10 Suggestions for Living WITH the Holidays this Year when someone you love has died

1. You will survive.  Remind yourself that you will survive. You will.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will come and they will go and it will be December 26th ... that day after Christmas.  Would you like to do more than just survive, however?  If so, keep reading...

2. Create peace.  Take some time to think about what will bring you the most peace this holiday season.  

        a.  Keeping all of your Holiday traditions in tact? 

        b.  Tweaking some traditions a bit and adding new ones? 

        c.  Throwing out all the old traditions and starting new ones?

        d.   Flying to a warm, tropical place and completely skipping the holidays this year?  It's okay if you do that you know.  You have my permission!

3. Say Their Name.  Don’t expect anyone to mention the name of the person you love who died.  Believe it or not, that’s your job.  People will look to you to determine whether or not it’s safe to talk about the person that died.  Here are a few ways to include your loved one:

        a. Serve/bring your loved one’s favorite dish to the holiday get-together – talk   about it!  Even if your beloved loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches best.  BRING THOSE.

        b. Bring a favorite picture – pass it around. Work it into the centerpiece.

        c. If you have photos of your beloved with every person who will be seated at your holiday table, use these photos as place cards.

        d. Bring a favorite memento – a book, a poem, a watch, a piece of jewelry, a toy – and share it with guests after dinner. 

        e. Have your loved one’s favorite music playing in the background.

        f.  Be sure to include the names of all your family members who have died as you gather to pray.  Invite all at the table to include the name(s) of their loved one(s) who has/have died.

4. Plan a special evening for close family and friends when you REMEMBER. Ask everyone to bring a favorite photo and write down a special memory. Set time aside to sit in a circle and share the photos and stories.

5.  Give yourself permission to cry.  When someone you love dies, tears are normal, natural, healthy, and healing.  It's okay to cry.  Tears are a concrete, tangible sign that you are healing.  Tears are sacred. When/if you're able to cry, let the voice inside you head say, "I am healing.  I am healing. I am healing."

6.  Smile.  It’s okay to smile or even laugh.  You’re not being disloyal by enjoying yourself. 

7. It’s also okay to stay in bed, all day, if you like.  You will get out when you are ready and able. 

8. Buy yourself a gift. Wrap it. Write a note – to you – from the person you love that died.  If you're beloved were alive this Holiday Season, what would he/she want you to have as a gift?  It's okay to buy that special something for yourself.

9. Buy someone less fortunate than you a gift. Give it in memory of your loved one.  This is a wonderful way to spread the love. 

10. Light a candle. Hold on to hope.

Additional resources, click ~

1.  How to help a friend or family member

2.  A Simple Candle Lighting Ceremony

My book Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief is available in paperback and as an eBook at amazon. You can find it by clicking here:  Tom's book    

If my NEW WAY of "doing grief" resonates with you, I'd love to work with you one-on-one. If you are in the Rockford, Illinois area we can do that in person, otherwise, I am having great success working with people all over the country via Skype or FaceTime. Email me at tomzuba@aol.com if you would like to take the next step on your grief journey and we can schedule a session.



  • wonderful tips, I also enjoyed the thought of the day comment relating to loss. At this time of year it can be a real challenge for people who have lost a loved one through death or a marriage break up, even the loss of self becomes a grievance. therefore, its important to share warmth and courage and reach out to those who need it most.

  • Mom passed in June. She was the rock, the glue to the family after Dad passed 7 yrs ago. Since then I have discovered that my siblings now seem to be only for themselves. To honor my folks, I will continue their tradition of gifting to charity for Christmas. I don’t expect other members of the family to include or think about me this year. I will search for my own way to celebrate Christmas alone, count my blessings, and maybe put up a display of the handmade decorations that Mom & I shared doing from the 60’s. I’ll try to find those memories and hold them close on Christmas Day.

    Eve Cooper
  • thank you Tom. you have been a inspiration, we just lost our son Zachariah 7 months now and our daughter Jessica almost 10 yrs at age of 14 zach was 25 yrs. they were 14 months. it hurts so bad , but thank you for the tips u given. i will keep saying their names around friends and family. people are right about saying our childrens name in front of us.So i will keep saying them. thanks again jennifer do u ever plan on coming to South bend indiana would like to hear u speak sometime and do u have books now thanks Merry Christmas.
    jennifer sigafoose
  • Tom, I love your ten tips. You really covered everything, even staying in bed if you so choose. This year we’re doing something completely different. My fiance and I are going to a Chinese Restaurant for an early dinner and then we’re watching old movies all evening. My daughter won’t speak to me or let me see my grandchildren so for the last two years it’s just been me. But that’s a long story. Suffice it to say I’m not going to sit at home alone and cry this year. I’m going to enjoy Christmas. I deserve it. Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday.

    Mary Ann deGorgue
  • Tom,when I read your story I couldn’t believe it so heart breaking.i also felt hope.hope for myself I too have lost a child from cancer.i didn’t ever think i would even get this far as its been 4 years now.Grief is a powerful thing it robs you of the person you once were.i so want to read more of your writings and understand how to better deal.you have inspired me.

    Christi piniewski

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