Relationships

How to Honor a Lost Loved One During the Holidays

How to Honor a Lost Loved One During the Holidays

The simple truth is that the holiday season can be very hard, especially for someone who has lost a loved one…

This will be my fifth Christmas without my son Lochlan. He was 22 days old when he passed away from an incredibly rare genetic disorder. For me, the holidays have always been a time of immense joy, but over the past several years, Christmas time took on a very dull, grey color. Each year I attempted to do a little bit more – to feel a little bit more — and found ways to honor my son that felt gentle but important.

I absolutely always want to talk about him. I crave the opportunity to share about him, and let people know that he is a part of our family. People often don’t know how to ask, so they just don’t — but for me, an awkward conversation is always better than no conversation at all.

When the world surrounding you is singing carols and laughing late into the night, it helps to have ways to nurture yourself that feel simple, and give you a sense of belonging through the holidays. Where ever you are in your broken-hearted journey, I have a few simple suggestions to ease your way into the holidays.

1. Hang a photo.
Print off a photo of your loved one and hang it up with some festive garland. This year I used a golden string of tiny bells, and looped them through a small hole at the top of the photo. Hang your garland on the tree or along your mantle, so you can always see the person you are missing.

2. Stuff the stocking.
Hanging up the family stockings is such a wonderful tradition, but seeing one empty in the morning can make you feel your loss very deeply. Try tucking your loved ones stocking full on Christmas Eve with some dried flowers or branches of winter berries. Seeing a beautiful bouquet peek out from the top of the stocking helps give your heart the image that it’s full — full of love, full of hope, full of acceptance. Maybe it will look so great you’ll put it up earlier next year, as a new tradition.

3. Save them a seat.
Whether it feels good to leave one chair empty at the dinner table, or have an ornamental chair next to a candle on your mantel — the idea of saving a seat lets everyone around you know how deeply you are missing your loved one. This gesture helps your family understand that you welcome conversation about the person who passed. It also gives you permission to visibly see your loss, which can help throughout the holidays.

I am sending love to all those missing someone this holiday, and wishing you moments of peace throughout the season.


Thank you so much, Katie. xoxo

P.S. How to write a condolence note, and 17 reader comments on grief.

(Photo by Andreas Wonisch/Stocksy.)

  1. Erin says...

    Thank you for writing this. My adored nephew Wesley died last Tuesday. He was 29 days old, healthy and thriving. We are all deeply shocked and just beginning to navigate our grief. I will save this article to share with my brother and sister in law next Christmas.

  2. MARIA JOSÉ HERRERO says...

    Every sadness grows bigger and deeper when you are expected to be happy and joyful and buying presents like crazy.
    I feel that if I let the sadness just be there, it stops crying for attention. Because everything that feels aknowledged… feels better.

  3. I’m so touched by all of these comments. I want to share this viral article below because I think it’s very helpful to apply these lessons especially during the holidays when it’s especially difficult to cope with grief. I wrote the article as my husband died at the age of 34. The viral article has now been turned into a book called Holistic Wealth: 32 Life Lessons To Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity and Happiness.

    https://www.google.ca/amp/s/medium.com/amp/p/17b102935efe

  4. Yi says...

    My husband passed away the day before Thanksgiving this year. I miss him dearly every day and I feel incredibly sad that I will spend the first Christmas in ten years without him. I like what your wrote about “have ways to nurture yourself that feel simple, and give you a sense of belonging through the holidays”. I wish I could have a peaceful holiday with happy memories of him in my mind.

    • Jessie says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending you love from across the internet. <3

  5. Elizabeth says...

    My dear sweet father in law (who I called Dad) passed away this year from lung cancer. He was a non-smoker so it was very surprising when he was diagnosed. He passed away when I was seven months pregnant with his first grandchild. I’m so sad he never got to meet her but I’m so pleased he knew she was on her way. I think it brought him joy when he was fighting. But I’m just missing him so hard right now.

  6. Amanda B says...

    Thank you for this. I am sorry for your loss. Since the loss of our daughter almost 10 years ago we’ve been doing an ornament swap with other baby loss families. It’s called Remembering Together and I think I found it through FB. You get paired with another family and make handmade ornaments for each other. Every year it’s a new family and you get to hear their story and share yours, and you end up with an ornament each year for your child.

  7. Katherine says...

    Thank you for this post, times a million. My dad took his own life this June; he had bipolar disorder and his last bout of depression lasted six months, the longest it ever had, and I guess he just thought it would never end so he ended it himself. My 16 year old brother found him, so there is lots of trauma to work on in our family right now. My daughter, my dad’s first grandchild, was born last October and he was with me in the room when she was born (he was a photojournalist so he was documenting her birth, just like he did when I was born!). I am so glad he was there; he had just beat Stage 4 esophageal cancer and we weren’t sure if he’d make it long enough to meet her. Although she won’t remember meeting him, I am so so thankful for the few pictures we have of them together. She was six months old when he died. Three weeks after Dad died, our beloved dog Tali passed away from cancer, and I wasn’t even there to be with her in her final days (I was still with my brother and stepmom) which makes me feel so guilty. All of this is to say, I am so overwhelmed with grief and sadness but at the same time, am experiencing the wonder of the holiday season through my one year old’s eyes. To feel such sorrow and such joy at the same time makes me feel like I’m going to explode. I am just so thankful for a space like this, for allowing us to honor these emotions and experiences and share them so we don’t feel so alone. To those who are also suffering, for whatever reasons, during this time, I’m so sorry for your struggles and I hope you are able to find some comfort and joy in the days to come.

    • Emma says...

      Katherine — I’m so terribly sorry for your loss, and sending good thoughts, big hugs and healing energy your way.

    • Sofia says...

      Happy Christmas Katherine. I’m so so sorry. Sending hugs to you, your family and especially your brother. Xxx

  8. Julie says...

    Thank you for sharing this, Katie! Tens of thousands of people have met Lachlan through your words over the last many years.

    I’m wondering — we’ve talked about condolence notes and about grief on Cup of Jo, but how to write a holiday card to a family that has just experienced loss? It is such a balance between acknowledging grief and not overlooking it, while also not turning the mood unintentionally.

    Looking for advice for how to write a holiday card to a grieving family.

    • Ana D says...

      This is only a partial response. Though I haven’t experienced great loss yet, I’ve gathered from those suffering deep grief and recent loss that you are never “reminding” them of their loss. It’s ever-present. Recognizing it in a way that remembers the person or people they lost, honors the love and respect that existed between them, and speaks to their grief without attempting to create a silver lining are all useful avenues.

