“Getting through the holidays without your mother” A touching story about coping with loss

“Getting through the holidays without your mother” A touching story about coping with loss

To lose a mother is to know the deepest sorrow and find no words to explain it.

Losing a loved one is always a painful experience to endure, but the loss of a mother is one that lasts a lifetime; its an indescribable kind of loss that takes a part of you away. Certainly, as with all losses, you learn to cope with it in due time, but the feeling never really goes away. It only becomes a new reality you have to co-exist with.

In a touching story written on TODAY’s Community by Liz Faria, we learn the painful truths and the harsh reality of having to get through the holidays without a parent. [1] In 2016, Faria lost her mother to terminal cancer. She’d known for a while that her mother would not be with her for much longer, but it still hurt so much when she passed away.

 Faria likened her feelings to those of a three-year-old kid she’d seen at her son’s school, genuinely weeping for his mother to return. 

 “I want my mom!!!!! I want my mom to come back!!!! He was completely and totally inconsolable,” she wrote. “His tears weren’t the feigned kind put on for a show, protesting the drop off; the kind which dries up 10 seconds after you walk out the door. No, this child was genuinely distressed. He wanted his mom very, very badly. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more in tune with another person’s emotion. Because at that time, I could already see what was coming.”

She saw herself in this child, one who would give anything for his mother to come back. When she lost her mother, it was as if she would never find the will to move on. A world without her mom was nearly inconceivable.

She did move on

At the time of her trauma, Faria didn’t think she’d get through it, but eventually, she did, which was exactly what her mother would have wanted. She had two more kids and experienced a whole new side of life, one that was different because someone very dear to her heart was absent.

She recalls everything her mother used to set up during holidays throughout the year, events her new children would never get to experience.

They don’t know how the house used to smell, with my mom cooking her turkey or preparing her special holiday crescent rolls with sausage,” she wrote. “They’ve never had her holiday punch with the rainbow sherbet. They haven’t ever opened a stocking stuffed to the brim with treasures from grandma, or seen how she could host an enormous number of guests in a way that made it seem so easy, and joyful. They don’t know how amazing she was at creating a sense of ‘home.’”

Also, carrying on with holiday traditions became difficult for her entire family. It just doesn’t feel the same, especially when her mom had always been at the center of holiday traditions.

“To me, the holidays were my mom,” she wrote. “She wasn’t just a player in the holiday scene; she created the magic that made the holidays feel like home. My mother loved Christmas. She had a collection of Santas that she kept on display year-round at her house. I keep this little Santa hanging on the wall by our front door, year-round too. It makes me happy. It reminds me of her.”

You miss her more during the holidays

If you’ve always spent the holidays with your parents, the pain of their loss becomes more acute when these days roll around. You miss the laughter, the happiness, the “grandma” and “grandpa” calls, the old-school table setting, the cooking, and buzzing happiness. You miss their candid advice at the table while the children played outside and the sound of their feet while they shuffle across the floor.

“Sometimes, the absence feels like a dullness,” Faria wrote. “Things that were once bright and exciting, like putting up the Christmas decorations, feel muffled. I can’t quite enjoy them the way I’d like to. Other times, the pain of missing my mother feels so intense that I can’t look straight at it. It’s like the sun, that way. I can look around it, but if I stared straight at it I would injure myself beyond repair.”

It hurts, truly, but you have to break through the pain for the sake of your children. They deserve to have a parent who is happy, cheerful, and excited during the holidays, just like you had with your mother. It’s exactly what she would want you to do for your kids.

Coping with loss during the holidays: Remembering your loved ones fondly

Holidays do not have to be a time to relive the pain and grief all over again. 

You and your family can choose to relive happy memories and wonderful days instead. It doesn’t matter if yours is a large family where there are always people to look forward to catching up with, or a small, compact one where everyone is always together. You can get through the holidays with a genuinely happy heart. Here’s what you can do: [2]

Get together and be with someone

Holidays are never a time to be alone, even more so when you’re trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. Plan dinners, get-together, and outings with your family. Decide whose home you’ll have dinner at on Christmas day, or in whose backyard you’ll have a barbecue party on Boxing Day. Everyone can visit somewhere exciting on New Year’s. As long as you’re together, the joy will find ways to brew.

If you don’t really have any family, it’s important to know that family is not defined only by blood or adoption. Your neighbors, friends, and co-workers are your family. You don’t have to go through the holidays all alone. You could go be with them and enjoy the festive season in their company. They are as real a family as you could ever have.

Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one

You shouldn’t try to suppress thoughts of this special person during the holidays. Don’t avoid bringing up topics about them. It’s easier when you accept that although things will not be the same without them, they are still part of your family. Of course, it hurts to talk about them, but with time, you’ll learn to remember them fondly. 

Come up with something fun everyone can enjoy that would help them to think fondly of your late loved one. The children who may never meet this person may learn a few things about who they were and what they loved. You could put out a memory box or stocking where everyone has to come up with a note that describes their relationship with the deceased. The notes get passed around and you can all read, laugh, and thrive in happy memories.

See a counselor or go to a grief group

This is best done before the holidays begin. If it starts to feel overwhelming and suffocating, you should talk to a grief counselor or attend support groups to learn how to cope with the pain. You’d have a better holiday if you had talked to someone who can help.

Decide which of the holiday traditions you want to keep

There’s nothing wrong with making changes here and there. If a tradition feels too painful for you to carry on, it’s okay to replace it with something else. Decide ahead of time so you don’t feel choked by your emotions. 

Accept that although things won’t always be the same, you still deserve to have happy holidays with your family. It’s okay to miss your parents more at these times of the year but know that while they are not there physically to celebrate with you, they are forever in your heart.


  1. “Before my mother died, but when she was very sick, I was dropping my son off at daycare.” TODAY. Liz Faria. December 11, 2019.
  2. How to Deal With Grief During the Holidays.Psycology Today. Amy Morin, LCSW. December 21, 2015.
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