10 Times Grief Made You Cry This Holiday Season

Holidays and Special Days / Holidays and Special Days : Eleanor Haley

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It seems like the older I get, the more happy-sad life becomes. Happy-sad is my new favorite grief saying and henceforth it shall be used any time something is simultaneously beautiful and excruciating.

Happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive and nowhere is this more evident than the holidays. Now I know some of you are feeling just plain sad-sad right now, but a day will come (if it hasn't already) when something makes you cry and smile all at the same time.  When this happens, notice it and remember it, because this is happy-sad.

After the death of a loved one, the holidays forever become a mix of happy and sad moments. With time, the sad moments become fewer and less intense, but they never completely go away. And, ten years later, a song or an ornament or a sentiment can still make you cry. To illustrate my point, I've put together an immutable list of all the times my... err... your loved one's death made you cry this holiday season.

1. When that card pushed you over the edge...grief made you cry at the holidays

2.  When you made their favorite recipe...
chrismtas recipie

3.  When you burnt their favorite recipe...

when you burnt their favorite recipe

4. When you heard their favorite holiday song...

when you heard their favorite holiday song

5. When you heard their least favorite holiday song...

grief made you cry at the holidays

6.  When you couldn't face those carolers...grief made you cry at the holidays

7. When you found a gift they would have loved...

grief made you cry at the holidays

8. When you found their special ornament...grief made you cry at the holidays

9. When you sat across from their empty seat at the holiday celebration...

grief made you cry at the holidays

10.  When you remembered the holidays will never be the same as they were before their death.

However you're feeling this holiday season—happy, sad, or happy-sad—just know you are not alone. Hang in there: Take things one minute at a time and open yourself up to the possibility of joy. Remember why you celebrate whatever it is you celebrate, honor your loved one's memory, love others, and let others love you.

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For more articles about grief at the holidays, check out this section of our blog or some of the following articles:

Or share this holiday grief bingo card with your family and friends, to remember that you're not alone!

grief bingo

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33 Comments on "10 Times Grief Made You Cry This Holiday Season"

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  1. Richard  December 20, 2021 at 4:22 pm Reply

    My beloved Carolyn—-oh how I miss you! 35 years of the most marvelous marriage imaginable. Then seven months ago, you were gone. My precious wife is dead and I cannot do a thing about other then to weep–and dream–and remember.

    Holiday season is particularly painful as we married on Thanksgiving Day 1985. My birthday falls on December 4th. Her’s falls on December 22. Our son, who died in a motorcycle accident at age 29, was born on Christmas Day. And of course there is Christmas itself and New Year’s Eve — alone. No one to kiss as the ball drops at Times Square.

    Somehow, I will get through this remembering that I have lived in time, and now, I continue to LOVE in eternity. I will always love you my darling…..ALWAYS!!!

  2. Ineca  December 22, 2019 at 6:27 pm Reply

    This is my tenth Christmas without my beloved husband. The second Christmas without one of son-in-laws and the third without my other son-in-law. I just dreaded the Holidays. I am just sad this year. I will be glad when they are over.

  3. Mary  December 17, 2018 at 8:52 pm Reply

    My husband died one year ago. Last Christmas I think I was in shock, I don’t remember anything. Most of this past year, I have a very spotty memory. This Christmas I think will be very different, I’m not in shock. I don’t really want to do any holiday stuff, but I’ll have to for my young grandson. It will be more difficult to explain why I don’t have a tree than putting up a tree. My grandson was talking about last Christmas when they had a sleepover at my house. I don’t remember. I think when my husband died a piece of my brain died too.

    • Kathleen Haveles  December 22, 2019 at 2:48 pm Reply

      It’s as if I wrote your post word for word. Now as I’ve entered the 2nd year I find myself grieving more intensely. I didn’t want to put any decorations out either but, my grandson had other plans! I let him help me. Thank God for him! Know your not alone in your struggles. Your in my prayers.

  4. Margie  December 12, 2018 at 1:16 am Reply

    Nine months ago my soulmate of fifty years died. I can’t get through a day without crying. This coming Christmas will be the first without him. I feel so alone. I wonder if I can ever stop crying, I miss him so much. I don’t have the strength to reach out. But, there is no one to reach out to.