  9. AnneL says...

    We lost our daughter Nora to liver cancer on August 1 – she had just turned 17. We’re still trying to figure it out. what it means to celebrate the holidays without her. We kind of just muscled through Thanksgiving without a plan, thinking that filling the house with family would somehow insulate my husband, son, and myself from feeling the hole she left (guess what, it didn’t work). We’re trying to be more intentional about Christmas and I’m going to be thinking about all of these ideas. Thank you.

    • Jules says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Annel. I hope the Christmas season brings you some sense of comfort and peace however you decide to spend it <3

  10. I also wanted to point out that it’s totally OK if you don’t want to honor your loved one at the holidays…if you want to pretend that the holidays aren’t happening, that’s ok too.

    These are great tips, I just don’t want anyone to feel guilty if any of them feel like they’re too much. The choices you make are no reflection on how important your person is or how much they’re loved. The choices you make should be a reflection of what you need to do to make the day more bearable, and (pretty much) any choice is ok.

    Sending love to everyone out there who is missing someone important this year. I am missing my dad, Tim (died in 2004) and my sister, Alison (died in 2017).

    I linked in my name to a cartoon about getting through the holidays when they’re hard (this one was for Thanksgiving…but it applies for any holiday).

  11. Jess says...

    Thank you for this post. I lost my sister last year to brain cancer and I am currently 35 weeks pregnant with a little girl. My sister’s birthday is Christmas Eve so the holidays are so hard. This year my fiance and I have decided to have Christmas Eve dinner at her favorite restaurant. We plan on coming home to frame pictures of her for our baby’s nursery.

  12. Alison says...

    I lost both my parents to cancer these past couple of years. I’m the mom of two toddlers, and I try to carry on our family’s traditions so my children can know their grandparents in some small way. Each Christmas I bake “soetkoekies,” a traditional South African spiced cookie that my mom would make every year during the holidays. The painful part is not being able to call her when I have a question about the ingredients or measurements. She loved to bake and she always knew the answers. Seeing that so many others are grappling with loss makes me feel less alone. Sending love and light to all this holiday season.

  13. NJ says...

    My 4 yr old son and I have a tradition to honor loved ones that are with us AND not with us: it’s called Special Rocks. We go on a hike (an easy one) until we find a nice lookout spot. Then we find a few rocks along the side of the path—not pebbles, but rocks that can fit into my son’s hands. We’ll assign a rock to each person that we want to honor… Family members, close friends, preschool friends, our dog that passed away… “This special rock is for Grandma,” etc. Then we put the rocks along the side, in a row, with a nice view! It’s one of our favorite traditions and makes for such a nice morning.

    • amanda says...

      That is such a beautiful idea. I love it!

    • Neela says...

      Oh i love that.

  14. Cynthia says...

    Holidays are hard when you have lost love ones. I’ve learned to adjust, but you never really get over it. It does help talking about your loved ones and favorite memories. They’re not physically with us, but their spirits are. A couple of days ago, I was carrying a stack of my clean clothes upstairs, and I could hear my mother’s voice in my head saying “You might as well put those clothes away now,” so I did.

  15. Carole Ceely says...

    Beautiful article on a delicate subject. Thank you for positing that.

  16. Anna says...

    In Poland, where my mother is from, people traditionally leave an empty seat (with a table setting) at the Christmas Eve dinner table. One interpretation is that it is for a “tired traveler”; it could also be a way to remember those who are no longer with us.

  17. Renee says...

    This year I ordered a small prelit birch tree that is just branches, no leaves and put 2 red Cardinal ornaments on it to represent my brother and his wife. I framed the last Christmas card he wrote to me and it is there too. They will always be with me. I love the little tree with Cardinals so much I may leave it up all winter.

    • Robin says...

      Such a beautiful way to honor them. Brought me to tears!

  18. Lulu says...

    What a beautiful, timely and sensitive post. Thank you for sharing with us.

  19. Nigerian Girl says...

    Thank you for this thoughtful, moving and inspiring post. This is why I’ll always be part of this community. There’s no other place like this online. Sending love, light, compassion and strength to everyone who is dealing with the loss of a loved one. May the magic of the holidays bring you solace.

  20. SB says...

    This is my first Christmas since losing my mum in February and I won’t be able to make it home (I work abroad). It’s a lot of conflicting emotions – I want to be there for my dad and brothers and family, but it also feels impossible to imagine Christmas in our house without her there – it was her favourite time of year.

    After she passed, I was trying to grapple with the grief and how to process everything. I read an article that really resonated with me when trying to be “logical” about it all. It explained grief like this:

    Your grief is a ball inside of a square. There is a button on one side of the square that ignites the pain of your grief whenever the ball touches it. At the beginning, the ball is soooo huge that it’s basically going to be touching the button constantly, but slowly, over time, the ball shrinks, so that it touches the button less and less, but when it does touch, the pain is still acute.

    It really helped me to understand and realize that it was okay that I wasn’t in pain all the time, but also that the pain could happen randomly and unexpectedly, and that was okay, too. I also think it’s okay if the ball sometimes grows again, like it feels right now around the holidays. It’s not a linear path by any means…

    Hugs to everyone who is grieving and finding new traditions this holiday season. XOXO

    • Al behr says...

      Well said. That is exactly what it is like.

    • MB says...

      Oh SB, I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my mom unexpectedly in July and have been having a terribly hard time. I also live abroad which my grief counselor says can make it harder to process the loss, she also shared the ball in the box analogy. I’ve just arrived home to be with my dad and brother and family for the holidays, it’s both an enormous comfort to be in her space and at the same time the grief has become very physical again. Sending you virtual hugs – it’s going to be a long process and you just have to be grateful for the small reprieves when they do come xoxo

  21. Jess says...

    So sorry for your loss. The holidays can be tough for so many reasons, but so much more painful if a loved one is missed. I found that changing things helps: a change in schedule, a new tradition, different seating arrangements, even moving the furniture around. Incorporating their memory into new ways of doing things always felt better and easier to me.

  22. Diane Dombrowski says...

    A few people in my community lost our beloved dogs this year. We live in Portland, Maine, a sea side small city. We are collecting shells from the beach, adorning them, then attaching them as ornaments on a fir tree in our neighborhood park together. I’m so grateful to honor our pets, get to know each other as neighbors a bit better, and to have a way to support each other as we grieve. I extend my sympathy to all who have experienced a loss this year.

  23. Jennifer says...

    My mom just passed away a few weeks ago at 60. Still figuring out how to grieve- maybe just beginning to grieve. Really loved reading all the comments and so appreciative of the beautiful community this blog has brought together.

    • Anita says...

      Lost my mom a few weeks ago too. I feel for you. It’s just indescribable.
      Everyone who knows says it gets better, so we just have to hang in there and love our people so much tighter.

