Be Kind This Holiday Season—Especially To Your Grieving Friends

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“My husband was really good at Christmas. Well, wait. Let me rephrase. He was really good at Christmas…eventually. Coming from the Sunshine State, Christmases were usually celebrated in shorts and flip flops, and we never really had to battle the weather. Wanted to put lights up? Easy. No slipping off the roof where we lived. Needed to go shopping without everything getting wet? Piece of cake. It was always sunny. Want to go grab a Christmas tree? No problem. No snow to worry about. That was, until we moved.

Our first experience with ice (like on the ground kind of ice, not the in your glass kind of ice) was the first winter when he parked his truck on the steep driveway after dumping water out of a cooler the night before. Never mind that the neighbors already probably thought he was crazy for opening the garage in his robe and boxers running out to grab the paper when it was 30 degrees out. But I am certain they lost their marbles when he woke up, opened the garage, and found his truck across the street after it slowly slid along the ice as the water, he himself threw out, froze. What a sight, I’m sure. The man from Cali standing there, coffee in hand, scratching his head, trying to figure out what in the hell just happened. Incidentally, he froze his coffee a lot, too. He was notorious for putting it down and forgetting it, but I can’t tell you how many coffee cups I had to defrost thanks to the cold Idaho weather.

Anyway, our first Christmas together, we hadn’t talked much about it. I figured he would do my stocking, and I would do his. Yeah, no. Apparently, he must’ve thought Santa was real and magically going to do it because when I woke up that Christmas morning–there was nothing in my stocking. Nothing. Not even a stick of gum. I am still trying to figure out how he went to bed on Christmas Eve with his stocking stuffed full of treats not at all alarmed that mine wasn’t. I do think I saw him swallow hard on his frozen coffee when he finally realized he totally screwed up, but I will tell you from that moment on, this girl had the best stockings ever because I think he would just walk into a store, pick a theme and go for it. Like the time he found his way into Victoria’s Secret. I am certain he decided on a scent he liked and promptly announced, ‘Gimmie everything you have in that,’ because my stocking overflowed with everything vanilla that year.

And Christmas was fun. Cookies, candies, stockings, carols–we even ripped up some old red cloth one time and stuck it in the fireplace and told this whole story about how he had to push Santa back up the chimney before the kids woke up. And of course, that one year when his sweet little girl wanted a dog ‘so bad’ and promised she would ‘take care of it’ and ‘feed it’ and ‘walk it’ and ‘love it’ that he ended up buying her a fake real dog to see how she would do. I guess he had some kind of idea which is why he bought the fake real one because two days later, all she wanted to do was play with the box–that was until he cut a hole in it and told her the dog ‘ran away’ and took it back to the store and got his $200 back.

But my favorite moments? Decorating the tree. In my house, every ornament has a meaning. Every one has a story. Every one brings back some kind of memory. And every year, his little girl would crawl up on his shoulders and put that angel up as high as it would go. We laughed that he was going to have to make sure he had strong back muscles for when she was 21 because we were sure she would still be doing it. And he would still be letting her.

And as much as we all wanted that, we were wrong. Because just before she became a teenager–before she became too heavy for him to pick up, before she got too old to want to bake the cookies or sing the songs, and before she grew too tall to just do it herself–he died holding her hand. His death left this void in our life that I can never fully explain, but as any grieving person knows, nothing is ever the same.

Nothing. Not holidays, not birthdays, not anniversaries, not Tuesday afternoons, not grocery shopping, not trimming the tree. Nothing.

And as time goes on, it’s never quite right. It never really works the same. You’re missing a part of what used to make it all make sense. Whether it’s been one year or ten–it’s just never really the same.

So, I’m just going to leave this right here because a picture really is worth a thousand words. Be patient with your grieving friends this holiday season, and everybody else. You really don’t know what anybody is going through, or who they’re missing.

You really don’t.” 

Courtesy of Diana Register

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “Grief & Glitter” are available in print and on kindle. You can find more of her books here, and her podcast here. Connect with Diana on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.

Read more from Diana:

‘After a 9-hour drive home she asked, ‘Can we stop at the cemetery?’ There was no question, no hesitation. ‘Of course,’ he said.’: Bonus dad shares act of kindness for grieving daughter

‘My 15-year-old asked, ‘Mom, can I get a tattoo?’ I let her and no, I don’t care what anybody has to say about it.’: Mom says daughter ‘earned’ tattoo, ‘She showed me what surviving looks like’

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