    • wanda h ward  December 12, 2018 at 8:15 am Reply

      Iam deeply sorry for the loss of your dear husband. I’m sure life will never be the same and holidays must be grueling to go through. I’m saying a prayer for you. I know I don’t know you ,but my sister is a widow and I see her go through so much pain. I pray that in time you will feel better. I realize that it is something you never get over but just learn to live with. God bless you

  5. Anne  December 7, 2018 at 12:23 am Reply

    This will be my second Christmas without my husband of 43 years. I’ve read many of the articles on this website and they’ve been very helpful. At least, I know I’m not going crazy! I think I was still numb last year at Christmas. This year – it’s like I’m in a never-ending Hallmark commercial. EVERYTHING is so darned poignant. I’m just walking around with a lump in my throat and the tiniest thing can set me off. So, again, thank you for letting me know that I’m not losing my mind.

  6. Donna joy. Buckley  December 24, 2016 at 1:19 pm Reply

    Am dying from pancreas. Cancer

    • Donna I buckley  December 24, 2016 at 1:29 pm Reply

      Coping with having pancreas cancer

    • Diana Stubenrauch  December 24, 2016 at 4:13 pm Reply

      A good place to talk about death is deathcafe.com

  7. Dianne  December 19, 2016 at 10:42 am Reply

    Glennon Melton of Momestary calls it: Brutiful. beautiful and brutal.

  8. Sandra Sells  December 14, 2016 at 7:56 am Reply

    Love this

  9. Monica  January 12, 2016 at 2:23 pm Reply

    I am only a little over 3 months into the bereavement (my husband died in October 2015) and I felt that the holidays (Christmas, New Year and my birthday after the New Year) massively set me back almost to the start of the feelings I had after the first month when everything started to hurt. Now I am taking baby steps to go back to work and trying hard to maintain optimism and seeing a grief counsellor once a week, and I find it is harder and harder each day. I can’t look at anything without thinking of him, I can’t do the most mundane things without thinking of him and I spend a lot of time still thinking he will call or come home, which of course I know he won’t. It seems to me it is harder and harder each day I hate it with all my heart and I can’t of course find a way to feel even a touch better. I am surrounded by people who do their best to try and help me but it has come that I find I resent that they are not who I want to be talking with, which is of course my husband. I know I bounce from anger to sadness every day and I really just wish I could rewind everything and start over to before the death and illness. I know though people try and tell me it will be easier and better etc. I don’t feel they really understand, because how can it ever be better – I lost the best person ever we were together 22 years and the idea of now spending years without him is just the pits. Even though I am relatively young and everyone thinks I can just somehow snap out of this and move forward it is terribly hard.

    • Sarah  November 21, 2018 at 3:46 pm Reply

      I do feel your grief I just lost my husband of 27 years in October 2018.. reading your passage is me to the tee.. I’m sitting here trying to get on with the family festivities.. when I really just want to stay in bed for the next 3 months. I see it’s been a few years for you has it gotten any easier for you. Do you have any advise.

  10. Vicki  January 6, 2016 at 6:00 pm Reply

    I thought that the worst day of my life would have been watching him die while the rest of the country witnessed it too even though they didn’t know him personally, but it turns out that the trial from hell for the remaining terrorists who HELPED the ones who kamikazied themselves with the planes the day it occurred (by paying for all of it to happen and having evidence of the fact beFORE we ever did something as ungodly STUpid as torture them for MORE information, thus ruining the trial’s outcome of justice for the victims who died) is becoming the WAY bigger disappointment to us. They’re all apt to run free because of stupidity on the government’s part, no thanks to that d*mn Dick Cheney, the only person so far who’s blatantly shown no regret for ruining our case whenever he’s been asked to respond to the fact that the Torture Program existed.
    When he had people tortured for more information he damaged the case and might as well have handed the Defendants’ attorneys a bomb to throw in our faces. AND they all KNEW this beFORE they tortured the prisoners for more information. George Bush Jr., who I voted for but not for that reason, studied law at Yale University and his attorney studied the same at HARVARD University. They knew you couldn’t rewrite the constitution but did it anyway. There’s positively no excuse for these people in high places who did this, who still aren’t being expected to account for their actions. But the worst part about this is that if the defendants get to go free they’ll be released with no regrets for what they’ve done and possibly do the same to OTHER families that they did to ours and thousands of others. All because Cheney just HAD “to work the dark side.”
    Like who does he think he is? Darth freakin’ Vader?
    One time I read a book in which the writer said that if you lose a loved one to homicide you’ll feel a second victimization by the current justice system of America. I thought to myself, ‘it can’t be that bad.’
    Boy was I ever freakin’ mistaken in that idea.
    I’m really glad I didn’t know then what I know now. I never would have made it through the first part of this thinking something possibly worse was waiting to be revealed.

