Can't We Skip the Holidays?

"Christmas? Thanksgiving was an emotional nightmare. Can't we just skip it this year? Where's the Grinch when you need him?" Glenn asked.

"I'm planning on hiding. I know it won't work, but I don't know what else to do," Connie added.

Glenn and Connie's daughter Skylar grew up into a beautiful and rugged young lady. Her two brothers proudly took credit for the rugged part. Together they loved hunting, fishing, and the outdoors. 

One summer vacation, the family camped at a gorgeous spot next to a river. Early one morning, during a tubing excursion down the river, Skylar's younger brother fell in and went under. Without hesitation, she went after him. As she tugged him to safety, Skylar was knocked unconscious. She slipped away quickly, as her brothers watched in horror. She was 15.

"She's our hero. How do we do Christmas, or any holiday for that matter, without her?" Glenn asked.


Holidays can be tough

Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year’s. Valentines. Memorial Day. July 4. Labor Day. These are the times when families gather to enjoy one another and celebrate. For those of us enduring loss, these days are often devoured by the absence of our loved one.

Holidays are tough. They surface our losses in ways nothing else can. Reminders are everywhere. We bump into a memory with every step.

What do we do with this? Some of us opt for hiding. We emotionally, and sometimes physically, lock ourselves in, hunker down, and wait for the present storm to pass. The sheer dread of the assault of memories can be paralyzing.

Yet, the holiday comes. Is it possible to meet it and somehow use it to honor our loved one and express our grief in a healthy way?

Here are some examples:

  • Have everyone bring a card that reminds them of your loved one. Pass around the cards and read them out loud. Invite people to share memories.
  • Light a candle in remembrance.
  • Enlarge a picture of your them. Provide markers and have family members or friends write messages on the picture. Display it during the holiday.
  • Prepare one of their favorite dishes and include it in the holiday meal.  
  • Do something completely new, like take a trip somewhere you’ve never been, and honor them in some way during your time together as a family.

The key is being creative and proactive. We need a plan – even a simple one. In fact, simple is probably best.

Many are concerned activities like these will be too emotional and infuse the holidays with sadness. The truth is, things are already emotional. When families get together, everyone is hyper-aware of who’s missing. Having a plan to honor our loved one gives families an opportunity to share and grieve together in a healthy way.

Yes, it will be emotional, but that’s doesn’t mean it can’t be good.

The holiday will come. Be proactive. Be creative. Make a plan. Keep it simple.

We don’t have to let the holidays crush us. Rather, with a little proactive decision-making we can use this time to express our grief in a healthy manner, honor our loved one, and love those around us.

“Holidays come throughout the year. I will meet them head-on, and use them to honor you.”


Adapted from the new bestseller, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child.




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About the Author

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. He is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child, Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving, HEARTBROKEN: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse, and Surviving the Holidays without You and the co-author (with New York Times Bestseller Cecil Murphey) of Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. Visit him at

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