Surviving Christmas Grief

English: A Christmas Tree at Home

English: A Christmas Tree at Home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I am sharing something not too many of my writer family knows about me. I lost my sixteen year old son, Eric, in 1996 to suicide.  I’d love to report that I’m over his death, but the truth is, his death is something I know I will never get over. But I have learned to deal with my loss of him.

Eric and Chrustmas

My daughter Courtney, me, and my son Eric on Christmas Eve.

December is hard for me, and I know it is for countless others who are dealing with the loss of their loved ones. Eric’s birthday was December 7. Last year my daughter gave me my first granddaughter born on his birthday.

Charlotte Joann born December 7, 2012.

Charlotte Joann born December 7, 2012.

Ms. Charlotte Joann is named after my mother who died two years after my son. In the span of two years, I lost two people I loved.

Mom and Christmas 2

My mom with all her grandkids. Eric is the curly headed boy with glasses and Courtney is the dark- headed beauty in red.

For years after my mom died, I’d break out her tree even though it was so old the limbs wouldn’t stay in their holes and my husband had to put yarn around it to attach it to my wall so it would stand up straight and not fall over. It was my way of keeping her with me during the holidays she loved so much. Two years ago, I finally bought a new tree and was able to let Mom’s go. But it took time.

And then there are Eric’s homemade ornaments, my treasures he made me in school. As I hang them on my tree I’m brought back to a time when he was alive, and I begin to grieve for him all over again.

2013-12-16 00.10.22

Eric made me this star in second grade.

Seeing holiday family movies or Christmas commercials can trigger grief. The family dynamic has changed. The holidays have become a painful reminder of what we’ve lost.

I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge those of us who grieve and to offer some expert advice to those going through this process.


Today I have Dr. Debra Holland as my guest. Debra is a corporate crisis/grief counselor who consults with companies that have experienced robberies, accidents, sudden deaths, and other critical incidents. She received a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California (USC) and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Dr. Holland worked for American Airlines after 9-11, counseling flight crews and staff. She counseled the victims and families of the Metrolink train wreck in 2002. In 2005 she volunteered as a mental health relief worker in Louisiana for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. She also volunteered as a mental health relief worker during and after the 2008 fires in California. In 2011 she counseled the Superstorm Sandy victims in New Jersey.


Debra, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, has written The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, published by Alpha Books. She is currently writing Aftershock: How Managers Can Help Employees Cope With the Death of an Employee.

She is here to help us understand the various kinds and levels of grief, how people are trained to experience grief, and ways to get through the pain and achieve some level of comfort.

Thank you, Debra, for sharing your vast experience today on my blog.

Can you explain how society deals with grieving people?

Debra: In our society, we don’t really know how to deal with grief, and thus we tend to avoid discussions about bereavement and loss. When it comes to a death, there is nothing we can say or do to fix the “problem” like we can in most other circumstances, and that leaves people feeling helpless. Most people either say time-worn and unhelpful platitudes, avoid those who are grieving, or both.


The death of a child or a suicide (or in your case the death of a child by suicide) is even more difficult to talk about because the situation is so complex and tragic. The death of a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. Other parents don’t even want to think about such a tragedy, much less talk to a grieving parent.

People who are grieving often feel isolated, which makes them feel worse. What others need to know about the bereaved is that you don’t need to use words to offer comfort. Silent support and listening can be very helpful.



When I was writing the chapter on the death of a child for my book, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, every single parent I interviewed cried when he or she talked about the child no matter how long ago the death had happened. In one of my first interviews, I apologized to the mother for bringing up the painful subject that caused her tears. She said that any time she had a chance to talk about her daughter Megan was a “good day” even if she cried.

One man told me that after his 25-year-old son died in a car accident, the most comfort he received was a visit from an acquaintance. The visitor didn’t try to talk. He just listened. The bereaved father talked about his son for an hour and showed his visitor the family photo albums. That time of sharing meant so much to him.


Diane: In my family, when my son died, my husband dealt with his death differently than I did. My mother cried constantly and I couldn’t be around her because I knew how badly he had hurt her. I couldn’t deal with her pain because mine was so raw. My daughter was three years younger (12 years old; her birthday is March 24, he died on March 13) than my son, who was sixteen when he took his life. I tried to talk to her about the feelings she was going through, and she refused to talk to me about him or her feelings. Now, seventeen years later, she told me she didn’t want to hurt me, and I now know her feelings. It only took seventeen years!

What are the differences between men and women, younger and older, on how they cope with loss?

Debra: First of all, everyone copes with loss differently based on their gender, personality, the type of loss, past history with loss, and other life circumstances. In general, men tend to not talk about their feelings, so sharing their grief can be very difficult for them. Also they might feel they have to be “strong” for their families. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that he’s not deeply feeling the loss because he doesn’t talk about it.


A husband and wife might mourn differently, so they don’t feel on the same page with their grief. He might feel anger, and she might cry every day. Understanding this about your spouse or other family members is what’s important.

Children can feel protective of their parents, especially if mentioning the death makes their parent cry, something they might never have seen until the death happened. They also become “lost” in the grief of the rest of the family.

For that reason, it’s important to discuss the idea of crying not being bad–that even if mommy cries, talking about the loved one is comforting. Also provide nonverbal ways for children to express their feelings such as drawing pictures or writing in journals. A grief support counselor or group can be helpful because it provides a safe place outside the family for the child to process and express his or her feelings.

Diane: Is there a difference in the way a person grieves because of the circumstances of what caused the death? Two years after my son’s death I lost my mother who had been ill for a long time. I experienced her death quite differently than my son’s death, which was unexpected. Though I grieved for Mom, in a way I was happy to see her go because she wasn’t suffering anymore.

Debra: Absolutely. As you mentioned, the relief from suffering is a huge comfort. Your mother was no longer in pain, nor were her loved ones suffering in watching her go through the dying process. Also, I’m sure you had time to prepare yourself for her death, to have necessary and important conversations about the past, and to say good-bye.

