13 Different Ways Suicide Loss Survivors Get Through the Holidays
The holidays can be a difficult time for folks who have lost a loved one to suicide. When you’re struggling to figure out how to live life without your loved one, holiday traditions can feel heartbreakingly painful without them there to celebrate with you.
There’s no “right” way to get through the holiday season after experiencing suicide loss, and a lot of getting through means finding a “new normal” that works for you. We wanted to know how people make it through year after year, so we partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and asked suicide loss survivors to share some things that helped them get through the season. Below, you can see what they shared with us.
If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one to suicide this holiday season, you’re not alone. If you find yourself in need of a little extra support, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question on the site with the hashtag #HolidaysAreHard to connect with and get support from other people in our community who get it.
Here’s what they had to say. We’re sending you all love.
- “Since my husband died by suicide in March 2016, my kids and I have gone to downtown Denver and helped the homeless… donating blankets, jackets, gloves, hats, etc. It’s been a great way to give to those in need, but has also been very therapeutic for us too.” — Terri B.
- “I lost my son to suicide in 2011. Every year, I make sure to put the funny ornaments he made as a little boy on the Christmas tree. So I have a popsicle stick Star of David (we’re Catholic), a thumbprint reindeer, a clothespin reindeer — notice a theme? They bring tears, joy and laughter in celebrating his memory.” — Kathy T.
- “We have a tree decorated with things that remind us of my son, and candle holders that have his name engraved on it that we light over the holidays. I also still send out Christmas cards with a stamp of a dove by our names, and a picture or tribute to my son on the back.” — Irene L.
- “Christmas was mom’s favorite holiday. I try to do the things she used to love to do. Even wear Grinch boxer shorts outside of my pants, dance around the Christmas tree while listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks sing Christmas songs. That is how I choose to remember her.” — Charity E.
- “There is always a night I sit in the dark family room alone with just the glow of the Christmas tree and I talk aloud to my dad. I reflect on the year and tell him he is still loved and missed. It brings me peace.” — Teresa B.
- “Today, if I don’t feel like decorating or putting up a tree, I don’t. If I don’t have the energy to bake extra goodies, I don’t. I have found, especially in the past few years, that paying it forward has made things easier. It’s helped the healing process more than I can explain. Working a soup kitchen, adopting a family, spending time at the assisted living home. Giving back has been the biggest gift and I’ve finally found the courage and strength to move forward in that grace. It certainly hasn’t taken the pain away, but it’s made it much less raw.” — Cheryl O.
- “My son died in November 2001. That Christmas my daughter and I went to Texas to be with family during the holidays. Before Christmas day I went out and bought a candle in my son Blair’s favorite color and a scent I thought he would like. Christmas morning we put that candle up on the mantle and lit it. It stayed lit all day. No matter where you were in that room, you could always catch a glimpse of the flame. Before long, the entire house had the scent of that candle all through it. Blair was there in every glance and every breath. That candle burned all day. My sister kept that candle for the longest time. She said it was her reminder of her nephew and she couldn’t get rid of it. That first year was really hard, but every time I see a candle it reminds me that my boy is right there — his light shining on me.” — Barbara A.
- “This year we are putting up a special tree for Al. All of it’s ornaments are ones that remind us of them. Their favorite foods, movies, inside jokes we have with them. Not to mention it’s a rainbow tree!” — Claire H.
- “Listening to the South Park Christmas album (Mr Hankey!) over and over. That’s the only holiday music I could stand. Part of it was that the songs helped me remember fun times with Jed… part of it was the pure comedy of the album. Definitely not conventional, but it’s how I coped.” — Emily H.
- “It’s been 13 years since my son Jared died by suicide. For several years my husband and I traveled every other Christmas. The other years we did the traditional things with families, but just knowing I would have the next year ‘off’ was a relief. Now we see family each year and it’s OK. Doesn’t mean there aren’t hard times, though. I rode through our neighborhood just yesterday looking at Christmas lights and crying.” — Carol J.
- “Third Christmas without my brother. We decorate his grave. We pick out an ornament for our tree (my boys do not always agree so we get both). We tell stories that ‘Uncle’ did, we play games and just all around talk. It doesn’t always help, there are bad days — those we just trudge though watching movies.” — Seth B.
- “This December makes 11 years since I lost my best friend to suicide. We were 12 when she died, and it ruined the holidays for me, for quite a while. Now, I’ve made a tradition to paint my nails purple for the holidays. Purple was her favorite color, and she always had her nails painted purple. I swear she had 20 different shades of purple polish. She said it made her happy to look down and see such a pretty color. Now, it makes me happy to look down and be reminded how incredible she was, and how she found beauty in all the small things.” — Karle H.
- “This will be my 18th Christmas without my baby brother… And my 6-month-old son’s first. I have been thinking about starting a tradition where every year I give my son something for Christmas that was once my brother’s… A ‘gift’ from his Uncle Dave. Though he will never meet him in this life, I hope with all my heart that he will still *know* him. “ — Kristen A.
If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one to suicide this holiday season, you’re not alone. Check out the pieces below from our community you might relate to.
Do you want to share your story? Write a blog post for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Click here for AFSP’s Submission Guidelines.
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