  24. Alexa says...

    I lost our second baby at almost nine weeks along just before Thanksgiving, and grieving through this holiday season has felt, all at once, achingly tender and deeply healing. I hadn’t quite yet known what to do with all of my precious totems from this pregnancy ~ the ultrasound photographs, the notes I had scribbled, the lucky penny my toddler found the morning I discovered I was carrying his sibling. I think I will start by framing the penny.

    And I just wanted to echo your words ~ I, too, would always prefer an awkward conversation over no conversation. It’s funny, I just said that to my dad today, when we were chatting about the ways people approach (or don’t) those who are mourning someone.

  25. Sacha says...

    I’m glad I came across this post today. I lost my daughter Lennon this past March, 28 hours after she was born. She developed a rare tumour at 20 weeks and it affected her development and ultimately led to her passing away after birth. Although the past couple of months have been extremely hard, I knew that I didn’t want to completely bypass the holidays without doing something in my daughter’s honour. I decided to buy a book and a toy that I would have wanted to give to her if she were here, and donate them to a children’s charity. This way I still get to do something with my daughter in mind but also provide a gift to a child that may not have gotten one otherwise. Thank you for sharing Katie. Sending lots of love your way.

    • Jessica says...

      This is a really beautiful idea. Thank you for sharing.

  26. Olivia says...

    This is beautiful — thank you. I’ve lost two very close cousins, but am so lucky that their parents and siblings have always welcomed talking about them. Even 10 and 20 years later, I miss them, and am grateful to remember them with others.

  27. Anon says...

    All of these comments are so tender & moving.

    I have a question for this beautiful community. My husband left my kids & I this year. The holidays have been so hard. Even though it feels to us like there has been a death, it seems as though no one wants to acknowledge this kind of loss. Does anyone know of any kind of community for those of us grieving this way? Thank you xo

    • Ruth says...

      I’m glad you posted this – my husband and I separated a few months ago, and while he’s still very much in the kids’ lives, facing this Christmas alone is really hard, and I don’t know how to cope. It’s a huge loss, and there’s a void, but it’s not a void I would mark in the same way as the death of a loved one (there are good reasons why we split up!). I’m so sorry – and I resonate with feeling like it’s not easy to acknowledge this kind of loss or others are reluctant to (or don’t know how).

      I would love a post on how families with separated/divorced parents handle the holidays.

    • Renee says...

      I don’t know of a community for you but that happened to me too. My husband left just after our 15th Anniversary during the Christmas season to be with the woman he had been having an affair with. It was the most difficult season of my life. I cried so much that I wasn’t even aware I was crying anymore. I ended up seeking help from my Dr. to get through the first 6 months or so. Sending love and hugs to you. I know it’s a dark time but you WILL survive it and be stronger for it.

    • Jessica says...

      I don’t know the answer to your question, but just wanted to send you strength and love. You are indeed grieving the loss of your vision of your family and that is so difficult. Pull close with those beautiful children of yours and find strength in each other.

    • Marie says...

      I wish I knew of a community for this as well. My parents divorced a couple years ago after 35+ years of marriage and sold our family home. It was always the gathering place every holiday for my three siblings and I, plus our extended family, and the past two holiday seasons have been extremely difficult. My siblings scattered, my mom moved six hours away, my dad moved out of state, and now, at 30, I feel such a deep sense of loss. Like someone else said, it’s not quite like a death, but a similar grief. I wish I knew better ways to navigate the holidays!

    • Anon says...

      Thank you to each of you. I teared up seeing your responses & felt so grateful for your words.

      Ruth, Renee & Marie, if you would like, I’m happy for Joanna to give you my email. I would love to connect with you & offer whatever understanding feels helpful. It’s a loss with no funeral, and each sound so brave.

      Ruth, I am thinking of you this morning. I lit some candles, taking deep breaths & sending you love. Renee, my situation is uncannily similar & I’m so sorry for your pain, and Marie, my heart aches for you. Jessica, thank you. ♥️

    • Ellie says...

      I’m not sure if it would be of use, but I know several people in my faith community (Christian) have found DivorceCare helpful. I don’t think the actual DivorceCare organization is affiliated with a religion (the group happens to be hosted by my church in my area). It is so hard when your loss is not seen by others as a loss. The loss of that close relationship hurts and it sounds like it is felt as a tragedy in your life. Sending you hope for future happiness from someone who has been there.

    • I’m so sorry and appreciate these comments as well. I’m dating a man who divorced early in the year, and it is his first holiday season without a house full of kids and traditional “family” activities. It’s hard to know how to hold space for that and be in his corner in meaningful ways. I wish you all peace and comfort, and a wonderful 2020.

    • Claire says...

      I am so sorry to read of your loss. It is very much like a death, I think. And I agree that people in general, and even religious communities, don’t know how to acknowledge the loss of a marriage, and all of the profound repercussions. My only suggestion would be to begin by reaching out to therapists and family support centers in your community. If they can’t help they will probably know about other resources that may be a good fit for you and your kids.
      I wish you all the best – comfort, peace, kindness, grace, and maybe some laughter to ease the way.

    • LK says...

      You may want to look up Hot Young Widows Club. It is not for JUST hot young widows, but also people dealing with loss (even not physical loss). They may have some resources for you.

    • Anon says...

      LK – I didn’t know that. Thank you.

  28. Meg says...

    Two years ago we lost our 10 year-old son. We were in the middle of adopting him from foster care…weeks away from having him permanently in our home. Legally freed for adoption, there was no reason to worry about things falling through. But, like so many complicated and senseless bureaucracies, DCYF failed him and us. So we celebrate the holidays for our younger biological children, but we know we will never be whole. Many viewed our choice to adopt as odd, not understanding that we weren’t doing it to “do a good thing.” We did it because we found our son. And we wanted him home. Now we will never see him again, never rub his head as he struggles to fall asleep. We feel the loss as acutely as a death, but we still live knowing he is out there. His haunting absence affects every moment of our life and I wish we could find a way to pay tribute to a person who is very much alive, but never to be seen again.

    • Neela says...

      Meg, that’s so awful. I can’t imagine how it must feel, having your son out there, and not being able to look after him or even be in touch. I keep you in my thoughts.

    • Simone Daher says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss. What a terrible thing to have to grieve a child who is still out there and whose care is out of your hands/control. I hope you find peace xx

  29. Erin says...

    Your post is so timely, and I’m sorry to hear of your losing Lochlan. We lost our son, Liam, when I was 35 weeks pregnant this past January 2. Nothing had been wrong at all in the pregnancy, so the shock and trauma was nothing short of devastating. Like you, the holidays had only ever represented joy for me, but suddenly I dread them, particularly New Years Eve and New Years Day, when we found out he had no heartbeat. What you say about wanting to talk about him, even if it’s awkward, resonates so much. We sent out a Christmas card with Liam’s photo and a short tribute on the back. It felt good to introduce him to the world. Sending you peace and a fuller heart this year. Hoping with each passing year the holidays bring more light.