With a sudden death, which there is no preparation, no chance to say good-bye. The shock can take a long time to wear off. And in the case of suicide, there are so many other feelings and questions which complicate the grief.

Diane: I can say now, seventeen years later, I’m on a different level in my grief than I was 10 or even 5 years ago. I no longer cry every time I think about him. I can finally think about what his life was about and not linger so much on the “why” or “how” he died.

Debra: As a loving parent, you will think about him and miss him and sometimes cry for the rest of your life.


Diane: Thank you! ((HUGS))

Your book, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, talks about the different levels of grief. Can you explain what those are?

Debra: The term “Stages of Grief” frequently is spoken and written about when actually no such process exists. Grief doesn’t flow in an ordered process from one stage to the next. Instead, it’s very messy and complex. Your emotions and reactions can shift from moment to moment and day to day. It’s like riding a rollercoaster that has plenty of loops and even goes backward. What’s important is to be kind to yourself on the journey and not to have expectations for how you (or others) SHOULD feel.


Diane: For me, the holidays are a triple whammy.  I drag out my homemade Christmas ornaments my son made for me in school, my son’s birthday is December 7, and my mother WAS Christmas. She absolutely loved it. She decorated, cooked, and had more holiday spirit than everyone I’ve ever known. I still try to keep our family together, but it’s been hard. I am not my mom or my dad (we lost him in 2004). We went from a family where we had to do three Christmases in one day to trying get family members together for one.  At times it feels like we are losing each other.

Debra: In addition to your grief over the deaths of your loved ones, you are mourning the loss of the holidays you had—grieving a time and place—as well as people. Your fears about the family and future holidays can also make the present ones more difficult.

I suggest you discuss your concerns with your family and invite them to be honest with you and each other—regardless of how it might make you feel. They can’t share concerns and feelings if they think you’ll cry. Reassure them that your tears are not a reason to hold back on communication.

Perhaps on some level many of them feel there is too much pain associated with Christmas. Maybe other issues need to be addressed. Maybe you can do something else as a family that happens at another time of year, which will affirm your bonds, so you don’t feel like you are losing each other.

Dr. Debra’s Tips for Weathering the Holidays


Share how you’re feeling with trusted loved ones, especially the way your grief has changed or deepened due to the holiday.

Reduce your stress. This isn’t the year to worry about a perfect celebration. Only do what you feel is necessary.

Ask for help. Others will be happy to step forward to lend a hand. Let others know specifically what you need. Don’t say, “Can you bring something for dinner?” Do say, “Can you bring dessert for 10 people?”

My mom bought this for him after he died. I now hang it on my tree in memory of them both.

My mom bought this for him after he died. I now hang it on my tree in memory of them both.

Find a way to memorialize your loved one. Set out a special candle. Hang their stocking with the others and have everyone write a letter to the deceased. You can read them together on Christmas morning. Make an ornament with their picture on it or buy one that represents them in some way. Include the deceased in a family prayer.

Don’t let others direct how you should spend the holidays. Just because someone thinks it would be best for you to go away for the week doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Be of service to others. Helping others is a way to give new meaning to the holiday and help you feel better. Prepare and serve food at a homeless shelter or organize a gift drive for some needy families and deliver the presents yourself.

Realize that you might feel overwhelmed and exhausted, both from your reactions to the loss and from the stress and hectic pace of the holiday. As much as possible, get to bed early and take naps.

You don’t have to pretend to be happy. If you think your sadness might be a problem for others, have a little talk with them beforehand about how you and they will handle your feelings.

Spend time with people who are supportive and caring. By now, you know who among your friends and family is supportive and who’s not. Gravitate to the understanding ones and avoid the others.

During the holidays, you can’t help but think about and miss your loved one. However, try as much as possible not to dwell on your pain. Imagine your loved one being present in spirit. Instead of his or her absence, focus on the presence of the other family members. Your loss helps remind you of how precious time is with your family. Appreciate and love each one of them.

Diane: If you haven’t read Dr. Holland’s book, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, you really should. It gives concrete advice to help the healing process of grief. It is also very helpful for those who counsel the grieving as well as those who’ve experienced loss.

Buy link: .grief

Thank you so much, Debra, for sharing my blog today. You certainly helped me and I think this topic will help  many people.

Debra: Your welcome!

You can also connect with Debra at:




Facebook Fan Page:

My thoughts are with all of you who have lost someone. Please know you are not alone. Be good to yourself.

Peace be with you and your family,

Diane Kratz

Below are book and web resources taken from Debra’s book as well as a few I have used. These can help you or someone you love cope with grief, not just during the holidays, but every day.


101 Ways You Can Help: How to Offer Comfort and Support to Those Who Are Grieving by Liz Aleskire.

Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impact the Way We Raise Our Children by Allison Gilbert.

The Grief Recovery Handbook: Action Programs for Moving beyond Death by John W. James and Russell Friedman.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner.

The Grieving Garden: Living With the Lost of a Child by Suzanne Redfern and Susan K. Gilbert.

The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child by Barbara D. Rosof.

One Foot in Heaven by Heidi Telpnet.

Healing Grief: Reclaiming Life after Any Loss by James Van Praagh.

Websites: (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy) A national website for professionals and couples looking for marriage and family advice. (American Association of Retired Persons) Grief and loss articles, support for seniors. (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) A national group website that provides support, education and advocacy for the prevention of suicide. It also has a page where you can honor your loved one who lost his or her life to suicide. (Cancer resources, including help for planning end of life care. A website for pet loss. A nonprofit, self-help support organization for families who have lost a child. (This group helped me tremendously!) A website for helping people move beyond loss.  (The National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved) A faith-based bereavement ministry. A website for creating an online memorial. (American Association of Suicidology) Help with all issues suicide, including those grieving the loss of a loved one due to suicide. (National Organization for Victim Assistance) Assistance for victims of crisis and crime. You can also call 1-800-TRY-NOVA.

