in many ways.

  70. Yeraldy  November 27, 2019 at 3:43 am Reply

    My best friend past away last year 2018 on Christmas Day to suicide and with tomorrow being thanksgiving I am having such a hard time. His birthday was November 5th it’s just been a hard a year and it’s just going to get harder I don’t have anyone to talk to about it no one in my family really new him. It’s still very surreal for me I have a hard time visiting his grave I’ve only been twice I message him constantly and hope I will get a reply I know it’s not good but I just can’t deal he was my go to person and I just miss him so much. I really want to skip the holidays but I have a 1 year old son and I don’t want him to miss out on spending time with the family just because I’m not ok. My son is what keeps me going everyday without him I would be so lost. Thank you for the article there is a lot of good ideas that I’m going to try to do.

    • Kerri  November 29, 2019 at 12:58 am Reply

      There are many people reading your post and feel for you I am sure. I am sorry for your loss. I hope you can find someone to talk to in your community because talking about our grief is important for healing. God Bless you and your son

    • KJ  December 29, 2019 at 7:31 pm Reply

      I’m sorry for you and the loss of your friend and in such a way. You show such great courage in reaching out and letting us all know. Take good care of your heart.

  71. Betsy  November 30, 2019 at 6:33 pm Reply

    If Christmas is your holiday, see if you can find a church in your area that will be holding a ‘Blue Christmas’ service. It’s especially for folks who are grieving, and for those who simply cannot do Joy! Joy! Joy! at this season, for whatever reason (i.e., those far from home, those dealing with illness, suffering, or estrangement). I have a friend in Indianapolis who leads such a service every year at Emerson Ave. Baptist Church. Several other churches in the area have them, too.

  72. Tim  December 1, 2019 at 3:15 pm Reply

    Try being alone like me with no wife and family at all, especially when so many others were very extremely lucky and blessed when they found love with each other. A very excellent reason for us to really hate the Holidays when they come around. Being single and alone all the time is the worst of all.

    • Jaime  December 20, 2019 at 4:08 pm Reply

      I, too, am alone. It’s been 2 years. Last year someone told me to help a, just one, person that
      is less fortunate than I am. Reluctantly I did and it did make me feel a little better. Through that I
      found a couple new friends. What would your wife want you to do? Do that.

  73. Susan Eustice  December 2, 2019 at 11:33 am Reply

    At this point L feel nothing is going to be helpful.

  74. Leeanna  December 3, 2019 at 9:34 am Reply

    I just lost my son of 35 due to a car accident. I’ve hadn’t told many and his ashes are to arrive this week. I haven’t shared due to the fact my mom is still alive with dementia and will be devastated. It is so hard to hold back the tears. My husband doesn’t want to talk about it. That is his way with anything. He just avoids it.

    Thanksgiving was tough with his death just a few days before. I dread the holidays but I must put them on for my mom with all smiles. My other son is stationed across the country and as usual will not be home for the holidays.

    Just wish I didn’t feel so fragile.

    • Linda M. Lapery  December 6, 2019 at 6:59 pm Reply

      LeeAnna……I went through much the same as you are going through. Mom with dementia and a husband that didn’t talk. I also had to hide the tears, forfeit the corners I wanted to hide in, just to put on a brave ‘show’ for my Mom. I’m glad I did although it was so very difficult. I lost my Mom in late 2018 and within 3 months my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Again I put on a brave face for 15 months as my husband was traumatized. He passed a few months ago. Life is hard. Holidays? I don’t want to know. I haven’t crawled out from the place I am now in so I cannot tell you some ‘great tips’ on how to do that. I just feel numb and without direction. I’m sure you must feel the same and it doesn’t help having to play a character right now that you are not. I’m so sorry for your loss….I wish you peace from the hurting things. My thoughts are with you and yours!

  75. Blythe  December 4, 2019 at 8:16 am Reply

    Some of these are good tips, but “make sure everyone agrees on traditions”? How do you do that? My husband died last year in September. The first Christmas we made it through. This year I want to run, screaming if possible, and just get out. I’ll be gone for the actual Christmas holiday. But my adult children are not happy about it. They still want mom here doing everything mom always does. Which is everything.