  30. Rachel says...

    Thank you for this post and the concrete ideas. I’m just now gasping at the surface of deep grief which submerged me for the past few months.

    My dad (63) suffered a traumatic brain injury in late July, when I was 37 weeks pregnant. He and my mom are divorced so it was on me to make medical decisions and take charge of his care. A week after his accident, my grandmother (his mom), died. Then the following week I gave birth to my first baby. 6 weeks after his accident, when my daughter was 17 days old, he died suddenly, despite doing so well in recovery.

    Last Christmas was when I announced I was expecting: I made a cute onesie and wrapped it up. I’ll never forget his reaction to opening it; he was so excited, he kept the onesie on display all year. Now, my baby’s first Christmas looks so different than I thought. I’m excited to celebrate with her and devastated he won’t be there.

    Sending much love to the COJ community members who are also wading in the waters of grief.

    • Torey says...

      I wish I could give you a big hug. I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending much love to you.

    • Anna says...

      Rachel I read this and my heart went straight out to you. You have experienced a great deal in such a short time. I hope that the special memories can sustain you and provide comfort. I too have encountered a great deal of loss this year and whilst working through it read somewhere that “grief is just love with nowhere to go”. And that actually made me smile, because there is so much love. I’m thinking of you at this time and sending you my love x

    • Susan says...

      My dad died in June 2012 just before my first daughter was born in early September 2012. It was so horrific. And I still am not back to normal. I ache to talk to him and about him daily after 7.5 years. I appreciate this article so much. I would also rather have an awkward conversation.
      I hope you feel less alone know that someone else had the terrible concoction of losing a parent and having a baby. Xoxo

  31. Ella says...

    There is an amazing company called Laurel Box that makes beautiful products for grieving women. I have unfortunately had the occasion to purchase from them for multiple friends and family, and I can tell you first hand that their gifts are gorgeous and nurturing. Would be such a thoughtful gift for someone struggling through the holidays. I don’t work for them, I’ve just seen the look on my friends faces when they open their gifts and I know how at loss support people can feel- this is a beautiful gesture and also supports a woman owned business.
    https://www.laurelbox.com/

    • jules says...

      thank you for posting this. I am going to get one for our friend that has been grieving the loss of her baby for months. the are perfect. xoxo

  32. Rose says...

    This will be my third Christmas struggling with infertility. So I’m grieving someone who isn’t here, too. There are reminders of other people’s kids everywhere—holiday cards with family photos are particularly painful. And, of course, there are the memories of what I told myself last Christmas—that surely I would be pregnant by now, that surely the next round of IVF would work. The holidays are hard for so many of us, for so many reasons.

    • A says...

      Rose,

      We lost our oldest daughter five and a half years ago – just a day after she was born. And in my own grief as a mama who holds three precious ones close on earth but is forever missing her oldest, I often think about the loss you are describing – the loss that doesn’t have a face or a name or even an acknowledgement like my own. My daughter’s absence is seen and grieved by many, and yet I would imagine that so much of your pain is silently shouldered alone – and for that, I am just so sorry. You are seen and loved from afar, and I am praying right now for renewed hope as you wait and long for life to come. Sending so much love in this deeply tender season…

  33. Joanna Schoff says...

    My mother passed away 8 days ago.
    She lived with Alzheimer’s disease for over 12 years. I now understand when grieving people say they want people to ask about the person that has passed. Use their name in the conversation.
    I like the idea of setting a chair for the person at the table.

    • Julie says...

      I am so sorry for your loss and for what you have been through these past years. It will get easier. I wish I could hug you.

    • Kathryn says...

      Oh Joanna, my heart hurts for you. I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s 2 yrs ago. Wishing you peace, love & light.

  34. Anahera says...

    Last August my two brothers both died in a car crash. My father left our family a few years ago and my bothers and I bought our house together so we and our mom could all stay together. Now our mom and I are the only ones left in this big house. When my dad decided to leave us it felt like my life and feelings were all over the place…like a rollercoaster. When the Autobahnpolizei arrived at our doorstep, accompanied by a nun we knew things were very wrong…it feels like I’m thrown out of the rollercoaster and I have no idea how to enjoy Christmas this year…. luckily my brothers and I had a great group of friends and they really try to make us feel some Christmas spirit…. hopefully the spirit will last and we will always be able to continue talking about my brothers as if they’re not that far away. Wish you all a Merry Christmas…

    • Kara says...

      sending you and your mom much love.

    • Em says...

      I’m so sorry you have had so much loss in your family, Anahera. You must have so many beautiful memories from this time of year with you dad and brothers. I am thinking of you and your mother, and the rest of your friends and family, this holiday. Sending love xxxx

    • odessa says...

      This is so sad, I’m so sorry for your losses. Sending good thoughts your way, Anahera. <3

    • Sonja says...

      Sending you so much love <3

    • Anahera, how terrible! I am deeply sorry for your loss. I can’t even begin to imagine what you might be going through. I am sending your way the warmest thoughts and wishing you all the strength you need to get over such a tragedy. Hugs.

    • Marlena says...

      Anahera, my heart goes out to you. That is too much loss. I hope you find slivers of solace in the midst of your grief.

    • jones says...

      I am so sorry for your loss. My older sister (and only sibling) died in August of 2018. It is especially hard this time of year to try to remember the good times and not feel bitter and cheated out of having your family member not here. Do whatever you need to get through the holidays. Take care.

    • Trina says...

      Anahera – sending you love and comfort at this time, over the loss of your two brothers. I have also lost 2 siblings, my older brother (age 21) and my older sister (age 17) in two separate car accidents, many, many years ago. After all this time, I still grieve for them, and I so miss sharing adulthood with them. Sending peace your way from Seattle, WA.

    • Cheryl says...

      I’m so sorry you lost your dear brothers and your mother lost her sons 💔

  35. Alison says...

    A family in our community is experiencing their first Christmas without their husband/father. One of the children asked if they could make a ‘Daddy tree’ and put ornaments on it that remind them of him. It’s gained a lot of traction and friends and other family members have donated ornaments as well. Now the tree is packed with all kinds of different parts of his life and passions. Such a simple but profound way to honor his memory—and I love that the idea came from his child.

    • Jess says...

      I love this so much. Sometimes kids can be completely awe-inspiring and brilliantly creative.

    • Alisha says...

      What a beautiful way to remember him! I’m crying now.

  36. Jan says...

    My brother died in a car accident when he was 15. (I am two years older than him). That was 15 years ago. Every year for Christmas we give a donation in his name to an organization that would have been meaningful to him. Then we print the slip of paper acknowledging the donation and put it in his stocking, which we hang with the others. We also have a scholarship fund in his name set up, and we sometimes donate to that. It’s really hard, but I like having a place to direct the love.