  11. Yam Kahol  January 2, 2016 at 2:47 pm Reply

    I ran away this holiday season, and took a vacation far away. I came home, and realised that you can’t run away from the holidays, they are still here. I feel strange because I feel ‘better’ after the holidays – by that I mean that I feel less griefy’, not thinking about him all the time. Yet at the same time I feel bad, because I don’t want to feel better, nor do I want to stop thinking about him all the time. I do want to move forward, but I don’t want to move on. I think it’s the vacation has made me feel like this, and now I feel guilty for taking the vacation. This all seems messed up, but I’ve learnt over the last 11 months that the grief journey is messed up, and makes you feel and think things you wouldn’t have predicted. I still want his memory to be fresh. I know you guys write about all these things in all your articles, so I’ll read some of those. Sending wishes of comfort to all of you out there.

    • Litsa  January 2, 2016 at 10:54 pm Reply

      Yam – I think MANY people can relate to exactly what you are saying. I think it is actually a really common experience in grief but something that doesn’t get talked about often enough. One article I would suggest you check out is this one – https://www.whatsyourgrief.com/grief-and-the-fear-of-letting-go/, which is on the fear of ‘letting go’ of the pain of grief and why that can be hard.

  12. Justina  January 1, 2016 at 1:57 am Reply

    Jane, I pray that your hurting heart will be comforted knowing that you were a wonderful mother to her. Depression is a thief of joy and life..God feels your pain . The Lord has healed her and given her all the joy she could not find on earth,,It is too hard to carry alone, and you will feel like its the worst day of your life. When my husband died 7 years ago I knew that the funeral was so hard..even knowing he was with the Lord. But God walked with me through these years and gradually there is less pain. Let Him be your strength .We are weak . Jesus said, “come to me all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest” . You have been her mom and best friend and you will always be that for her. Try to sleep.

  13. Jane  December 28, 2015 at 3:18 am Reply

    mY daughter took her own life on 28/10/15 two months ago today. She had depression that she hid from everyone. I thought she was having the time of her life away at University all I ever saw was happy photos out partying with her friends. I was so jealous of her thinking I wish I could have done that. I am still living in complete shock every day is a battle to get through despite this we put up the tree and the decorations and have made it the best it can be. cHristmas Day was not the worst day of my life the worst days are the day she died the funeral day and the inquest day when it comes. I hope God gives me the strength to get through that one.

  14. gloria  December 25, 2015 at 10:09 am Reply

    This post, as many on WYG, right on target, as I read it on Christmas morning, ,my first in 62 years alone with my dogs. My choice for now, had just gotten to more ?? moments after losing my husband 11 years ago, but now am ?? ?? after losing my 28 year daughter & best friend in June ?. I have 4 children, 5 grandchildren, mom , sis & lots of friends, so am not alone, but when you lose someone you love so much, my roommate, you feel alone. The holidays will ever be the same, I will just get through them. That’s it. The Christmas card one particularly hit home. How can someone send me a card without even a tiny note??? Acknowledging Laura, I want to say please don’t bother & take me off your list?? Life goes on, people don’t think. ? Grateful for this website. Hoping we can all find a bit of peace and some joy during this time.

  15. Sue  December 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm Reply

    Gee. This is my second year without Papa. Mom passed before. Her death was very hard but she had dementia for years before so I started mourning her then. I kept saying I have Papa. After his death my brothers and I grew apart though I tried hard. I should try harder. I told them after his passing that no one will love us like they did. I miss that love so much it’s hard to get to the happy point sometimes.

  16. Chelsea  December 24, 2015 at 3:47 am Reply

    I cry every year when we get the Christmas Card from my friend Matthew’s family in the mail, and his brother and sister are yet another year older. It reminds me just how much time has passed and it feels like getting smacked in the gut with a hocky stick. Then I think about back when they used to come over sometime the following week to exchange presents with us, back when he was still alive and before the other two were even born, and I start to feel sorry for his siblings because they didn’t get to know their brother the way I did. At least I can remember the good times, they have none of that. I wish I could bring myself to reach out to them, but I personally haven’t spoken to his family in years, cards and emails, that’s it.

  17. Elizabeth  December 23, 2015 at 11:26 pm Reply

    Help and blessings to everyone else who posted. I lost my husband of 53 years last month. Many days I’m just numb. Hoping next year will be better.

  18. Michelle  December 23, 2015 at 8:05 pm Reply

    It hasbeen 16 months since my daughter passed and 4 months since my husband passed. It just hurts so bad right now. Imiss them both so much. I keep trying to stay busy but I can’t help thinking of them and missing them so much. My body physically hurts!