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy!

105 thoughts on “Surviving Christmas Grief

  1. julielrobinson says:

    Diane and Debra:
    Thank you so much for posting this. It took me several times to read through because I was crying so much. Diane, my heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing your pain. Your post came at just the right time for me. My brother (a year and a half younger than me) committed suicide in the early morning of February 13th. December 12th and 13th marked 10 months. To make it worse, December 15th was his birthday. He and my sister were twins, so it was especially hard for her. And my parents, of course. All of us, really. My sister wrote a beautiful Tribute to Joey to read at his funeral. I hope it’s okay, but I’m including the link to it on my FB page.
    It might help someone else.
    Thanks again, Diane, for writing this post. God bless you for writing through your own suffering in order to help others. I also appreciate the many links.
    I haven’t been in the Christmas spirit—no decorations or tree up. But I believe I’ll gift myself with your book, Debra.

    • dianekratz says:

      Ah Julie! I’m so sorry for your loss. There is nothing worse (in my opinion) than losing someone to suicide. Anger and guilt lingers for years. I’m thankful my post gave you the opportunity to talk about your brother. Suicide is so hard to talk about. I would encourage you to put up a tree or a stocking in his honor for Christmas. I have my son’s stocking up and every year I write him a letter and stuff it in his stocking. One of these days, I plan on going back and reading them all, but I haven’t yet. I just friended you on Facebook so I could read your tribute to him. Feel free to post it here too!

      (((Cyber Hugs))) going out to you and your family and you can’t go wrong with Debra’s book!

    • drdebra says:

      Julie, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know this will be a tough holiday for you and your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

      I hope you find my book helpful!

  2. Diana Maston says:

    Diane, Thank you for sharing your very personal story. I lost my son, Sean, five years ago in Dec. of 2008 to suicide. He was twenty-two years old. Sending you and your family love. Diana

    • dianekratz says:


      I’m so sorry for the loss of your Sean. I hope you are getting through the holiday! And thank you for saying HOW he died. It took me a year after my Eric’s death to even say he died from suicide. Suicide carry’s such a negative stigma. There are a lot of people who have lost someone to suicide. Thank you for being brave enough to say so! My son was the reason I got into mental health, because I didn’t see it coming.

      My love is going out to you as well.


  3. Paula White says:

    Hi Diane,

    I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing. This will help many people.

    Paula White

  4. Diane, thank you for doing this brave post, and Debra, thank you for your words of wisdom. If you don’t mind, I would like to share your link on my FB page and urge anyone who is dealing with grief to read it.

    Like Diana and Julie, I have a story, too. Only, the person I lost to suicide was my father. I was just out of college and at the brink of starting my adult life when his ended by his own hand. To say that threw me is an understatement. I was in a new town, starting a new job, without close friends or family around. Needless to say, I went through two very rocky years with a lot of confusion, depression and self destructive behavior that I didn’t even recognize at first.

    I really appreciated Debra’s comments about the stages of grief because no one told me about that. I thought I needed to be strong for my mother and brother and my grandparents (who never recovered from my father’s death mostly due to HOW he died). No one told me I’d feel so angry and hurt, and then guilty for feeling that way. No one told me it was all right to cry, so I bottled it up. Few seemed interested in listening to me talk about it, and even the few who did, didn’t seem to understand my feelings. It wasn’t until I was assigned to report on the local Suicide Crisis Center (doing an interview with parents of children who’d committed suicide) that I found the resources I needed. I will always believe God put that place in my path, because I wouldn’t have sought it out on my own. Once I connected with these wonderful people, I began to heal.

    This is a long post, so I apologize for that. But I wanted to share because you were so willing to share. I did learn this is important fairly early in the process. About six months after my father’s death, I was sharing my pain with a close friend from college, literally weeping in his arms as I poured out my grief. He told me later he’d been considering suicide but when he saw how terribly that hurt the family left behind, he decided he couldn’t do that to those he loved. Good can come out bad, life can spring from death. I believe this and that’s why I share.

    Love and peace to you and your family this Christmas.

    Leigh Stites writing as E.E. Burke

    • dianekratz says:


      I had no idea! How brave of you to share your story. Thank you! And you are right about Debra comments on the stages of grief, they don’t run in order and there is no road map for them. Even now, I still drive through them. I remember once about three years after he died, we went up to Ohio to move my dad back to Kansas. We stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. A young mother came in and sat with her son in the booth across from us. Her son had curly hair and wore glasses. He looked just like my Eric. I watched them giggle together and I started to bawl. I’m talking about the kind of crying you can’t catch your breath or stop. Hysterical bawling. My husband and daughter didn’t know what was wrong with me, they thought I’d lost my mind. The mother and son triggered a thunderstorm inside me, I had to get through.

      And you are so right about looking for the good in a bad situation. My son’s death affected many people. His friends, his teachers and the reason I’m went into mental health. Talking is healing! Compassionate Friends helped me so much. I’m so happy you found someone to talk to about your dad. Again, thanks for sharing your story!

      Peace be with you and yours too,

    • drdebra says:


      I’m glad you wrote a long post to share your story. It’s important for people who are grieving to hear from others who are farther along on their grief journey.

  5. Jenna Blue says:

    Dear Diana, Thank you for sharing your grief with us and for bringing Debra to us. My heart goes out to you and your family, in fact I’m all teary and wish nothing more than to give you a gigantic hug. I’ll be sharing this post, especially Debra’s suggestions, with my sister, who recently lost a baby. I was really struck by her words that you are not only grieving your son & your mom, but a time and place. I’d felt it for my sister but was having trouble putting it in the right words. Not only is she grieving her son, she’s grieving for the possibility of what could have been, the makings of a family, being a parent, future milestones, unmade memories, etc. Thank you, and from the bottom of my heart I wish you and yours peace, more and more every year, and I know you won’t let go of the old ways, I hope you find new ways of celebrating and making memories and traditions, and strenghening bonds.

