Grief and Loss During the Holidays

Cynthia L. Eppley 11/12/2020

Hard Holidays

As a Counselor, I found the Holiday times to be particularly troubling to my clients. Sure, there is the stress of decorating, cleaning, setting tables, and gifts bought and wrapped. I’d say 90% of my counseling from Nov1-Jan 15 involved “Holiday issues” including “family issues.”

But I also saw a great deal of grief and loss surrounding the holidays. How do we get through a holiday when there is an empty seat at the table? (See my previous posts on dealing with Grief: Grief 101, Grief 102)


I’ve seen whispers of loss on FB already.
“Happy birthday in Heaven, Mama.”
“Happy birthday, brother.”
Usually these posts are accompanied by a picture. The pain and loss are palpable.

My own sister, Carol Lynn, died before I was born.
Her birthday was Nov 1, and I pass that day thinking of her. What would it have been like to have had an older sister? Would we have fought? Or would we be best of friends?
I know her loss was a defining event for my parents.
No one ever gets over losing a child.

Would have, Should have, Could have

These words express loss and regret.
“If only I would have treated them differently.”

“If should have been with them in their suffering.”

“I could have done things differently.”
These are expressions we all know and use commonly. Can you hear it?
The pain and loss are palpable.

Anniversaries and Birthdays

We celebrate those we love on these special days.
But when a loved one is gone, these days pique our longing for them.
Should we mention this date? Should we ignore it? Won’t it make the person even more sad and lonely? We fear bringing on more sadness.

Speak Up

Do not think that ignoring or not speaking of them will make things better.
For the one in deep mourning, to remember the loved one brings credibility to their life.
It helps to remember them with sorrow, yes, but also with joy.
It means their life mattered.
It means their life here, for whatever amount of time, made an impact on others.


Perhaps the best thing we do in Grief Counseling is to listen well. The Grief cycle is long and hard.
To try to run ahead and ignore the stages is fruitless.
It takes time to process.

This is not the time for quick and easy answers, or platitudes.

A Time for Every Season

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

In this Holiday season?
Let’s seek Wisdom in knowing when to be silent, and when to speak.
And when we speak, let it be winsome and gentle.
Let’s honor those we’ve lost with remembrance.
Let’s reach out to those around us and speak into their lives kindness, comfort, and hope; ultimately, let’s bring others tidings of Comfort and Joy.

Tiding of Comfort and Joy

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay Remember Christ our Savior Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r When we were gone astray

Oh tidings of comfort and joy Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

Published by Counseling from a Christian View

Counselor, Teacher, Wife, Mother and Grandmother. It is a privilege to serve God. All my roles have taught me more about God's grace and mercy. And all of life is counseling.

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