Merry Christmas, from me to you


Merry Christmas.

Not all of us feel merry. Perhaps none of us do.

For those in grief, this time will be emotional, hard, and unpredictable. This holiday is uncharted territory. We’ve never been here before, at this particular time and place. This can be unsettling and scary. Many of us are wondering about a lot of things.

In the midst of all the uncertainty of life, loss, and grief, here are three things I believe to be true. I hope they will be comforting to you somehow:

  1. You matter, more than you realize. I believe you are of priceless, eternal value. This is true about you no matter what happened in the past, or what happens in the future.
  2. Your loss matters. You’re missing someone you love. Your world had been upended, perhaps even shattered. That’s a big deal, because your loved one is a big deal.
  3. Your heart matters. Your heart has been hit, hard. Perhaps it’s broken. Take care of your heart. Take care of you. Honor your loved one and grieve. Grieve well.

You’re not alone. You’re not crazy. You will make it.

I’m glad to be on this road with you.

Merry Christmas,


P.S. Here are some Holiday Affirmations (taken from Surviving the Holidays Without You) that might help:

  • Even in my loss, this holiday can still be good.  I’ll begin by managing my own and others’ expectations.
  • My holidays will be different but they can still be good.
  • I’ll feel alone sometimes.  I need alone time, but I’ll be careful not to isolate myself.
  • If I want to do the holidays well, I must pay attention to my heart.
  • I will watch my “gas tank” carefully.  This holiday I will choose what I’m going to do, when, and with whom.
  • Safe people will help me stay grounded and sane.  I will find and treasure them.
  • I don’t have to leave my loved one behind.  I can be creative and move on with them in new ways.
  • God is with me in my grief.  He is my comfort and healing.

When Holidays Hurt: 3 Keys to Survival


December is upon us.

Ah, the holidays.

Halls, houses, and lawns are decked with festive decorations. Kitchens are filled with delightful, savory aromas. The air is laced with laughter, familiar music, and the tinkling of Salvation Army bells.

The holiday spirit is everywhere.

But underneath the bright lights, smiles, and cheerful greetings lurks the unseen warehouse of holiday expectations. We have to top last year, and the year before that. Bigger, better, more colorful, and more delicious. We must somehow make this holiday more “wow,” better than ever before, the best ever.

We all have expectations. We have ideas of how this should go, what should happen, and when. We have expectations of others. Others have expectation of us. We have expectations of ourselves based on what we think others’ expectations are.

Even our culture has expectations. Have the appropriate holiday spirit. Engage in holiday cheer. Fa-la-la-la-la, and all that. Be happy, happy, happy! And above all, buy, buy, buy.

The pressure mounts.


What if we’re not happy?

What if we’re not happy? What if we’re actually sad? What if we’ve lost a loved one, or several? What if we’re depressed?

Amidst the smiling faces, there are some wounded hearts. Holidays are naturally times for reminiscing. Memories of what we once had swim before our eyes. We become hyper-aware of who and what we’ve lost.

Grief is lonely thing. Surrounded by gaiety, a broken heart can feel more alone and isolated than ever. No one wants to hurt for the holidays, but some of us do.


Hurting for the Holidays?

How do we deal with this?

Here are a few suggestions:


1. Manage those expectations.

One question to ask ourselves might be, “Exactly whose game are we playing here?” Instead of plowing ahead as usual, let’s pause and take a good look at our expectations and plans. What do we want this holiday to be like? What’s honestly possible and realistic? What do we really want to do, how, when, and with whom?

Focus on a few things. What’s most important? What must happen? Along the way it might be good to let those close to you know you’re doing things differently this year. This will help manage their expectations too.

2. Make a plan to remember loved ones who’ve passed on.

Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Bring up their name and talk about them. Invite others to share a special memory or what they miss most. Holidays are a wonderful time to honor the special people who now reside in our hearts rather than next to us.

3. Be kind to yourself.

You can do more than merely survive. Take your heart and health seriously. Pace yourself. Rest. If you love yourself well through this time, that love will spill over onto family and friends as well.

Watch those expectations. Focus on the most important things. Simplify. Honor deceased loved ones. Be kind to yourself along the way.

These holidays might be tough and stressful, but they can still be good.


Adapted from Gary’s article “Healthy Holidays: Managing Stress and Grief” from INSITE Magazine and his book Surviving the Holidays Without You (2016 Book Excellence Award Finalist).

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