When grief and the holidays meet, the results are often not pretty.

I had my first auto accident when I was 16. It was raining, and I took a curve too fast. I spun out of control, popped the curb, and slammed head-on into a tree. The impact whipped me around, smashing the rear of the vehicle into another tree. I remember a hissing sound and steam pouring out of from under the hood.  My door jammed, so I slithered out a half-open window.

As I stood up, I discovered I was shaking. My Chevy Nova resembled a gnarled, red accordion. I felt dizzy. I took a deep breath, blinked, and slid to the ground. I had no idea how lucky I was.

Hitting an immovable object at any speed is not a pleasant experience. Some collisions are minor. Other are devastating.

The calendar is littered with immovable objects – dates that get our attention, such as anniversaries and birthdays. Thanksgiving and Christmas sit there in big, bold letters. The season looms before us like a forest of Sequoias, and we’re getting closer every day. There’s going to be a collision.

I work as a hospice chaplain and grief specialist. I write resources for those who are hurting and trying to make sense of their wounds and losses. Every year, I’m astounded by the power and depth of holiday grief. The moment Christmas decorations appear, my inbox is flooded with emails chocked full of holiday dread.

The holidays are coming. The collision between grief and these immovable spaces on the calendar will be significant.

Can we do better than merely survive?

Can we grieve well, and somehow not let our grief define us?

Can we brace for this collision? How?

Here are 3 tips for when grief and holidays collide.

Accept that the collision has already taken place.

The dreaded collision has essentially already taken place. The loss has already occurred. Our loved ones are gone. Our Chevy Nova is totaled. We sit on the ground, shaking, feeling the repercussions. We’re stunned.

When our minds return, we wonder what’s next. How do we handle this? What will life be like now? Who will we be in this new and strange world we find ourselves in?

“Happy Holidays?”

Sounds ridiculous, like some emotional oxymoron.


What is that?

The collision has occurred. You’re stunned. And that’s okay.

Continue to love, no matter what.

The great collision has occurred. Our hearts have been hit. Our worlds have cracked. Our futures have been altered, perhaps forcibly.

Holidays? How do we do this?

We love. That’s what we do.

You loved, therefore you grieve. You love them still, therefore you continue to grieve. As you mourn, you remember.

Continue to love those around you, no matter what. Refuse to let loss win. Life is about overcoming.

Love and overcome.

Speak their name, tell their story, and give thanks.

Speak their name, out loud, and as often as possible. Tell their story to anyone who will listen. Seek to honor their memory in your thoughts, words, and actions.

You love them, and so you remember. You will not, and cannot, forget. And as you remember, give thanks for them.

You love them, so celebrate – not so much with lights, window dressing, and holiday hoopla, but with a wounded, appreciative heart.

Your grief is deeply personal. Your loss is unique because your loved one was one-of-a-kind. Your relationship was special. Others can relate and perhaps empathize, but your heart and your grief are your own – yours alone.

Special. Lonely. A contradiction of love.

This season live the contradiction. You grieve because you love. Love endures. It always will.

Speak their name. Tell their story. Live their legacy. Remember and honor them.

Live, give thanks, and be difference-maker that they would be proud of.

Award-winning author, speaker, and grief specialist Gary Roe is a compassionate and trusted voice in grief-recovery who has been bringing comfort, hope, encouragement, and healing to hurting, wounded hearts for more than 30 years. Grab his free eBook, I Miss You: A Holiday Survival Kit, or download a free excerpt of Surviving the Holidays Without You. For more information, visit www.garyroe.com