6 Ways to Celebrate the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” with Your Kids While Grieving


On November 1, 2019 our family unexpectedly lost my sister-in-law. Stas was a joy and a light  in our world, and she loved her people fiercely. The holidays last year were predictably heart wrenching as we struggled with this reality. Celebrating and being cheerful was just about the last thing I wanted to do.  With 3 young children who still wanted to be a part of the season, this caused a lot of mom-guilt to bubble to the surface.  I usually had checklists a mile long of quintessential holiday events, crafts, foods, traditions, etc. that needed to be completed for this time of year to be meaningful.  This past Christmas taught me the importance of being present and giving myself and others grace.  There are a few concrete things I was able to do to help navigate that might help you, too, during this 2020 holiday season.  

1. K.I.S.S.   Keep it simple, Silly. 

This may seem obvious, but simplify what you normally do so it’s something you can manage and complete well. Say no to events that don’t serve your family well, cut your decorations in half, and buy gift cards for gifts where you need to. As a creative, this was really hard. I like for things to be unique and thoughtful, so I’ve never been a fan of giving gift cards, but when shopping suddenly became so much simpler (and supportive of small businesses), I felt a huge sense of relief. We put up the Christmas tree, but only put up our very favorites. Every decoration you put up must also be put away in January.  

2. Be Open with Each Other

Talk together as a family about what everyone is feeling, and how hard it can be to go through holiday seasons when we are sad.  Let your kids know the most important part of the season is being with each other. Kids are resilient. They will not be scarred for life if you buy a package of premade cookie dough instead of making your ancient family recipe. And they will appreciate a parent who is present with premade cookie dough instead of near tears with a traditional one. 

3. Kid Favorites

I typically have a LOT of holiday traditions I try to cram in, so when I realized I wouldn’t be able to do it all well, I didn’t know where to cut things out. I ended up asking my children what family tradition they liked best. Each one chose something different that they look forward to during the season. Spending time with family, getting new Christmas pajamas, and watching a movie with hot chocolate. These were the things my kids wanted. I could do ALL OF THAT. If other things made their way in… great… but no promises.  It was a beautiful thing to see what was important to my children, and it brought me joy to know I could give them these small traditions, even in a hard year. 

4. Movie Nights

When everything becomes too much, movie nights are our go-to. I recently saw a meme that said, “We just thought our parents were being fun when we had Friday pizza/movie nights.  Now we know they were just tired.”  

When everything seems overwhelming, put on a funny movie, pop some popcorn, hide the phones, and actually WATCH the movie together. Laugh and be in the story together. It’s a nice break from reality.  

5. Do Good for Others

Adopt a family, a person, or an organization and channel as much love and giving as you can to them.  Seeing and attending to the needs of others reminds us of the connectedness of humanity.  There is nothing more peaceful than that.  

6. Lean in to your Faith 

Last, but most importantly, use your faith to be in the season in spirit. That looks different for each religion and even each person. Praying with my family has sometimes been the only thing that brings us through. We worked to remember the Reason for the Season, and other things seemed to fall into place better.  

Wishing you and your family a beautiful holiday season, no matter what cookie dough you use.   


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