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Hope for Holiday Sadness


December 6, 1981.  There was deep sadness in my moms eyes when she woke me up and, trying not to cry, delivered the news that my brother Pat had been in an accident.  He didn’t make it.  I was twelve and my mind didn’t want to believe what she was saying.  Am I am still dreaming?  There must be some mistake!… were the thoughts I wanted to believe.  He was weeks away from coming home from his first semester in college to celebrate the holidays.

How do you celebrate any holiday when there is a hole in your heart and at your table?  That was 30 years ago and I still miss him.  I often wonder what Pat would be like and how life would be different if that drunk driver would have been smart enough to take a cab or drive home with a friend.  It took a while to come to terms with the fact that nothing could change what happened… I could not bring him back.  I believe the last thing he would want is for me to be sad that he is not physically here.

How do you handle loss as well as move on?  Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are the consistent reminders that heighten your awareness of what you are already missing.  Although you can not change the past you can choose how you want to react to it.  Do you want to pretend it doesn’t bother you even though it does? Do you want to sink deeper into the sadness?  Or do you want to find positive ways to wake up from the nightmare that has become your reality?  Do you feel you can’t talk to people about it without being a downer?  Do you not know who to talk to because you don’t know who will understand?  Losing someone you are close to can leave an awkward gap that can leave you feeling uncertain about how to move on.

I wanted to know how to keep Pat close to my heart, honor him and feel good about moving on.  I knew people who went to grave sites to visit their loved ones, but I found this uncomfortable and more depressing.  It was a relief to learn there is no right way to remember someone.  It allowed me to discover alternate ways to express my feelings in ways that felt comfortable and meaningful to me.

A few questions that may help you find your path… What did this person want for you?  Before Pat left for college, he told me that I was never to even try a drug and warned if I did he would find out and kick my butt.  I promised him I would not and to honor his memory I never did.   What did this person do to make you feel special? It is often the small gestures that make the biggest impact, it could be as simple as being diligent about staying in contact.  How can you give to others what your loved one gave to you?   If you loved going over to their house, you may choose to create an environment that others love to visit.    Are there places you can go to remember the good times you had together?  We donated money to a park near our home in memory of Pat.  It was easier for me to visit and remember him in a positive environment filled with laughter.  Is there something you can do to help others avoid what happened to your loved one?  Maybe you could donate money to a cause or create an new environment that will help others.

Whatever you decide… I believe it is important to acknowledge that it is ok and normal to miss people as well as realize there are people you can talk to and people to whom you can express your feelings.  When you find uplifting ways remember and honor people it can allow you to move forward and enjoy life.  With all my heart I believe it is what our loved ones would want us to do.


  1. dave

    A very poignant message, very well written, very heart-felt.

  2. Chris Hoskinson


    I wanted to thank you for sharing your story and this article with your readers. I agree, we all remember our lost loved ones in different ways but it’s important to challenge ourselves to try and make a positive impact or gesture out of something that that brings us sorrow. It’s a great way to honor those loved ones.



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