    • dianekratz says:

      Hugs back at you and your sister! You made my day when you said this blog helped you with your sister! That’s my intent for posting it.


    • drdebra says:

      Jenna, you’re right about the loss of the baby is also about the loss of the future. I hope you are also making space to do your own grieving for the loss of your nephew and the relationship you would have had as his aunt.

  6. raynegolay says:

    Thank you for this wonderful and timely post. I have three close friends who have each lost a child in December. I saw all three a few days ago, sat listening to them share memories of their beloved. As a friend, the best I can do for them at any given time is to listen.

  7. My eldest son Mark died of cancer when he was only 42. I feel blessed to have had him as long as I did. His birthday is December 28th, so Christmas time always brings back memories of him. He was a wonderful guy and our family will always miss him. As a Christian, I expect to see him again and know he is healed.

    • dianekratz says:


      I’m so sorry for your loss of Mark! Mother’s are not suppose to bury their children. I hope you have warm memories to help you through the holidays. I know I will see my son again too.

    • drdebra says:

      I’m glad you have the comfort of knowing Mark is no longer suffering and that someday you’ll be reunited. Sometimes it’s hard though when you wish he wasn’t in that better place, but was still here (and healthy) with you. Hugs and prayers for a blessed holiday season.

  8. Kathryn Jane says:

    Thank you Diane for sharing your own experience and sharing Debra’s wisdom with us.
    I have a friend who lost her husband suddenly a couple of years ago, and this post has helped to remind me that she’s still suffering. I will be sure visit her over the holidays.

    • dianekratz says:


      You are a good friend! Thanks for stopping by!

    • drdebra says:

      Your friend will appreciate someone thinking about her when she is still mourning, but most other people will have expected her to “get over it” and “move on.” Sometimes, the second and third year are harder then the first because the numbness has worn off and the reality that the loved one isn’t coming back has sunk in.

  9. vlmbatman says:

    Hi, Diane: a very moving post. I can’t stand in your shoes, but I can always offer comfort. I truly appreciate the doctor’s advice. Many hugs. vb

  10. Thank you for this post. It’s very helpful. We’ve lost many family members over the years and the holidays surely aren’t the same. But we’re making new memories and still getting together with those still alive. I try not to dwell on the people who are no longer with us. It’s so sad. I try to focus on the good times.

    • dianekratz says:

      I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m also sorry for your loss. If I could choose not to dwell on those who left us to soon, I would. Talking about them is remembering their life, that they existed. There’s no wrong in that, its healing to talk about them. We too make new memories but we don’t forget those we love.
      Merry Christmas,

    • drdebra says:


      It is important to savor each and every family member–appreciating him or her. That way you have no regrets for taking people for granted when they pass.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss, Diane. Heartbreaking. I hope this Christmas brings some peace and happy memories. Great advice from Debra. You’re very brave for sharing with us. Children are so precious.

  12. julielrobinson says:

    Thank you, Diane, for your healing words. You’re right that talking is healing. And thanks for allowing me to post my sister’s Tribute to Joey here. I hope it helps one of the brave people who’ve opened up on this post to share their own pain.

    Tribute to Joey
    February 24, 2013 at 8:52am

    I have been debating with myself about whether or not to put this on FB. It is a very personal letter about a very public problem. Quite a few people confided in me about their own struggles with depression after I read this at my twin brother’s funeral and several asked for a copy. Suicide is the huge white elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. But if talking about it prevents someone else from actually going through with it, then talk we must. For me, it’s easier to write about than talk, especially at this point. I’m not posting this to get sympathy because when it comes right down to it, I am a very private person and I am not seeking consolation from other people. That is going to take time and will have to come from within and from God. I want people to remember my brother for who he was and not for the last thing he did in life.

    Tribute to Joey:

    I’m not sure if I can get through this, but I would like to try for two reasons. One – for Joey’s sake, and two- for those of us left here…the living. Even though Joey was a very private person and kept his thoughts inside, I think he would have wanted me to talk if he knew my reasoning. He always thought I had a good head on my shoulders and came to me for advice. I just wish he would have come to me this one last time.

    I wrote my thoughts down on paper because the things I have to say are important and I don’t want to leave anything out. Plus, it’s hard for me to think straight at the moment. A big part of me is torn in two…something that can never be replaced by anybody but Joey. I will have to learn to live with it.

    Joey was a troubled person, yet he could be both social and solitary. He tended to keep his real feelings hidden. Perhaps he wouldn’t want me to share this with you, but sometimes sharing can be a healing power, and we all need healing right now. Joey struggled with depression and bipolar disorder. Maybe those of you who always saw his happy side will not believe me or admit it. But I know. I knew from the minute I was told that my own son was bipolar that my twin brother had the same affliction. Ironically, they look alike and Joey was his godfather. You see, I grew up with bipolar disorder from the moment of conception. Only I didn’t know the name of it. I thought it was called “Joey”. Little did I know. But Joey’s mental disorder did not define him. It is NOT who he was. Let me tell you who he was.

    He was one of the most generous, big-hearted persons I know. In fact, he may have been too big-hearted because he always took everything personally and felt it was his responsibility to “fix” things. He wanted to give everything to the people he loved, and he was always trying to protect us, especially all the girls in the family. I will tell you one memory from the millions that I have stored in my heart. When we were little, we used to get a quarter a week as an allowance if we did our chores. Back then, a Snickers bar was 15 cents, and that was my favorite candy. I was frugal and didn’t want to spend my money on something that would be gone in 5 minutes, but Joey had no problem spending more than half of his allowance just to please me. And he never changed. He always had a big heart and became quite sentimental as the years passed. That’s why I included a lot of our baby pictures in the slideshow. It shows what a happy childhood we had, and he always fell back on that when he was depressed. He loved us to the very core of his being.

