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The First Holidays After Your Loved One Has Died – An Open Letter to Grievers

Dear Griever,

You made it through Christmas.

I bet you didn’t think you would, did you?

I know it was hard.

I know that every colored light, every piece of tinsel, every canned Christmas carol piped through department store speakers, and every well-meaning person wishing you a merry Christmas made you want to scream, “It doesn’t matter! Don’t you see that none of this matters? How can it without my loved one here?”

I know how much it hurt you to smile while family and friends opened gifts and all you could think of is the last present you gave your loved one.

I know how incomplete you felt, how foreign the holiday seemed, how you wanted to stay under the covers until it was all over.

I know all of this.

And I also know that you made it through.

And I know that you will make it through the New Year’s celebrations with the same heartache but perhaps with a different twist. With memories of glasses raised together or watching the ball drop in Times Square together or letting a child stay up past bedtime to ring in the New Year.

And you will make it through that holiday, too.

Do what you must: Cry, laugh, avoid parties, go to too many parties, light a candle for your loved one, write a song for your loved one, don’t think about your loved one, perform a quiet ritual for your loved one, distract yourself, scream at God, meditate, play a game, sleep.

It hurts.

There’s no getting around the pain.

But look, my friend, you are making it.

You thought you wouldn’t, but you are.

This is how grief is.

You get through one day at a time. One moment at a time.

The holidays will be your most severe test and you are half way there.

Those of us in this unenviable group called the Grief Club know what it’s like. That’s why we can tell you that you’re doing great.

It doesn’t feel like it, but you are.

And we’re with you.

And proud of you.

With much love and respect,

One Who Knows Grief Too Well


If you found this helpful, you may also be interested in On Pain, tolerance, and why there are no bullet points.

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The First Holidays After Your Loved One Has Died – An Open Letter to Grievers

Bobbi Emel, MFT

Psychotherapist Bobbi Emel specializes in helping people face life’s significant challenges and regain their resiliency. In addition to seeing clients in her private practice, Bobbi is a well-regarded speaker and writer. Check out her other writing at The Bounce Blog.

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APA Reference
Emel, B. (2012). The First Holidays After Your Loved One Has Died – An Open Letter to Grievers. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2019, from


Last updated: 27 Dec 2012
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