Dealing with the holidays without your loved one

We feel the painful loss of a loved one as we move through our daily routines. The holidays can make the pain even sharper as holidays are often laced with special traditions. Maybe your spouse hung the Christmas lights or your mom baked a special cake. It could be you used your parent’s Menorah or played a certain game every year since childhood. Whatever the holiday plans, there are poignant memories that can magnify the loss.


While grief is unique, so is the way we each cope. Despite our loss, we can embrace the holiday, ignore it, or we can create new traditions that won’t be a reminder of what we’ve lost. We can always use one approach or, try a different way each year to see which feels best.


The first holiday season without my mom, I tried new traditions. I jammed that weekend so full, I had no time to grieve. So I grieved when it was all over. I’ll never know whether that was better or worse, but I made it through the holidays without spoiling them for other loved ones. In the years since my mom’s death, I have forged many new traditions, ones I now love and they feel just as comfortable as the old ones. As I worked through my grief I found I was able to include some of my mother’s recipes and even her serving pieces, without sadness. In fact, preparing for the holidays, polishing the silver and washing the crystal help trigger happy memories that are now a comfort.


A friend moved far away following his loss and the climate and landscape were so different, it was essential to change holiday traditions and routines. The cuisine was unique to that region and memories didn’t lurk behind every corner. While the change was hard at first, the fresh start was essential to his healing and as the years passed, he too became comfortable in integrating some of the old recipes and interestingly, the serving pieces, into his holiday plans.


Holidays are as personal as your grief. I find it helpful to monitor what feels good or, what’s too painful to do.  Most important, give yourself the gift of celebrating in a way that is comfortable for you.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.


Image: Flickr Creative Commons/Matthias Rhomberg

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Comment by Cindy on December 13, 2012 at 9:46pm
I am not handling these holidays at all. I had to run out of a store playing Christmas music, and wound up crying so bad. This is toooo painful. Cindy
Comment by Ellen Ross on December 10, 2012 at 10:45pm

May I share this post at my Facebook page, "Difficult Holidays"?  Thank you.

Comment by Leola Brown on December 8, 2012 at 8:41am
I truly understand your feelings, I pretty much did the same thing ( partied until I dropped) when my mother was killed. Thinking that the pain would lessen, but to my surprise, I only made it worst for my friends, that loved me, as well as for myself. You may ask how is that so? Well my friends were trying to console me when the alcohol no longer worked, as well as trying to stop me from killing myself when under the influence.

But the friends that truly loved me, stuck in there with me. One friend in particular, turned me toward the Bible. She showed me scriptures that sooth me, that helped me to start to heal. One of them was taken from John chapter 11 and verses 1-44, but the one verse that stood out to me was 11 there Jesus referred to death as a rest, but to his surprise his disciples was still confused, so in verse 14 Jesus outspokenly said that Lazarus had died.

This helped me to see that my mother was resting, not being burned in hell if she lived a life that was not worthy of going to heaven. And it also helped me to see that she was not in heaven, because why would Jesus bring his close friend back to earth if he was in heaven with God only to die again, why would Gods son, who came to earth to die for us, do such a thing?

And then she showed me John chapter 5 and read verse 28, that helped me to see that Jesus was going to resurrect her. Believe me, that hit me like a ton of bricks. Then, I started to pray for patience, and endurance until I could see her again.

I truly hope these scriptures bring you some relief. Please contact me if you have any questions for me.

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