Hanging On: Tips for Surviving the Holidays When You’re Grieving – By Beth Marshall, Author

Dec 2013 - headshot - MarshallMy most difficult journey of grief began with the death of my mom, just weeks before Thanksgiving. Without warning my best friend and #1 fan was gone. Mom loved everything about the holidays. You may have seen her on the interstate – the blue Honda with the wreath on the bumper and the ridiculously loud Christmas music playing? The thought of the holidays without her was impossible to imagine.

If you are missing someone this year, you may be wondering how you will get through the season ahead. Hopefully these ideas will help:

Keep it Simple. Can you imagine November or December without a manic pace of cooking, decorating, entertaining, shopping and events? Would you be willing to take a break from the insanity this year? Carefully scheduling only the events that you enjoy and opting out of the rest will help you maintain a sense of calm even in a season of sorrow. Give yourself permission to say no to over-scheduling, and yes to people and activities that refresh you. In January, you will be thankful you did.

Keep it Fresh. Creating a special place for memories, photos, and recipes is a beautiful way to honor the person you’re missing. Whether you share stories around a cozy fire or record them in a journal, telling and retelling the timeless tales will keep memories fresh.

The Blessing Box. Is there a gift your loved one gave you, not a tangible gift but something else? Think about something you received because they were part of your life. Maybe it was the gift of laughter or compassion. Write whatever comes to your mind on a small strips of paper, then place them in a special box. Whenever you open your blessing box this holiday season you’ll be reminded of the unique gifts your loved one gave you that will always be part of your life. One sweet reminder in my blessing box is the gift of unconditional love my mom gave me. I’m smiling right now thinking about her priceless gift. Hold your treasured gifts closely this holiday season.

Seek Help. If your grief is severe – leaving you with feelings of hopeless and despair, there are professionals and support groups available – so do seek help.

*Special thanks to Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., Director, Grief Inc. for sharing the blessing box.


Beth Marshall is the author of A Time to Heal: A Grief Journal. After losing three close family members in a few short years, she looked for a way to honor and remember the people she loved. Her prayer journal became not only a source of comfort, but also a place she could preserve priceless family stories. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedies, the original printing of A Time to Heal was offered through the Army Chaplain’s office at the Pentagon. She is a Christian speaker and a guest writer for The Grief Toolbox, Open to Hope, YourTribute.com, and The Compassionate Friends magazine. Beth can be found on her blog, A Time to Heal, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.