    • Kristin says...

      That’s beautiful, Jan. I am so sorry for your loss. Happy holidays and lots of love.

    • Susan says...

      I love this so much. Thank you for sharing.

  37. Melissa Graham says...

    After my dad passed away, we started a new tradition to honor him each Christmas. We bought a small tree, and every year each one of our family members buys an ornament that reminds us of him. Sometimes it’s an ornament that represents an inside joke, a hobby or a specific thing he loved. I find that picking out his ornament each year is one of my favorite tasks, and it still makes it feel like he’s part of our celebration. Right now the tree is getting pretty crowded, so a bigger tree might be in order. XOXO

  38. Sly says...

    I lost my sister 5 years ago and this is an intense holiday for her daughter and the rest of our family. My sister was the tradition-keeper and tradition-lover. We all miss her relentless family-oriented-ness even more than usual this time of year. Losing a loved one is so odd. There’s a negative space where they used to be. A space THEY used to fill. Everything shifts around that new emptiness. Some people step into that space in positive ways. Sometimes there’s silence there and it can feel very isolating and lonely. Either way, it’s always uncomfortable having something not be there that always was. I’ve learned to embrace the uncomfortable-ness as the best part of loss. It’s given me a chance to learn about myself and to appreciate my sister even more in her absence. I love what you said about “an awkward conversation is better than nothing at all.” My dad nervously tries to steer me away from bringing my sis up with my mom because it makes her cry. My feeling is that the tears are sitting there, under the surface, creating pressure… and this is just a way to release that pressure a little bit by letting them out. Anyway… Lots of disparate thoughts as a result of reading this and for that I thank you. <3

    • Charlie says...

      I love your description and language around loss. “negative space” and people shifting around the emptiness. I feel exactly the same way, but didn’t have those eloquent words to describe it. And I agree with you about the tears – let them out, and support each other through the release. Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays Sly.

    • M says...

      I think that’s so true what you said about the tears being there creating pressure, sadness is ok and sometimes we need to feel it.

    • Maris says...

      This really resonated with me, too. Thank you for taking the time to write out these thoughts. Wishing you and your family moments of joy in this season.

  39. Maire says...

    Thank you for this. Our Christmases were forever changed nine years ago when we lost my uncle/godfather very suddenly to an aggressive cancer, and now this year, both my grandparents are gone and so is their house where we all grew up and spend so much time together. We are trying a new tradition this year and my mom and I are splitting hosting duties while everyone travels to us. Planning for everyone’s stay has helped (I feel my Nan with me when I am using the plates and dishes that lived in her kitchen), and so will having everyone together. We will just never stop grieving because we will never stop loving those we have lost.

    Sending lots of love to everyone who is on their grief journey this season.

  40. Alex says...

    Sending love to everyone here who has lost someone special <3

    My mom's side of the family is pretty Catholic (and I'm ~culturally~ Catholic), so when my grandpa died years ago the church gave us a remembrance candle. My grandma would always set it on the dinner table at family holidays and light it, and when she passed we got one for her too. I know for my mom it's really special, and even though it's just a little act, I've always thought it was a nice way to actively include them in family celebrations, like they're laughing and bickering at the dinner table right there along with everyone else.

  41. Mary says...

    My husband of 46 years died earlier this year. People don’t ask how i am. I get it. It is awkward. Will she cry? I don’t want to upset her. What should I do? What should I say? It has taken me until this happened to him to realize, people NEED you to ask. They NEED you to listen. They NEED you to remember with them if you do. When you do this, that person is not quite so dead if such a thing can be said. The effect, the benefit, of them is still alive.

    • Connor says...

      Hi Mary –

      I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband. What was his name?
      Sending you a big hug and love

    • K says...

      I’m sorry for your loss, Mary. I hope you’re doing ok! You’re in my thoughts

    • Carole says...

      Dear Mary… how are you lovely stranger? I lost my Mom a few years ago and I understand this feeling… people never asked how I was doing also… I get it but also I needed people to listen, I was broken and I know you are too. We are all here for you Mary – sending you love and HUGE hugs. Also… he will always find little ways to show you here’s watching over you… a pretty sunset, a rainbow, a butterfly etc… XOXO

    • Krystal says...

      Mary, thank you for sharing this. While I can’t pretend to understand what you’re going through, I have similar desires to talk about the ones I’ve lost. I sometimes have a birthday dinner or gathering for people I’ve lost, and invite friends and family to join me in a celebration of their life. It kind of forces the conversation, but in a sweet way, and lets others know I -want- to talk about them.

      I hope you feel heard soon.

    • Cynthia says...

      I’m so sorry, Mary. People need to listen. We talk about our deceased family all the time. We’ll be watching a show on TV and saying how much my brother would have liked it or my husband will make a meal my Mama liked and we’ll say, “Mom, you’re missing out tonight!” A couple of nights ago, my husband fried oysters, and I said my dad would love these. My dad died a few years before I met my husband. Talking about your relatives still keeps them alive.

    • Lauren says...

      hi mary, I’m sorry about your husband. the holidays are a hard time on top of it. for what it’s worth there are probably lots of readers here who would like to read something you write about him if you wanted. I so, so relate to wanting to talk about the person! it’s like, can’t people see how important it is! and it really does keep the person alive in a small important way

  42. Emily says...

    My Sister-In-Law, Steph, lost one of her twins 4 years ago, right before the holidays ( November 16th ). Each year as the day approaches ( and in turn the holidays approach) she talked about how much anxiety it caused. So this year she asked friends and family to put out one Christmas decoration early & tag her ( #harperday) in the post so she could look forward to it. It felt so nice for her to reach out and share a bit of the grief with us to carry for her. My Husband ( Steph’s twin ) and I live in another state from her so it really was the perfect way to feel connected to her when it can be so hard from far away. <3

  43. Jas says...

    When we lost our grandma, I read this poem a lot:

    Death Is Nothing At All
    By Henry Scott-Holland

    Death is nothing at all.
    It does not count.
    I have only slipped away into the next room.
    Nothing has happened.

    Everything remains exactly as it was.
    I am I, and you are you,
    and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
    Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

    Call me by the old familiar name.
    Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
    Put no difference into your tone.
    Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

    Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
    Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
    Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
    Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

    Life means all that it ever meant.
    It is the same as it ever was.
    There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
    What is this death but a negligible accident?

    Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
    I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
    somewhere very near,
    just round the corner.

    All is well.
    Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
    One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
    How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

    • Natalia says...

      Thank you for sharing this poem. Really really beautiful. I’m going to hold onto it for a long while. Xoxo

    • Maddie says...

      This is absolutely beautiful and has left me in utter tears while smiling. Thank you!

    • Laura says...

