Processing Grief Through the Holidays


How i cope with and learn to live with my loss
BY Tina kain

When I was asked about sharing my thoughts on grieving and the holidays, my first thought was, “How ironic! Here we are, the holidays upon us, and I have been bawling my eyes out for days trying to cope.”

This season is an ever-present reminder of my loss—the loss of my son and the person I was before the death of my son. This is not to say that I am not coping, because I am. However, coping with and learning to live with a loss are two very different things.


In coping, I kind of have a checklist I go through regularly:

  1. Am I connecting to God?
  2. Am I connecting with the people who love me, the people who are still with me on this journey?
  3. Am I visiting the place I have set aside for this grief … or am I avoiding it, knowing full well that it will find me in my least favorable place?

In learning to live with my loss, there is no checklist. It’s just an exhausting reminder that things will forever be different, and different is my new normal.

I am often reminded that being sad and crying are extremely necessary for the constant healing that I now own. In learning to live with my loss, grief is treated like a member of the family; I make time for it, I make a place for it, and whether I like it or not, I accept it.

After all, what are your options? To forget?! One of my favorite quotes is:
“Grief is the price we pay for love.” —Queen Elizabeth II
I remind myself that I would rather remember than ever forget how very much I love my child, my son.

This is the fourth holiday season since my son, David, left this earth. He was 32 years old and a hundred years wise. When I look back now at all the holidays we shared, I see that even then, he was teaching me to not take the holidays so seriously. He was respectful of all of our family traditions and he always showed up! But David would have rather been meeting God out in the ocean on a wave Christmas morning or taking the family on a long hike on Thanksgiving Day.


David had a way of making sure you knew exactly what—and why—you were celebrating. He never understood the need for it to look the same twice. Funny enough, that has ended up being my approach on how to deal with grief during the holidays. There have been times in the last four years I would have loved to cancel every holiday and just sit and meditate on how very empty it is to be without David, or how different it is now that I am missing such a huge piece of my heart, but then again, what about love? What about the delight in my heart for my younger son, Andrew, and now his loss? Was the loss of his brother supposed to take a back seat to the pain of a mother losing her child? What about my beautiful grandchildren who teach me everyday that our lives continue to move forward quickly whether or not we participate? I am so grateful for the 32 years that I had to love and care for David. I am reminded daily how blessed I am to have a family who loves me and is on this journey with me to find peace in the emptiness of losing our David.


So, I have learned to approach each holiday with first examining and asking myself, “Am I up to it?” or “Do I need to change it up?” Whether it is changing up the menu, the place or the way it’s done, I make a place for it. I allow myself to remember and to miss him. Somewhere in the sadness of my family celebrating another holiday without his presence, I have a candle burning to remind me that the memories with David are not just in the past, but very much a part of every holiday to come. He may not be cracking new jokes or sarcastically pointing out the obvious, but he will always be there. He is forever in my heart and will always be welcome to show up in a memory or a tear.



screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-11-16-30-amMy name is Tina Kain. I have been married to my husband, Thomas, for 30 years. I am a wife, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother and aunt. Additionally, I am the care provider for two beautiful, adventurous, foster daughters that joined our family after we moved to Wisconsin two years ago. It’s my honor to hold these titles. My day job title is school nurse and I love it. I spend most of my spare time trying to find some spare time!

4 thoughts on “Processing Grief Through the Holidays

  1. David Schuhart says:

    First of all, thank you for sharing. Loss is hard on every level. Never having a child, I will never know what any of the great, good or bad will ever be or feel like.
    Personally, all the losses I have had, each has been strangely different. Army buddies, I cryed for days, school friends I raise a glass, even grand parents I had peace with. My mother on the other had is the strange one. I had moved to Florida 6 months before he death. Called her once a week. We had forgiven each other for all the fights we had, and disagreement …always said I love you when we hung up the phone. Easter is my hard time. The night I got the call she died, I jumped on the next plain, went home. The 1st I slept was a couple hours 48 hours after getting back to Oshkosh. I seemed to be the only one holding it together. Even spoke at moms funereal . Stayed with dad for 2 weeks. Went back home and crashed. To this day, I have yet to cry over my mothers death.
    That was 2010. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and thinking about why I never cried. The only thing I have come up with is, moms heart just gave out, but before I left and after we were good. No secrets, no fighting, disagreements…just loved each other and happy to have a great relationship. When she died, she was gone before she hit the floor. No suffering, no long hospital stay…just gone. So for me, I think it is the manor of the death and snout of suffering that gets to me. I know mom is no longer suffering, and is at peace.
    Grief is strange, it is a good thing…if kept inside it will eat people like a cancer. I’m glad you are letting it out and thank you for sharing …it helps to know others understand at least why you grieve even if they can never understand what you are going through.


  2. Janice evans says:

    Tina-thank you for opening your heart dear friend. I’m just a little ahead of you in this journey of forever grief and your words ring true to me. The Holidays are especially hard and I too find myself just trying to survive and ” act normal”.( whatever that is)😜There is joy and life is good and God is great but like you said; there is a piece of us that lives In Another place. Grief does become a friend in a way. Like you, my grief has a special place and compartment in my life and I visit there when I need to. I love you sweet Tina.
    Thank you 💗


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