    I do want to mention something as his twin sister. Yes, we had a special relationship, but Joey had a special relationship with all his siblings. I don’t want people to think that just because I am his twin sister, I am the one that is hurting the most. That’s not true and you can’t compare hurt. Our big sister Julie is probably the most like Joey in personality, and they shared things like music and ideas about the world together. They have many wonderful memories that only the two of them know about, and Julie is just as much a part of Joey as I am. Our little brother Marcel….well, there is nothing like a little brother and we all adored him. Still do, in fact. Being the only other son in the family, Marcel and Joey had their own special relationship. Joey actually held Marcel in high esteem even though he is younger than us. My mom always told us that there was no “oldest” or “middle children” in the family. We were “group children”, she said. We were all in diapers together, we all started grade school at St. Ignatius and college at USL around the same time, and we all hit puberty together. Well, I was a little late. We grew up playing outside together and helping each other grow up. Most of all, we all loved being a part of our little family and we loved our mom and dad.

    As we grew up, our families expanded and Joey developed special relationships with many other people. You people in this room are an example of that. You are all here because you have a special tie with Joey. It goes without saying that our mom and dad have lost their oldest son, but so many of you have lost tremendously as well…..his daughter Emma, his wife Ana, his in-laws, his cousins, aunts and uncles, his co-workers, his friends… There can never be another Joey. I know everybody here has similar thoughts like, “I should have called Joey more” or “if only I had told him more how much I loved him”… “I wish I would have” or “I wish I wouldn’t have…” I know this because I have the same thoughts myself. But we can’t beat ourselves up like that. He wouldn’t have wanted that. I know he’s up in heaven right now feeling really sorry, because he was always sincerely sorry when he did something wrong. To anybody who has ever contemplated suicide, please know this: It’s not the answer. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Instead, open up to the people you love and seek help. Communicate. That’s why I decided to speak. I don’t want other families to have to go through this. If Joey’s death can prevent someone else’s, then maybe there is a glimmer of light in this nightmare. We don’t know why this happened to us and we never will. So let’s just help each other get through this by being here for each other. We all carry a piece of Joey in our hearts and he is alive in our memories. I believe he has found the peace with God that he was seeking.

    I miss you, Joey.

    Tribute at the funeral of Joseph “Joey” Raymond Lalonde, II on March 18, 2013

    (Dec 15, 1964-Feb 13, 2013)

    Written and read by Cindy Lalonde Falterman

    • dianekratz says:

      Beautiful! Thanks for sharing Julie! I’m sure your sister’s words changed someone mind about taking their own life. Mental illness as well as suicide are topic’s no one cares to discuss. I’m amazed by the number of people who have been through the aftermath of suicide. I love that she talked about his life being more than his last act! My son was more than his last five minutes of life. He accomplished much for being here for such a short time. I also loved where she stated “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I uttered the same words to a bunch of high school children I spoke to during my mental health practicum, at their school. I thought I’d made this saying up, but I didn’t. Thank you so much for sharing Joey’s story! God bless you and your family!

    • drdebra says:

      So very beautiful and moving. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Lani says:

    Dear Diane and Debra,

    Thank you for this post today! Debra, thank you for your insight and knowledge, and Diane, thank you for your bravery for sharing!

    I saw another friend here, and am waving at Leigh and wish I could give her and all here who have suffered a death a hug. I lost my brother to suicide June 1, 2012. I was really amazed at my grief this year, since I felt fine. But while grocery shopping I heard my brother’s and my favorite Christmas song and broke down next to the coffee and teas. I couldn’t face people, so I just cried into a can of Folger’s, stuffing my head into the shelf and trying to pretend I was reading the contents of coffee.

    Grief is . . . hard. But I’d like to offer a hug to all who are on this road with me. As well as my hand, because we all know how rocky this road can be. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of you!

    • dianekratz says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss Lani! Grief is a roller coaster ride for sure! I’m sending you a big fat warm virtual (((((hug)))). My thoughts are also with you and your family!

    • drdebra says:

      Lani, the thing about loss is that you can indeed feel “fine” and then something comes along that makes the grief hit you. Those hits don’t mean you aren’t fine, it’s just that you will have moments when you mourn. This process may last many years.

  14. jtzortman says:

    Diane – First of all, let me express my deepest sympathy on the loss of your son, Eric. I lost my 21-year-old grandson, Pete, on July 5, 2010 when he fell 100 feet off a mountain ledge into the canyon below. That was my daughter and his mother’s birthday. Pete was born on my son’s, also Eric, 25th birthday, which is December 30th, so I fully understand how the holidays heap on extra grief. I wrote my own book WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW in order to channel my own grief into something positive by, hopefully, helping others with our story. It is very painful to watch you rchild struggle with the grief of losing their child while you are dealing with your own painful loss. Losing a child is absolutely the worst possible thing that could ever happen to anyone. I hope you find a measure of peace and some joy during this holiday season. Many blessings to you and your family. I really enjoyed reading this blog.

    • dianekratz says:

      Thanks Jackie!I so sorry for your loss of Pete. I know my son’s death almost killed my mom. And I couldn’t be there comfort her, because I was buried so deep in my own pain of losing him. I’ll have to get your book and read it. I know I’ve told people, I’ve lived two lives, the before his death and the one after. Life as I knew completely changed. I’m happy to report I’m doing better than I was and I look forward to seeing my grandchildren grow. I still think of him often and miss him daily. I wish you many blessing too!


    • drdebra says:


      I’m so sorry you lost Eric. You make a good point that a death is a family event, and some losses are so painful and difficult that it’s hard to find comfort because everyone is suffering. The important thing is for everyone to understand this and do the best they can between balancing emotional self-care and caring for others.

