Posted by: Kathy | December 10, 2012

Celebrating the Holidays Without a Loved One

December 25th is quickly approaching and the only thing I have done in preparation for Christmas is ordered Santa letters for the kids. At age 13, my son does not believe in Santa Claus, but my 6-year-old daughter still does, so getting letters sent to both of the kids is important. It is part of the magic of Christmas for my daughter. Fortunately, I get email reminders about the letters every year, and these reminders do not stop until I have placed my order.

Today I looked at the date and realized I am running out of time. I need to start buying Christmas gifts and decorating the house. Honestly, I need to get my act together and get into the Christmas spirit, but my heart just isn’t there yet. It’s not that I dislike Christmas; it is actually my favorite time of year. Of course, I want this holiday to be special for my family, but ever since I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer on November 16, 2008, the holidays have not been the same for me. My mom made them special and she is gone.

Celebrating the holidays without a loved one can be difficult. There is an empty seat at the table that no one else can fill. So much has changed since my mom died. I have accepted these changes and the fact that my mom is gone, but every year I look around the table on Christmas day and long to see my mom. My heart physically aches for her and tears spring to my eyes as my dad says grace (something my mom always did), but I put a smile on my face hoping that I can make Christmas special for my kids the way my mom did for me.

For those of us who have lost a loved one, dread of the holidays is common. Little everyday things can be a reminder of the person we lost. Food shopping, walking down the card aisle, and putting up decorations can fill our hearts with the all too familiar feeling of grief. Last week I had dinner at my dad’s house. After dinner, we walked around the house looking at the Christmas decorations, some of which were made by my mom. Throughout the house are little reminders of my mom and the special touches she put into Christmas. These reminders can be a source of both happiness and pain.

To get through the holidays, especially Christmas, I have put all my focus into making the day special for my kids and kept some of my mom’s traditions. My mom gave me a Christmas ornament each year, and now I do the same for my kids. As the kids and I decorate the Christmas tree, we talk about the special ornaments that came from my mom. Sometimes they help me in the kitchen as I make carrot soup, pumpkin bread, and chocolate chip cake, all from recipes written in my mom’s neat handwriting. These dishes were part of Christmas dinner when my mom was alive. On Christmas Eve, we go to the candlelight service at church. The beauty of the church bathed in candlelight as we sing Silent Night is usually what “kick starts” my Christmas spirit. Before the kids go to bed, we put out cookies and milk for Santa, carrots for the reindeer, and then my husband reads The Night Before Christmas, complete with the appropriate sound effects. I find that keeping my mom’s traditions alive and sharing these traditions with my kids helps me to get through Christmas and makes the day special.

This year I will be celebrating my fifth Christmas without my mom, and although each year gets a little easier, I still miss her deeply. Getting through the holidays after the loss of someone special is difficult, but not impossible. There may be sadness and tears, but there can also be happiness as we remember the special times we shared with our loved ones. As I place her ornaments on the tree and fumble around the kitchen this year, I will remember my mom with love.

For those who are dreading celebrating the upcoming holidays because a special loved one is gone, I wish you peace.



  1. You had me in tears on my lunch break – all very familiar feelings. Sending a squeeze x

    • Awe, I’m glad my post touched you. I am here for you if you need anything.Take care. HUGS.

  2. I left my husband shortly before the holiday season. The cops escorted him out. I had a few minutes to grab my belongings (including my two month old son) and escape the clutches of a crazy person. Even though I was safe that holiday season was dreadful because we weren’t celebrating together as the happy family I envisioned. I still hold a heavy weight in regards to the situation… I couldn’t imagine facing this situation alone, and without my mom. It is difficult loosing a loved one whatever the situation may be! I too tend to focus on my child around the holidays… I buy him an ornament every year, we decorate cookies, make gingerbread houses, look at holiday lights, watch all the holiday movies, check out the parades and silliness. Sometimes if I’m feeling blue I watch a video of my little one saying, “Your the best mommy ever, and I love you the mostest” and then he blows me a few kisses. The holidays are tough, and sometimes I think creating new traditions help… maybe you could create an ornament every year in honor of your mother, and light a candle the night you choose to hang it. I am truly sorry about your loss. If you need anything I am just a blog away.

