Death and the Holidays

death holidays

Death and the Holidays

In the United States, the holiday time officially begins with Halloween on October 31 and runs through New Year’s Day. The holidays are a time of family and close friends. A time of celebration and rejoicing. Yet, for many of us, the holidays are haunted by loss. How do you get through the holidays following the loss of a special person?

No matter how sick a person may have been or how old, death still hits many of us like a bolt of lightning. While you may expect the looming death of a beloved, it is virtually impossible to be fully prepared for the magnitude of the loss.

I have previously shared my own experience of losing my mother during the holiday period to cancer. All of the monumental milestones, good and bad, took place during the months of November and December over an 18-month period from the time we learned of her illness in the summer of 1986 to her eventual death in December 1987.

I learned that I was pregnant with my first child in November 1986. We were told that the supposed life-saving surgery she had undergone was not successful and there were a few remaining cancer cells on Christmas Eve 1986. The morning of her final Thanksgiving, she weighed only 95 pounds … down from about 170 when diagnosed. Her goal for the day was to simply break 100 before going to bed for the night.

Story continues below…

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My mother took her final breath on December 30, 1987. This was also the 17th birthday of my younger brother. My own daughter was only six months old. As I have shared with you before, this death hit me hard and for 30 years, I would flat out shut down during the months of November and December, thus robbing my own children of a good holiday season.

I would make a big deal out of Halloween, but was not even able to celebrate Day of the Dead on November 1 and 2.

It is said that time heals all wounds, but I disagree. Some say it is more so what you do with that time that heals. Any way you look at it, though, life simply goes on.

Those of us left here to mourn continue to live, we continue to love in one way or another, we have families and work to either maintain or build a life for ourselves. We must choose to move forward to go on and live our own best life possible.

It is through these choices that we eventually find healing. While the pain of some losses simply never goes away, it does somehow become more tolerable.

This holiday season, instead of dwelling on your loss and trying to make sense of it, choose to celebrate that person. Do something to honor them even if only raising a drink. Choose to smile. Choose to donate $20 or so to a favorite charity. Make someone else smile. Pay it forward by purchasing a stranger a cup of coffee or a meal in the drive-thru at your local fast food chain in the name of your lost loved one.

Tamara’s Verdict

Just choose to do something to acknowledge and honor your loss. Time does not heal all wounds, but we can. We do. Would your loved one really want to see you wallowing in grief and loss for years upon years? Nope. Not at all.

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  1. I lost my dad in April and it’s been the saddest time in my life! He was 84 and had a very good life. Then end was horrible due to Alzheimer’s. Thank you so much for these words! I don’t know if you ever get any of my responses but I do hope you get this one! I’m going to take your words to heart and try to pay it forward and be happy for my families sake. Your story has really hit home to me and I thank you!
    Sincerely, Regina

    1. Regina, thank you so very much for your comment. I am terribly sorry to learn of your father’s passing and wish it had been under different circumstances. But, death is never easy and somehow we simply go on. Somehow, some way. Oddly enough, this story went live on what would have been my own mother’s 72nd birthday. I did not realize that until I read your comment. Thank you, again, for your wonderful words!

  2. I’m sorry for your lost of your love one. And I know how hard it is specially on this beautiful season to celebrate. And I know how hard it is, because I lost five members of my family in a car accident on June 10th, 1996, and still hurts me like if it was yesterday the day of their death. Pain never goes away. Pain is always in our heart for the rest of our life. Celebrating special events are never the same at all.

    1. Maricela, I certainly understand your struggles but not quite the magnitude of how losing five persons at once may have affected you. My heart goes out to you. No, the pain never goes away and some losses are simply much harder to move past than others. I pray for you and those in your life.