  15. Diane: I want to commend you on this blog. The holidays can be very tough for those who are grieving. You’ve done them a great service. May I link to your blog through my own? Many of my readers are grieving the loss of a loved one or a co-worker.

  16. Jan Jackson says:

    Thank you. I needed this post.

  17. gemmabrocato says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. I’m fortunate to never have lost a loved one to their own hand, but I certainly understand the raw, aching abyss of emotion it must plunge people into. God bless each and everyone one your commenters for sharing their stories.

  18. marsharwest says:

    Diane, thanks for your bravery to share this post. Thanks for bringing in Debra. I’ve never lost a child, so I cannot truly know what you’re experiencing, except to say that any grief can be devastating, and the hurt goes on. Years ago, I had the sudden bawling in the shopping center experience. I thought it was over the recent loss of our family dog. Yes, it was that, but also over the loss of my father, who I’d never grieved because I was so afraid I’d lose my mother to her grief. Ultimately, she found her way through and we had many wonderful years with her.
    I’m working my own blog for tomorrow, and because of a FB post I’d read, I’d decided to mention how difficult this holiday is for many others. I will FB and Tweet this post, but I’d also like to share the link on my blog tomorrow if I may. This is incredibly powerful stuff here, not just from you and Debra, but from all those who’ve shared their pain. God bless you all and may you find peace.

    • dianekratz says:

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story too! I’m sorry for your loss of your father and your family dog. Animals become a part of our family. I would love it if you shared!

      God bless you too!

    • drdebra says:

      Please do share, Marsha. And you make a very good point that we can delay our mourning for many years, until it hits us later.

  19. marsharwest says:

    Thanks for your bravery in sharing this, Diane. I’m sorry for your loss. Thanks for having Debra. Not only have y’all’s comments been helpful, but so have your visitors.
    I was working on my own blog post for tomorrow and had decided to mention how difficult this time of year is for folks. (It’s always been for me.) Someone’s FB post yesterday that tugged at my heart. I’d love to put a link to this blog in my post tomorrow, Diane, if that’s okay. It’s important for as many people as possible to get this message. I’ll FB and Tweet, too.
    God bless you all and bring you peace.

  20. Patty H. says:

    A friend of mine just posted that he lost a work friend to suicide. Debra, do you think there are a higher number of suicides in December? I wondered about depression around the holiday or unfulfilled expectations possibly making people more vulnerable.

    • drdebra says:


      Actually, it is just the opposite. Suicides rates drop during the month of December. They peak in the spring and fall.

      I think those outside the family are more impacted by a suicide at this time of the year because they wonder feel extra horrible for the family who now has to go through the holidays while they’re grief stricken. So your memory of WHEN someone commits suicide is stronger if it’s around a holiday.

      • dianekratz says:

        I thought that was right Debra, but wasn’t certain. I believe the suicide rate grow higher in the spring and fall because of the change in scenery. In spring everything is re-born and started new, and in fall everything dies. I read an article in one of my compassionate friends newsletters, and the author made the reference to this. It kinda makes sense, at least to me, metaphorically!

  21. Thank you, Diane, for sharing your story. I’m sure it was difficult, but perhaps a little freeing, as well. I’m so sorry about Eric. My heart goes out to you and all the people who’ve left comments with their stories. I appreciate that you had Debra here to share her wisdom.

    I have my own stories, and Christmas especially can be difficult. It’s always been my favorite holiday, so I try to maintain some of our traditions for this time to give me comfort. I also like to play out favorite memories in my mind.

    This is a wonderful and timely post, very thoughtful and well-written. I think it will help a lot of people. I hope that brings you some comfort.

    My deepest regards,

    • dianekratz says:


      I’m thrilled with this post. Which seems crazy because It’s about grief and loss. I guess just knowing we are NOT alone is so comforting. I too try to make our traditions. I miss him, but as Steven King said, “Get busy dying or get busy living.” I choose to live. I’m happy with all the re-blogs I’ve gotten on this. I kind of feel like a weight has been lifted off me by talking about him and this subject. I happy that others can talk about the ones they love and miss as well!
      Merry Christmas Linda!

    • drdebra says:


      Maintaining comforting traditions is very important. Thank you for sharing.

  22. C. K. Crouch says:

    Diane this is so appropriate. I lost my husband 2 years ago this past 30 November. I’ve been listening to Christmas music and every so often I fall apart. Driving down the highway I will suddenly be so lonely for him. Today my niece and I stopped at the Veterans Cemetery where he’s buried. We both shed a few tears. He was her Magilla Gorilla and they were buddies. She started visiting us at age 3 I was so scared that Thanksgiving weekend when she came up to me, placed her little hands on my lap and told me she wanted to go home with me. I kept expecting her to start crying I want to go home but she went all the way back to East Texas with us. She spent summers with us and spring breaks. Once she stayed for a school semester. Her bond with Jim was special. We never had children but my sister’s kids are like ours.
    Thanks for sharing and posting this. I’m going to reblog if you don’t mind.

    • dianekratz says:

      I know how much we miss your Jim! We’ve talked about him before. Your’s is still pretty fresh he’s only been gone for 2 years. My heart goes out to you. I usually try to make it out to the cemetery to put garland wreaths and poinsettia on his and moms grave. I’d be thrilled to death for a re-post. In fact I’d feel privileged!

      Hang in there!

  23. C. K. Crouch says:

    Reblogged this on C. K. Crouch and commented:
    This hits close to home, I lost my husband of 40 years, 9 months and 11 days on November 30, 2011. It’s been 2 years and I still fall apart over little things. Such as watching my 3 year old great nephew do some silly thing like winking and flirting. Memories flooded in all at once of Jim sitting in a chair “carrying on a conversation” with Tyler, and holding his hands and helping him walk. Saying well come on I’ll walk with you. In the middle of dinner in the middle of a restaurant last spring I burst into tears. So a deep thank you to Diane for posting a blog that touches me.