  76. Dana  December 21, 2019 at 8:45 am Reply

    My Pop just passed away and although it was somewhat expected it never truly is. I was his caregiver for the last 4 years basically because I’m the youngest and divorced. Didn’t really matter I think I was the appointed one regardless as I took care of my Mom too. Pop however did manage to tell the ER 4 years ago not to inact his DNR because he needed to care for his divorced baby?? My Pop was my hero, could and did fix everything, worked all the time for us to have what we needed and more, taught us things, spent time with us, trips, holidays were a big deal to both parents and no one wants a loved one to pass for a holiday but I prayed for it not to happen anyway. Pop was hard on us always expecting us to push through, dig deeper, so many times I’d cheer Pop on to push through. This time I was harsh pushing and fussing all the way to the ER. I was a flat out ass putting him in the car, he was being stubborn and not listening, which he was fond of selective hearing, my stubbornness was just as strong and just as deaf. I understand we say things we don’t mean but I should’ve seen he wasn’t doing it on purpose. As soon as we got to the ER my Pop went into a coma only to regain a semi state of consciousness enough to say he loved me and it was getting harder to fight to live. I’d like to think that was forgiveness but I’ll never really know now. I’m lost alone with 3 siblings who didn’t seem to care about anything while our parents were living surely don’t care now after. But ofcourse they’re always the paperwork BS everyone cares about for a moment. Then what?? Where are they?? Where are we?? What the hell do you do with all this stuff?? How do you start life over?? No one gets why you disappeared and took care of someone??

    • Carolyn Bjornstrom  December 21, 2019 at 5:37 pm Reply

      So very sorry to have lost a wonderful Dad, he was obviously a prince of a man. When he said he loved you, he was thanking you for your kindness. You have a lot in common with him. Some day, soon I trust, you will see that connection. I have no magic potion for dealing with grief. Still mourning my husband who died in Sept., 2019.
      All I can tell you, though, for sure, is that there will be better days ahead. Not perfect. Not necessarily happy. Just truly, one day at a time.
      Yes, it takes TIME.

  77. The Very Real Truth  December 22, 2019 at 5:41 am Reply

    It is very hard to cope being all alone without a wife and family which gives many of us single men a very excellent reason to really hate the holidays so much.

  78. KJ Maj  December 22, 2019 at 6:33 pm Reply

    Thank beautiful you Liz. Your list brought tears held at the brim spill over; necessary and yet acceptable. Just look at all of us on your site in emotional pain…..brought Together by your love and compassion and care.
    I’d been caregiving for my Dad (94) and Mom (93), married 70 years for a little over 5 years now.
    Both entered dementia and alzheimers land. Dad passed September 2018 and Mom passed this past July 2019. Such a Void! Though I know they’re together in spirit and so much out of discomfort! Like the song “I’ll Fly Away”. Blessings to you and to Everyone here. We are embracing in our hearts….allowing ourselves to be Wherever we are in all of this! I’m telling you all…..but telling myself this to feel better as well.

  79. Mel  December 26, 2019 at 2:23 am Reply

    I lost my daughter 2 and a half years ago. It was sudden and unexpected. Although she had a seizure disorder that became more and more difficult to control with medication, she finally lost the battle and one night it took her life. I was not ready for that to happen. Not prepared. I had no closure. No good byes. Just a phone call the next day when they found her in her apartment, dead.
    It has been 2 years gone by that I have not celebrated Christmas. I have volunteered to work all the holiday shifts since then, knowing I could escape all the party invites and festivities that way. It was my out. I can not tell you that it worked all that well for me, because I still missed her terribly. Christmas was her favorite holiday. My daughter was developmentally challenged from birth. Although she was 40 years when she died, she was only a kid of about 8 years in her mentality. She just loved Christmas time with all of it’s festivities.
    This year, I thought I was ready to celebrate Christmas once again. The grand kids were growing up and I know my kids wanted me to be the grandmother I should be to them at Christmas. They wanted me to decorate the yard with lights, put the tree up, bake cookies, prepare the special Christmas dinner, wrap the gifts, play Christmas songs for them on the piano, and many more things. So, I did all of those things. I tried really hard to be that grandma that my kids wanted me to be and move past my grief. And, it almost worked. Up to about 3 days before Christmas. Then, an overwhelming sadness came over me. It started at a Christmas play I was watching. Tears started streaming down my cheeks. I was so embarrassed. Then, it came again, when we were at a Christmas light show. Finally, and the worst, I started feeling an anger come over me. Much like the one I first felt when I was told of her passing. I became angry and sad, both and the same time. So I failed this year at trying to have Christmas again. I doubt that there will be another attempt to do it in the future. I don’t ever want to feel this way again. I guess there will be no more Christmas for me and the kids and grand kids will have to find another grandma that can do it for them. Sorry, but I just feeling so much like a failure. This is really bad.

  80. Norma Ruiz  December 27, 2019 at 7:24 pm Reply

    Thank you I needed this today. I have been tuned out for the holidays and this helped me with aging perspective on my feelings.

  81. Norma Ruiz  December 27, 2019 at 7:25 pm Reply

    I needed this today. I have been tuned out for the holidays and this helped me with aging perspective on my feelings.

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