      Awww, now i’m tearing up at my desk! I lost my dad this year and it’s been so hard. Thank you for sharing this poem, it is a solace for my broken heart.

    • Kristin says...

      That’s really lovely. Thank you for sharing.

    • Krystal says...

      I will hold this poem in my heart forever. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Anna says...

      thank you for sharing this

    • Cynthia says...

      This poem says it all.

    • Lauren says...

      thank you so much! this is a useful poem!

    • Sonja says...

      So, so beautiful. thank you.

    • Adrienne says...

      This is perfect. I lost my dad almost 4 years ago, and I still don’t feel like he’s dead. I always just felt like he went somewhere. Maybe because I’ve lived in denial or didn’t allow myself to grieve properly, but either way this poem really speaks to me. Thank you so much for sharing <3

  44. Cait says...

    I would have loved to hear from Lucy on this, if she is comfortable sharing. What has she done to honor her late husband during the holidays?

    • Clare Agra says...

      That’s what I thought this was going to be about! I’m interested in that as well. Sending all my love to Lucy & their sweet daughter.

  45. Julie says...

    My grandmother passed away in September-Christmas was always at her house, so this weekend my very large family will be throwing a party at a restaurant to celebrate each other.

    She was 92 and had a long, fruitful life. There is so much grief in these comments and so much tragedy-it makes you appreciate the people you have, the people you lost, and I hope the idea that you never know what people are coping with internally makes everyone a little kinder this time of year. So much love to you all.

  46. K.G. says...

    My father-in-law is dying of cancer and could pass any day now. I feel the weight of the potential loss this Christmas and the future grief around this time of year.

    • Cait says...

      We’re with you KG in spirit and prayers. Wishing you peace during this difficult time.

    • Clare Agra says...

      Sending all my love. It’s difficult anytime, but even more so around the holidays.

    • Cynthia says...

      I’m sorry and I will say a prayer for you.

  47. Jenny says...

    This is the first year my dad will have been gone for more of my life than he was here. We always put up our Christmas tree on December 21, one day after his birthday so he could feel celebrated. We keep that tradition, and we eat sausage and mushroom and onion pizza on his birthday.

    This is my third Christmas after my marriage ended and it feels like a celebration to start new traditions for my own family (even though that’s just me and my sweet dog, Keeper, right now). My favorite tradition so far is a long Christmas trail run. It feels so exhilarating to be out in the crisp morning air while everyone else is tucked up and cozy, awaiting presents and cocoa.

    • Charlie says...

      Good for your a Keeper for having your own family traditions and making time for self care. Sending you guys love! XOXO

  48. Kathy R says...

    This is my first Christmas since losing my mother in March. Still not quite sure how I am managing, but I think I do just for the sake of my family. I could just as easily skip the tree and the decorations. But I do it for them, and they will help keep me from falling apart!

    • Lauren says...

      thinking of you at this time of year 💓

  49. Moriah says...

    During the holidays, I try and keep in mind the people who don’t have healthy or loving family relationships. I have a friend that spends Christmas alone because of unhealthy family dynamics, I have a friend who recently found out her dad was leaving her mom and their family is shattered, and friends who have lost loved ones. It’s so easy to feel lonely at Christmas when your family is not what you wish it was. Sending love to everyone out there who feels an extra sadness during the holidays-whether your loved ones are still living or not.

    • Jenny says...

      Thank you for this comment, Moriah! Sometimes I don’t know what to do with ambiguous loss during the holidays. This year my mom wrote me a letter asking me to call her less often (once a week was my usual). How do I wrap my arms around that at Christmastime? I’m sending good thoughts out to all those who have holiday sadness. We’ve locked eyes at the grocery store over the motion activated dancing santa and mutually telegraphed: I am not okay with this.

    • Charlie says...

      Thank you for this reminder Moriah! It’s so important. A wonderful way to honor a loved one might be to fill their chair with someone who would otherwise be alone on Christmas – and say, you’re welcome here, come share our joy. My aunt always invites folks who don’t have family to join us, and it’s so wonderful.

    • Kristin says...

      Well said about how hard it can be during the holidays when your family isn’t what you’d wish. I am in that predicament this season for the first time ever and every day leading up to Christmas I feel a little worse and a little more downtrodden. I look forward to Dec 26th.

    • SD says...

      Thank you so much for acknowledging this kind of loss too. Loss of someone who is still living, but nonetheless gone, is so confusing and painful, especially around the holidays. It helps to see it mentioned here. (I’m not wanting in any way to detract from the terrible hardness of losing someone to death. My heart aches for those missing loved ones in that way.)

      And to Kristin, in one of the replies above mine, hang in there. This is my 4th Christmas with this kind of sadness. I know the first holiday season is its own beast of hard, and my heart goes out to you. Be gentle with yourself, and make a safe space where you can retreat to grieve when you need to. <3

  50. Emily says...

    Thank you for sharing this. We lost our first baby at 23 weeks along this past January. Last Christmas was such an exciting time of becoming a little family with her on the way. I even embroidered stockings with everyone’s name. We haven’t decorated this year. I just can’t seem to pull those stockings out and not hang hers or our beloved dog’s who we lost a few months ago. We’re expecting again, in March, and I’m so hopeful next Christmas feels more festive. I know the best I (or anyone) can hope for is to learn to carry both the joy of life and the sorrow at the same time. Wishing you and everyone who is missing someone a peaceful holiday. <3

    • Jenny says...

      This is beautiful.

    • Sarz says...

      You describe your experience in a beautifully written way, Emily. Best of luck to you and your family. 😘

    • Audrey says...

      Emily, I lost my first son at 20 weeks. The first Christmas after I lost him I was pregnant again and really struggled. Everyone expected me to be overjoyed when really I was terrified and overwhelmed with longing for my son that wasn’t there. I spent most of Christmas Day sobbing in my in laws basement. It can be difficult for others to understand that you can feel hope and grief and fear all at once. Take care of yourself this Christmas, pregnancy after loss is so hard. I hope the rest of your pregnancy goes smoothly.

    • Amy says...

      Thank you for sharing this, Emily. I lost my sweet baby boy 3 weeks ago, at 18 weeks along. ‘Carrying both the joy of life and the sorrow at the same time’ captures this experience so perfectly. I am trying so hard to show my toddler the joy in this season, and all that we have to be grateful for… while still honoring the grief and loss we are currently immersed in.

      I can only imagine how mixed your feelings are while expecting again, but I hope you know that stories like yours are giving me hope in my own early days of grief. You are so strong and brave to be on this journey, and I wish you all the best in the coming months. XO

  51. Megan M says...

    This will be the 9th Christmas since my dad passed away. In our family dining room, my mom put up a little sign that reads: “Food and memories are how we keep the people we have loved at the table with us.”