  24. drdebra says:

    C.K., as I said earlier, sometimes a death, especially of a spouse is even harder the second year for the numbness wears off and the reality that your husband or wife is not coming back is very real and painful. Grief support groups can be very helpful because there are other people who understand and who are at different places in their grief journey.

  25. drdebra says:

    I’m so touched by how much everyone is sharing and by the amount of people who are going to post this blog. Thank you so much for spreading the word and helping others who need the information and the forum to share what’s on their hearts.

    • dianekratz says:

      Thank you Debra for guesting today! I have a wonderful bunch of followers! I can’t tell you how much this blog has done for me on a personal level. Thank you all who commented and talked about their loved ones. I know how hard it is to talk about them. You are my hero’s! I kinda feel like our loved ones are all reading this blog and making new friends in heaven. I know I feel better because of it, I hope you all do too!

      Diane Kratz

      • drdebra says:

        It was my pleasure. I feel through my writing I can bring some comfort and understanding about the grief process, and that’s so important.

  26. jbiggar2013 says:

    I just wanted to say thank-you for leaving your hearts on the page. I think it helps others going through the pain and confusion of loss. Merry Christmas and God bless 🙂

  27. Thank you for sharing this Diane. All this information is so important. I have a friend whose son also committed suicide. I am going to share this with her. God Bless,

    • dianekratz says:

      Thanks for stopping by Teresa. I hope this post helps her. There are also resources at the bottom and Debra’s book.
      God Bless you and your friend,

    • drdebra says:

      Linda, thank you.

      I like your idea of playing out favorite memories. You might also think of writing them down or recording them for others to share as well.

  28. Lisa says:

    DianeKratz is my sister and I love her with all my heart. I could never imagine the pain that she has gone through and others like yourselves have gone through. I think the reason some people don’t talk about or say much about, is because it makes people feel uncomfortable, they really don’t know what to say, and at the rawness at the beginning of grieving, I don’t think at that stage you all probably couldn’t really hear what we had to say anyway.

    Just being there is important and I have tried my darnest to be there for my sister and her family (but probably not enough). At times don’t know what to say, I know I loved Eric like a son, He and my oldest was were a yr. apart and I know it was hard on him too. I cry as I type this, because I can feel her pain, her families pain and all of you all’s pain.

    I try real hard to remember the fun things about Eric, His sense of humor, his smile and his love for candy and Chiefs football. How he loved to fish and loved being in boy scouts. I don’t want to remember that awful day, maybe that’s wrong for me feeling that way, I just can’t stand the hurt, I also mourn for him and my Mother and my Father.

    I feel we got ripped off, I feel anger sometimes and hurt, I’m not religious, I guess I was mad at Him (God)..Cuz, I feel God took all 3 of them away too early, I guess he needed them more than us, but it is hard. Diane is right Chritmas was Our MOM..she loved this time of yr I get sad too…I miss all my family!!

    I know one thing, I will NEVER forget them and I will do something from now on in memory of them. I want to think of them and smile, not cry. and I will try and be a better sister, cuz I love her with all my heart. I’m very proud of her too for being brave enough to post his pictures and talk about him to others. It took a lot of courage for her to do this!!

    Healing takes time. She always thinks I’m the strong one.. NO way..She has always been the Rock of our family and we don’t appreciate her enough. I love you, Sis ❤

    Thanks sis and Dr.Debra, this helped me too.!
    Love, Lisa~

    • dianekratz says:


      I love you more than I can put into words. Don’t you dare say you haven’t been a good sister cause that isn’t true. You have always been the one who remembers his birthday and the anniversary of his death. No one else does, except for his sister and I. And Eric loved you so much. I think grief is selfish, at least in the beginning. I forget sometimes that others loved him and lost him too.

      You are the best sister in the world and I love you SO MUCH! Thank you for always being there for me.
      Your sister
      I corrected some spelling LOL! 🙂 LOVE YOU!

    • drdebra says:

      Lisa, what a beautiful response for your sister. You two are blessed to have each other. I’m sure there have been many times you’ve had to set aside your grief to be there for your family members. The lives of everyone changed on that fateful day, and you’ve all had to live with such pain.

      I can understand you being mad at God. I think all of us have our own spiritual journey and it’s not until it’s over that we will be able to receive answers and understanding.

  29. bellwriter says:

    Diane, I’m late to read this. But this is such a powerful blog. At one time or another we will all deal with grief, and I think the most poignant thing said today (and there were many) is, “there is no road map for grief. You and Debra do amazing work.

  30. Diane,
    My sister Julie Robinson sent this too me last week but I couldn’t bring myself to read it until just now. I lost my twin brother to suicide in February and our birthday just passed- Dec. 15th. (First birthday without him.) Words cannot express how I feel right now because I am still too raw. Debra was correct in pointing out that most people avoid the subject. I am aware that it makes other people uncomfortable, so I generally avoid it as well. My public face is different from my private face. I find that if a casual friend asks me about things, I can more easily talk about it, but if a person closer to me asks about it, I get all choked up. I guess I feel like I can be myself more around them and they would understand. It was difficult to read such cheery birthday messages on FB when I was feeling less than cheery myself. In fact, I have purposely neglected FB for the last week. Most people who don’t live close to me have already forgotten about it because I don’t exactly advertise it, so I certainly was not offended. I appreciate their well-meaning intentions.
    Thank you for being brave enough to post about your son’s suicide. Writing is a form of therapy and I do it myself, though not usually publicly.
    I hope you find the courage and strength to make new beautiful memories during this Christmas season.
    PS. I enjoyed the banter between you and your sister. Really, if I didn’t have such a close relationship with my own family, I would be a basket-case!

