Last week as I was decorating my annual “Dove” tree, I was reminded of the bittersweet feelings the holidays can bring. Katie Couric recently wrote of her late husband’s death in Time magazine. She recalls the 19 holidays she has had since the death of her husband. She recounts what many of us have felt over the years while either caring for someone who is dying or after his or her death during the holiday season.

While the holidays can bring joy and happiness, the flip side for many of us can be the reminder of loss and grief. My mother loved Christmas. Your Christmas list had to be in by Halloween — really Mom? She decorated, she shopped, she cooked and baked, and in retrospect, I wonder how she did it all. She could not wait for the grandchildren to come for Christmas and spend the night.


Ten years ago she passed away peacefully at the Dove House, the in-patient Hospice house in Westminster. She was surrounded by her daughters and one faux daughter, my best friend who watched over her and sat by her bedside knitting. We promised our mother that we would keep her memory alive. We listed all the special things that she cooked, among other things, and we wanted to always remember her traditions so that we would carry on her love of Christmas.

Every year my sisters and I meet for the “First Saturday” in December to place a wreath on her grave and say a Merry Christmas. It’s bittersweet. We usually laugh and joke about who was late (usually me, however I’m on a two-year early streak) and say a few words. It’s our new tradition followed by breakfast with a toast to Mom, a day of shopping, and then our significant others are invited to join us for dinner.

We usually give each other a new “Dove “ ornament to place on the tree. I have started a“ Dove tree” which I put up every year. It’s a reminder of how much she loved Christmas and a tribute to her as well as the wonderful people who cared for her at the Dove House in her final days.

Take steps to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy, and make health a priority during the holidays.

Getting to the point of new traditions and remembering with joy has not been an easy process … as is usually the case for those who have suffered loss of loved ones.

The first Christmas just one month after Mom’s death was the “stiff upper lip” Christmas. We all busied ourselves trying to create a Christmas just like she would do for her family. The second Christmas, however, was the worst. After bracing ourselves for the first without her, we all let our guards down and thought we had made it through the worst. The decision to “not” do any planning was what took us by surprise. The emptiness was obvious.

Each year is now different, yet we have weathered the storm and have found happiness and joy in the season. For those of us who have experienced loss, we know that support from our friends, loved ones and even strangers can make a difference in finding those moments of joy during a time when grief and sadness may be the looming part of the holiday season. The greatest gift you can give to those struggling through the season is remembering their loved one and sharing your memories of that person and acknowledging the loss. Ignoring or avoiding the subject or even moreso the grieving person, is more painful than reaching out even when you may feel you don’t know what to say or how to say it.

This holiday season, I wish you the ability to find hope in the season, be patient with the process and look for the moments in which you can find joy in the memories. Below is an excerpt from Time with a link to help all of be more mindful during the holidays

Time magazine has partnered with partnered with OptionB.Org, Sheryl Sandberg’s initiative, to commission essays from influential people who have struggled themselves about what has helped them during difficult holiday seasons in the past. In these pieces, as well as at optionb.org/holidays and #OptionBThere you’ll find actions big and small that you can take to help yourself and others find moments of joy.