Holidays Without Mom Are Just Not the Same: 5 Ways To Cope


by Leslie Farin, Publisher 50Plus-Today

Missing Mom during the holidays

People who lost their moms warned me how difficult it can be to get through the December holidays. And not just the first year. Their absence becomes more bearable as time passes, but the hole in my heart just doesn’t seem to go away. I wrote in an article awhile back about my struggles about Mother’s Day, which I thought would be the most difficult holiday for me, but here I am again feeling overwhelmingly sad and weepy. Holidays without Mom are just not the same.

This holiday season will be my third without my mother-in-law, and my fourth without my mom. I was fortunate to have wonderful relationships with both these fabulous women and miss being able to pick up the phone to chat about nothing and everything. We shared gift ideas, recipes, advice and funny family stories. One of these special ladies was from the Bronx and the other from Brooklyn; no topic was off-limits. I love the expression “she never met a thought she didn’t share” as it applied in spades to both these women. Our almost daily conversations were honest, open and supportive. Both said what was on their mind without hesitation or sugar coating, but the unconditional love that accompanied these sometimes heated exchanges provided a safe haven difficult to duplicate in my other relationships. 

square brown and white gift box

Getting through the holidays by taking positive action

My first impulse is to dread the holiday season. In fact, I managed to successfully avoid people and parties for the last two Decembers, choosing instead to spend quiet time alone or with just immediate family. This year, with the coronavirus lockdown, that choice was made for me. I wanted this year to be different. Both my mother and mother-in-law loved a good party and I imagine would be disappointed to know I stopped participating in my previously active social life. My goal when the pandemic ends is to get back to being the person I was before they passed. It may take time, but I plan to take steps to ease my pain by incorporating special memories of them into celebrations every December.

Though people die, relationships live on. These two women I miss so dearly will always be a part of me. I plan to do my best to cope in ways I am told are helpful when trying to move on. 

5 ways to feel better when missing loved ones during the holidays

Continue Family Traditions

Don’t quit your favorite family traditions to avoid pain. Whichever holiday you celebrate, choose one aspect you remember fondly that you can duplicate in your own life.

We had special traditions in both my family and my husband’s. One from my mom I especially loved growing up was that we each lit candles in our own menorahs – all seven of us. The candles burned brightly in the menorahs carefully placed on the dining room table so the flames were reflected in the window. With the lights off, we let the magic of the candlelight wash over us. My in-laws had a different, yet equally wonderful, tradition. Each year my mother-in-law hosted a latke contest with friends and family. We all looked forward each year to judging, then eating, the creative recipes brought to the party from near and far.

 Holidays without mom

Tell stories

Share an anecdote or two with siblings or friends. It’s okay to tear up. It’s also okay to laugh when your memories are funny. Keep your loved ones alive and a part of your celebrations by telling their stories. My mom was an easily distracted driver who often scraped the side of the car when backing out of the garage, even after dad built a new one with an extra wide door. One time she forgot to open the door altogether and drove straight through it. Though perhaps not particularly funny at the time, those stories always make me giggle now. And now that I’m a mother myself, I can understand how distracted one might get raising five children with only seven years between the youngest and oldest. 

Donate time or money to a cause about which they were passionate

These two women both were champions for the underdog, and I share many of their passions. It makes me happy to contribute time and money to some of their causes. What better way to carry out their legacy? 

Take them off the pedestal

If you tend to think about loved ones who passed as saints, as I do, make an effort to remember something they did that drove you crazy. Let them be human. Of course, it’s nice to focus on the positive, but that’s not completely who they were as people. We all have both positive and negative traits. You won’t miss them less, and will probably feel closer to them if you don’t put them up on a pedestal. Don’t forget you are not perfect either, and those who knew you best were well aware that was the case – and loved you anyway.

Be kind to yourself

Whether it’s your first holiday or your tenth without your beloved parent, know it will be difficult. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself if you need it. It’s okay to leave a party early or spend an entire day binging on a netflix series if it makes you feel good. But don’t feel guilty about having fun. Just because you make the effort to enjoy the people currently in your life doesn’t mean you forgot about those who are not. Remind yourself often not to feel guilty moving on with your life. It’s important to do so and what they would want for you.

The new normal

Life changes forever when a loved one passes – that’s something over which we have no control. We can only control our response. Create loving, happy memories this holiday season, whichever holiday and however you choose to celebrate. Focus on those who love and support you and are with you right now. Each member of my immediate family will light all the candles in our own menorahs this year, which are already in place on the dining room table in front of a window. We may not have a big party with a latke competition, but we will joyfully make a variety of latkes using my mother-in-law’s favorite recipes. We plan to find meaningful volunteer opportunities in which to participate together. While we continue with some of our family traditions, we may also begin some new ones to pass on to the next generation.

Throughout the season, we plan to share stories via Zoom and celebrate how lucky we were to have our moms with us for as long as we did, knowing they are still with us in spirit. 

What do you do to get through the holidays? Please help others by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

originally posted 12.14.2019
updated 11.10.2022


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Comments 6

  1. Mimi says:

    This is my 1st Christmas without both parents. I have been sad about not having them there Christmas morning and am carrying on mom’s breakfast casserole with family at my new house and one at a time gift opening to enjoy the moments. Also keeping dad’s tradition of taking too many pictures to count and reliving the day whenever the mood strikes. This year I have been looking at past holiday pictures more than ever and getting weepy and smiley all at once. Have a blessed season.

  2. Debra E says:

    Thank you Leslie. ❤️
    This quote really spoke to me in the passing of my Mother in 2010.
    “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
    ― Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
    There is a poem … Your Mother is always with you By: Deborah R Culver
    It ends with…. “But nothing on Earth can separate you. Not time. Not space. Not even death.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing. This is my first year

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