    Your words have touched me in the past, and continue to do so. Therefore I have nominated you for my award, Prego Project:

    • Your little one sounds very sweet. I love the holiday movies – we watch them as we decorate the tree. There is a tie between The Grinch That Stole Christmas and Charlie Brown Christmas for my favorite movie. I watch them all every year with my kids and can probably recite them word for word. Your idea of a new tradition sounds great. One new tradition we hold close to our hearts is releasing balloons for my mom on her birthday, the anniversary of her death, and holidays. It’s our way of saying we love you and still think of you.

      A loss is a loss, no matter what it is, and I know the pain of celebrating a holiday in a way that you didn’t envision. It must have been so hard for you, even if it was for the best. I remember my first holidays alone with my son – it was lonely in a way.

      Thank you so much for nominating me for your award. You touched my heart and I deeply appreciate your continued support. I too am just a blog away if you need anything. Take care.

  3. I have a piece of the first Christmas tree I had after my mom died (also in November). I remember cutting off the bottom of that tree by myself, being proud of that, trying to keep her traditions alive. I did keep many of her traditions alive for a long time. I don’t have kids, so there hasn’t really been anyone to pass things down to. My nieces and nephews didn’t really spend Christmas with us. My brothers are much older. They had their traditions with my mom, but my mom and I had our own. It was an insular little world. I let some of them go because they just didn’t fit me anymore. Some slipped away much more unintentionally, and I would love to bring those traditions back, if only for myself.

    I have gotten very used to Christmas without my mother, but I am not sure it is necessarily easier, even two decades later. I miss her in different ways than I did initially.

    I think it is really good that you keep those traditions with your children. It will mean a lot to them as they live out their lives. Good for you.

    • Thanks Janice. Funny, today my daughter has to bring something in for show and tell that is a holiday family tradition. She brought in a teddy bear Christmas ornament that my mom gave me many years ago and I passed along to my daughter. Traditions can slip away without realizing it. If there’s a particularly special one for you, try to bring it back this year. I wish you peace. Take care.

  4. I absolutely LOVE Christmas family traditions. It’s wonderful that you keep them within your family each and every year.  I pray for continued healing and peace for you, Kathy.  You are such a beautiful person and deserve to thoroughly enjoy this holiday season and all times of the year.   Love You My Friend!   :o)


    • Thank you my dear friend. Yes, family traditions are very important to me, along with family and friends like you. Love you,

  5. Big, big hugs to everyone missing a loved one this holiday season. This year has been tough for me, despite my mother being gone for more than 15 years. I think more than anything I’m feeling the loss of missing out on so much all these years.

    • Hi Loni: Big hugs to you as well. I appreciate you visiting my site, commenting, and your support. I love your blog site. I’m sorry it’s been a tough year for you. There is no time to stop missing someone, especially your mom. We can’t just turn off our feelings. I can relate to what you say about feeling the loss of missing out. I feel that mostly for my kids. They have missed so much by not having their loving grandmother in their lives. Best wishes during this holiday season. HUGS.

  6. I just lost my mother to a sudden stroke on November 20th of this year. Just two days before Thanksgiving and a week before her birthday on December 3rd. I am still working hard to get through this month. My family (husband and two young adult children) have been very supportive. They have allowed me not to decorate this year and keep Christmas simple. It just is too fresh for me to make it through any other way. I know as time goes on, it will be easier. But for now, it still hurts.

    • Hi. I am sorry for the loss of your mom. Thanksgiving must have been very difficult for you. My mom’s funeral was a week before Thanksgiving and it was very difficult for our family. I’m glad you have the support of your husband and kids. Grief can be a rollercoaster of emotions, the first of which I found is shock. But this is my personal experience and everyone grieves differently. Remember, you are not alone in your journey of healing and grief. I have found many friends through this blog who understand what I am feeling. I wish you all the best and peace in your heart. Please reach out to me if you need anything. Here is my favorite quote: “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die” ~ Thomas Campbell. Take care.

      • Thank you! When we were going through her sudden stroke and death, I can’t tell you how many of our readers commented their support for us. It was so amazing and wonderful. I am just taking it one day at a time. I know its an up and down thing and I will get through it. Thank you for your support.

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