    It always makes me smile and reminds me that the stories we tell and laughs we have when we’re all together would make my dad so happy and proud of us. In his own way, he’s there.

  52. LK says...

    Tomorrow would have been my best friend’s sister’s 28th birthday. We lost her last year from an overdose. She volunteered at the Berkshire Humane Society, so today I bought some items from their Amazon Wishlist. Volunteering and donating for causes she supported makes me feel like I can make a difference, even without her here.

  53. LMN says...

    My best friend died in an accident 8 months ago. We are still feeling the loss so so deeply. Thank you for these suggestions for how to include those who have passed in our traditions.

    • Heather says...

      LMN I am sending you love and a big hug right now. Wishing you peace and lots of loving memories of your best friend this holiday. <3

  54. What a valuable post. Thank you so much for this. Sharing everywhere.

  55. KA says...

    These are lovely ways to honor someone. It’s such a heartbreaking feeling to carry on with joyous things knowing someone isn’t there to share them with you. I have a friend who also lost a child and every year she pulls a tag from a “giving tree” in her community for a child the age that her son would be and buys a gift for that child. I’ve always thought this is just a beautiful thing to do. Hugs to everyone missing someone this season.

  56. Sanaa Rahman says...

    holding your family in the light Marina, i’m so sorry for you loss

  57. lomavistagirl says...

    What a beautiful post and what beautiful, painful, and compassionate comments. I am trying very, very hard not to break down weeping at my desk. This is such a special community. Thank you for the ideas of how to honor lost loved ones and how to sit with someone in their grief, during the holidays and always.

  58. Missy says...

    Oh Katie. Thank you so much for this post. I saw the title and was hoping (I’m aware how this sounds) it would be about infant loss. Our daughter James also passed away (stillborn) from an extremely rare genetic condition. It will be our 2nd Christmas without her. I’m sending you love, and hoping James and Lochlan have found each other.

  59. Marina says...

    Thank you for writing this. I’m really sorry for your loss, Katie!
    This is our third holiday season without our son. He was 8. We carry his picture everywhere: family dinners, picnics, work trips, weekends away and vacations. It’s hard to look forward to holidays now. The best grief advice I got – to do what you can and carry on one day at a time. Peaceful holidays to all who’s missing someone ❤

    • Julie says...

      Oh Marina. How lovely that you carry his photo with you, I am so sorry for your loss.

  60. Dajana says...

    My Dad died last month at home under palliative care. His death still feels surreal to me and although I’m grateful to have had him as my Dad for almost 45 years my heart hurts in a way I’ve never experienced before. People ask me how I’m doing all the time and my answer is: I’m okay until I’m not. The sadness and grief can make themselves known in the strangest of places and at the strangest of times. I’ve given myself permission to acknowledge, accept and feel the emotions that rise to the surface and then to let them go. Meditation and mindfulness have helped with this. That said, there are still difficult days and I imagine there will be for some time.

    • Clare Agra says...

      So true & good advice. Sending your family all my love!

  61. Meghan says...

    This is beautiful. I remember when my grandparents died a day apart from each other in late November years ago. At one of the many family gatherings that holiday season I overheard my then 6 and 7 year old cousins having a conversation.

    “My mom’s really sad. Cause her mommy and daddy are in heaven.”
    “Yeah, my mom’s mom and dad are in heaven too. She’s sad. She cries a lot.”
    “Yeah. It makes me sad when she cries.”
    “Sometimes I give her a hug. I think it makes her less sad. Except sometimes she cries more.”

    Then my younger cousin gets up and leaves. I find her later, snuggling into her mom’s lap,

    “It’s ok to cry if you want to, Mommy. But I also want you to feel better.”

    • Claire says...

      What a beautiful story, Meghan! Thank you for sharing a reminder of how to be loving and compassionate to our friends and family who are mourning loss. xo

  62. Laura S says...

    Thank you for sharing. I lost my sweet father just this year in March, and it has been so hard to try to figure out how to face the holidays. He loved Christmas and time with family, so I want to try to enjoy it like I know he’d want me to. Last year, I couldn’t do it at all, he was so ill and I just shut down. Now that he’s gone, I’m trying to find my way back, but it’s so hard, even though I knew it would be. I strung some little lights around a photo of him near the tree (that I made myself put up – I never entertain but I even threw a little holiday brunch for close friends to be sure I did it, b/c I thought I’d try to avoid it otherwise), and had some ornaments made of photos of him with family members. It’s both deeply sad but also joyful to see them hanging on the tree. My heart is grateful for dear memories, even when it brings so many tears.

  63. Kristen says...

    Thank you for this post – I was pregnant with twins, due on December 23 this year. Miscarried one at 6 weeks, heard the other’s strong heartbeat just days later before miscarrying again, at 12 weeks. I had so much hope and love wrapped into the holidays this year, picturing two bundles of joy at Christmastime. Miscarriage is heartbreaking – and I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. <3 We were lucky enough to get pregnant again, quite quickly, and I'm feeling a sense of calm and glimpses of that hope again (even if it's paired with grief and loss) as we look forward to meeting our son in March. Thinking of you all who've lost someone you love this year – the holidays can be so hard.

  64. Meghan says...

    My cousin passed away last year and his brother was married this summer. They kept a seat at the head table (the tables were round, so we were all looking at each other) for him, it was so beautiful and touching. Not everyone would have noticed, but we all shared a moment at the head table in his memory. There was not a dry eye around the table.

  65. Julia says...

    This is beautiful. Thank you. I have commented here before on the loss of my 2 year old nephew almost 6 years ago now. Each year, his memory is honoured at Christmas time through cards that include his name, new ornaments for the tree or other small gifts, and lots of stories. The most important thing is to do whatever feels right to those who are grieving – it doesn’t matter whether or not it makes sense to others.

  66. agnes says...

    My mother passed away 5 years ago and the first christmas was like a very high mountain to climb. Now we can celebrate christmas joyfully but I feel my mother around and always cry when I hear White christmas…

    • Maggie says...

      Agnes, I see you and I’m so sorry for your loss. This is my fourth Christmas without my mom, and I too remember that first Christmas – just grueling and empty and seemingly never-ending. I baked a loaf of her traditional Christmas bread in her honor that season and was so overcome with grief when I smelled the baked bread that I threw it away. Each year has felt ever so slightly easier. This year, I’ve already baked a few loaves of her special bread and was even able to smile while doing it. Wishing you and your family a peaceful holiday this year.

    • agnes says...

      Thank you Maggie ; it’s beautiful that you’re baking that bread, so meaningful… Have a loving christmas. Thank you for your message :-)

  67. Annie K says...

    This is so beautiful. I’m very grateful for this timely reminder. Thank you.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in this – for years, I tried to sublimate grief only to unexpectedly break down two-thirds of the way through Thanksgiving or Christmas day (often following anything from a minor cooking flop to a small change in plans). Learning and relearning how to integrate grief and sadness into the holiday times has made the seasons more genuinely joyful, and allowed the tears to come without being a confusing shock.