    • Kat  October 30, 2016 at 6:53 am Reply

      My heart goes out to you and everyone else who have lost a loved one, family member, friend, etc!!! So its 630am on Oct 30th, 2016 – and its one of the most important person, who has ever been in my life – cuz they are a few and far in between!!! anyway, today is my friends 31st birthday, who has been gone for 11 years!!! she passed away 25 days after 20th birthday, which was on November 23!!! 11 years ago, Nov 23 was Thanks giving – and I found her body completely lifeless, with a needle sticking out of her cuz she had relapsed!!! the disease of addiction took her life, before she was even legally old enough to drink or even buy alcohol!!!
      I feel SO GUILTY cuz I’m an addict as well in Recovery – and have been for several years to this very day and moment!!! I overdosed and died 8 TIMES, when I was in active addiction many, many years ago – but only by the grace of God, I somehow was brought back to life – even after all medical means of resuscitation were not successful!!! I was told that I’ve been pronounced legally/medically/technically dead – but l survived!!! this was the first time that had ever happened to her – so why did I survive multiple overdoses – and why did she die instead of me!?! (I’m not suicidal or anything remotely close to that) I just cant help feeling guilty cuz its SO NOT FAIR!!!

  19. Marcia  December 23, 2015 at 6:38 pm Reply

    I am touched by the replies to this post,and will say a prayer for all of you. I lost my best friend 28 years ago, Christmas Day. Still have some mixed emotions, mostly that I am grateful he was in my life, but sad too.

  20. Debbie Lejeune  December 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm Reply

    I lost my husband little over two weeks ago after having to put him in skilled care. I had been taking care of him for nearly 5 years by myself. He recently was moved closer(another facility) and was improving. But received a call he wasn’t doing well. By the time I got there he passed. I am truly loss with my best friend of 32 years but manage to try to make it day by day.And holidays are hard especially Xmas being so close. My mom passed 16 yrs ago Xmas,as well as a grandfather on it as well.Seems holidays are when our family departs.But it makes us stronger in some aspect but it seems tough in some ways also.Prayers help & supporting each other like these groups. Happy Holidays, keep the faith.

  21. Penny Gruetzmacher  December 23, 2015 at 2:00 am Reply

    My mom died on 9/27/2015, and she lived a long life. I am glad that she no longer is suffering and she will not have to go to the nursing home, but it is hard. We were pretty close. Mostly I am coping, but things will hit me sometimes. I appreciate this blog as it really spoke to me. I already had bought her gifts and I keep thinking about all the things she enjoyed this Christmas season.

  22. Eileen Kennedy  December 22, 2015 at 9:18 pm Reply

    I finally attempted to enjoy the holidays last season, 3 years after the loss of my husband. Yknow pull it together “for the kids”. Then on Dec. 30, I lost my youngest boy. My heart is not in it. I find it so hard, and draining to pull it together for others. To not allow the feelings because you don’t want to be the one ” to start”. God help us all to find a way through.

  23. Pat  December 22, 2015 at 7:13 pm Reply

    It could take some work but I’m going to try very hard to replace one of the sad-sad’s with a happy-sad. Thanks for the posts as I’m sure it’s hard for everyone to take time to put these helpful thoughts into words, especially at Christmas time. I hope sweet memories bring you all peace throughout the holidays.

  24. DJ  December 22, 2015 at 11:55 am Reply

    Nope. I’m tough. I survived all that crap. Emotions? Grief? Bah humbug! Then I left my coffee on the roof of my car. (Get it?) Happy Holidays Eleanor & Litsa, and thank you.

  25. tracy russell  December 22, 2015 at 8:54 am Reply

    This is so strange but I was just thinking how I have very mixed feelings & emotions at Christmas then this post came through my email! This will be my second Christmas without my Dad, last year being only 2 months after losing him. Dad didn’t particularly like Xmas (like me) but I have so many happy memories of just spending time with him. Mum & I didn’t have a tree or decorations last year but we have this year. You never think you’ll be able to cope after such a loss but we get through it as best we can.
    Wishing everyone who uses this site, as well as the girls who run it a peaceful Christmas. I will be raising a glass to my Dad this year, as well as other loved ones who are no longer here.

    • Eleanor  December 22, 2015 at 9:18 am Reply

      How funny Tracy! Great minds? We’ll all be muddling through it best as we can this year. I’m wishing you and your Mom a Christmas full a peace and fond memories.


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