  68. Britney says...

    Each year my mother-in-law lights a candle and places it on the mantle for her oldest son that she lost when he was 18. It’s a very gentle and beautiful reminder of his life and his presence in the hearts of the family.

  69. C says...

    The holidays are hard. 4th Christmas without my husband. Our son is 3.5 and it’s such a stark juxtaposition (his optimism and happiness, my melancholy). Hoping future holidays are brighter each year.

    • Ashley says...

      C, I am so sorry. I am sending you light and love today, with hope

    • Nikki says...

      wrapping you in a virtual hug.

    • liz says...

      hug

    • Julia says...

      I am so sorry for your tremendous loss.

  70. Katie says...

    I would love for you to share more about him. What was he like? Is there a story behind his name? Did he have a fuzzy tennis ball head or a mop of hair?

    • Kellie P. says...

      I was going to ask the same! I would love to hear more about your sweet son.

  71. Eva says...

    Thank you for this post. My dad’s 23rd year death anniversary is tomorrow. And the holidays seems gray for me. Its kind of hard to explain.

  72. Lizzy in Minnesota says...

    This is beautiful. The holidays are a bittersweet time for our family as well. In 2003, I lost my maternal grandmother on Christmas Eve; in 2004, my paternal grandmother on New Years day, and in 2005, my father on Christmas Eve – hours shy of celebrating his 47th birthday on Christmas Day. Last year, we lost my father-in-law on December 8th. I try take the time alone I need to have a good cry or loose myself in a memory. However, as the mother of 2 small girls, it’s been a task of finding the balance to create magical holiday memories for them, while still finding time to remember and grieve missing loved ones. We spend extra time looking at photo albums and sharing family stories of family members no longer with us, light candles in their memory, and have a toast in their honor. Ultimately, I can’t think of anything that would make our parents and grandparents happier than seeing us creating new traditions (and carrying on old traditions like having Chocolate Cake for my dad on Christmas) with our family.

  73. Jackie Korey says...

    this is so incredibly timely as it is my first Christmas without my grandmother and today happens to be her birthday. thank you for this and I am so sorry for the loss of your son.

    • Caroline says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Jackie. We lost my champagne-loving grandmother several years ago and now pop a nice bottle on her birthday every year to celebrate her and share memories. Sending you hugs this Christmas.

  74. Sally says...

    Such a beautifully written piece. This will be the third Christmas since my dad’s passing. It is the first holiday season I have felt festive since, perhaps in part because we are now able to focus on happy memories more than the memory of his horrible illness. Since that first Thanksgiving following his death, our family has told stories about him and his many quirks. Generally a lot of laughs follow…and sometimes a few tears. It’s so true that we want to talk about those we miss. My mom especially feels this as she’s noted friends barely mention my dad. It’s true: an awkward conversation is better than none. Rather than saying “I bet this time of year is hard for you,” you can say “you must have so many lovely memories of celebrating with your loved one,” which may open the door for some much-appreciated sharing.

    • Heather in Vancouver says...

      Thank you for sharing. At Christmastime we get together at our family cabin with friends and loved ones. Two years ago our neighbour’s husband passed away and while we are out there together I often struggle to find the words to say “I am thinking of him and missing him too.” This year I will remember your kind words when we are together. Sending you love and wishes for a beautiful holiday with your family.

    • Julia says...

      So true. It is so much better to lean into the awkwardness than avoid discussing the person who is missing. Harder than talking about a missed loved one is feeling utterly alone in one’s grief.

    • Blair Kurland says...

      This is such a beautiful and thoughtful post. The holidays can be so wonderful and difficult at the same time. Both of my parents passed away before I turned 17, so I have spent many seasons and milestones without them now. I recently unpacked a box that had their stockings in it, which gave my an idea for future Christmases when I have children of my own. I plan to fill their stockings with gifts to my kids from them. There will be baseball cards and gummy bears from my dad, and music and chocolate from my mom. That way, although they won’t have the opportunity to meet, my parents will be able to dots upon their grandkids.

    • Jody says...

      Blair, in addition to giving our kids a gift from Nonny and Papa, I sometimes give myself a gift from my parents on special occasions or big milestones. They have been gone over 10 and 8 years now. I just thought to mention, what about filling those stockings with a few little nice things for you, that remind you of them or might give you a little boost, while you are waiting to do it with your future children? I can’t imagine how hard it is to lose your parents so young. My prayers are with you.

  75. liz says...

    Thank you for sharing this, I needed this. My little brother died over Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago (he was 26) and his birthday is a couple of days before Christmas. Me and my immediate family dreads the holidays now.

    • Ashley says...

      Hi Liz, I’m so sorry for your loss. Twenty-six is too young. Sending compassion to you and your family this season.

    • Kimberly says...

      So sorry for your loss. 😢 My brother died this year at 26 too. It’s so unfair.

    • liz says...

      Thank you Ashley and Kimberly, and I’m sorry too, Kimberly. Losing a sibling is so terrible. It’s all so hard. You’re not alone.

  76. Kelly says...

    Such a timely and beautiful post. She is one of my favorite follows on instagram – katie__jameson

  77. Kimberly says...

    I needed this today. I lost my brother, my best friend, to a rock climbing accident in July. All I can think about are the things we were doing together last Christmas and the memories my sons will never be able to make with their uncle. Christmas feels so, so hard.

    • Ashley says...

      Hi Kimberly, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your brother. This season full of memories can be so hard, I’m sorry you’re going through it. Sending compassion to you and your boys today.

    • Brianna Glenn says...

      I’m so sorry for your terrible loss, Kimberly. What an astounding grief. Sending love and prayers to you.

    • agnes says...

      Kimberly, I’m so sorry; I will light a candle for your brother tonight. What’s his name? (only if you feel like sharing, else, it will be Kimberly’s brother).

    • liz says...

      hug

    • Kimberly says...

      Thank you Ashley, Brianna, Agnes, and Liz. You are all so kind. Agnes, his name is Evan.

    • Monica says...

      I’m so sorry to hear this, Kimberly. You and your family will be in my thoughts this Christmas. Sending you lots of hugs/love. <3

    • Coco says...

      Hi Kimberly, I feel for you. I lost my dad to hiking/climbing. My husband lost his father that way in his teens. This will be my third Christmas without my dad and the first with our baby/the first grandchild. I’m so sorry, your brother’s life was too short. I’ve heard the harder the loss, the greater the love. It’s so hard. Warm hug, and wishing you a loving shoulder to cry on this Christmas.

    • agnes says...

      A candle is lit, to celebrate the life of Evan. Beautiful name.