    • dianekratz says:


      I have no words to console you because I know there are no words to help. I still have all my siblings so I can never fully understand how you are feeling. You made it through yours and his birthday and that is something. I wish I could say the next one will be better, but the truth is you will always feel his loss on your birthday, because you loved him. Your tribute for him was beautifully said and beamed of your love for him. I wish I could give you a hug, so please take my cyber hugs instead.

      I understand you not going to FB purposely on your birthday. You know what is right for you. But also know, when someone we love dies from suicide, it leaves behind a invisible cloak of guilt. You have every right to feel happy on your birthday. I’m sure you brother would have wanted you to be happy on this day you both shared. My wish for you is someday you can have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY without the guilt of feeling happy when he is not here to share it with you.

      Greif is hard work. If writing helps than write. Make a journal of your feelings. I do know grief must be expressed in some forms, if not they will be expressed in unhealthy forms and suicide runs in families. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings to your family. They know what your are feeling because your brother left them too. Sometimes tears are needed. That’s why God made hankies!

      Thank you stopping by and being brave enough to express yourself publicly. I wish you peace. If you ever need to talk, send me a message. I promise to listen.


    • julielrobinson says:

      Aww, Cindy, I love you. I’m glad we’re here for each other. Thank you for checking this post out. I’ve been blocked from writing but will try to get back into it. Tried Nano in November, but was like the seeds thrown on rocky soil . .. 🙂

      Diane and Debra, you’ll be glad to know I went out yesterday and got a mini-Chirstmas tree, some mini ornaments and a little star to put on the kitchen counter. Like you said–in honor of Joey. Didn’t feel like dragging out the big one. It’s sort of symbolic of mini-steps, I guess. May get out my mini Nativity set too to place next to it. Thanks.

      • dianekratz says:

        AWESOME Julie! Congrats for taking this step! Ones mini-step to some are gigantic for others! I think yours rate in that category! Wishing you and your family peace and fond memories this Christmas!

      • drdebra says:

        Julie, I’m so proud of you for making those mini-steps!

        Remember that trees grow from seeds! Keep tossing them out and one will find a crack in the ground and put down roots.

    • drdebra says:

      It doesn’t feel right that the world goes on, yet for you in many ways it hasn’t. I think it’s fine to write on Facebook before your birthday that it’s a tough week because you share your birthday with your twin who died. You can choose whether or not to reveal the suicide. Most people will respond with more heartfelt birthday messages.

      Writing is definitely a form of therapy and I hope you find it helps.

  31. Dr. Debra,
    You’re right, but I guess I just wasn’t ready to post something like that this year. It’s the year of “firsts” and that empty chair just keeps right on sitting there. I did actually post a tribute on FB when my twin brother died, and I see my sister posted it on this blog. So most people already know about the situation. They are just uncomfortable talking about it. Several people have commented on this blog about “being there to listen” for a friend or relative, and that really is the best thing. No advice. No religious statements like, “God knows what is best for him.” Sometimes people can even seem insensitive by NOT asking a simple question like, “How are you doing lately?” It almost seems to trivialize your grief, especially if they know you are having a difficult time. (“Shouldn’t you be over this by now?”) I know they are just uncomfortable with it though, so it only hurts if it comes from a relative or close friend. You would expect them to understand.

    And Diane, don’t worry. I don’t feel the need to take my own life, but I do know it’s genetic. Three other first cousins have committed suicide (so that’s 4 out of 18) and one nephew on my husband’s side. I am not bipolar but have dealt with it my whole life. It is an invisible mental disorder that can be just as devastating (if not more) as a physical one. As I’ve told my son, who is also bipolar, “People see someone in a wheelchair struggling to walk and they feel sorry for them and admire them for their efforts. They see someone with a mental disorder and think, ‘What a jerk he is being! Can’t he control himself?’ No, he cannot. Not always. They cannot see the struggle sometimes until it’s too late.” Depression is real.

    Anyway, sorry this is long. I didn’t intend for it to be but I just kept typing! Thanks for all the positive comments and I hope your Christmas is filled with warm thoughts of how many people you are touching with your words.


  32. Reblogged this on Linda Williams Stirling and commented:
    I wanted to share this thoughtful and informative article with you. My thanks to Diane Kratz for her willingness to share her own story of loss. Christmas is a joyous time of year, shared with family and friends. Twinkling lights, laughing children, sweet treats, and the anticipation of opening gifts. Full of wonderful traditions and memories. But, for some, it is a time of pain and sadness. Be sure this season to reach out to those who are grieving…whether from the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or home, illness, the absence of a family member in the Armed Forces or the Foreign Service who are serving overseas, even the loss of a beloved pet. All these things can effect individuals differently, and even though some of these events might have happened years ago, the Holiday Season can raise them back up, fresh and new. Accept and acknowledge their pain. Be kind, be thoughtful, be supportive, be there for them. Thanks.
    Take care and Merry Christmas,
    Linda Williams Stirling

  33. […] Surviving Christmas Grief ( […]

  34. This topic is such a hard one and yet it is the perfect time of year to read about it and talk about it. It is the time when those we have loved and lost are remembered as much as on their birthdays and the anniversaries of their death. Diane, I can’t imagine how hard it was to lose your precious son. I’m glad you had 16 years of memories. I lost one of my twin daughters at birth and no one ever talked about her, as if she’d never existed. You go into hospital and come out with a baby, which I did. But I had loved 2 babies for 9 months, not 1, and each year my love for her deepens, but she wasn’t real for anyone else. I went to a grief support group and at one point we had to share memories with someone. I was paired with a man who had lost his wife after 40 years of marriage. All I had was memories of her kicking. She was the baby on top and she kicked the most. Talking to that man, I felt as though my grief wasn’t as worthy of his. That I should just get over it because it was nothing like losing someone after 40 years. I don’t think that now. For many years I put presents in her stocking that could go on her grave and her twin sister chose where they were placed. Most of the time I’m okay now, and my grief sits to the side, kind of numb. But there is one song that can stop me in my tracks and bring back the sharp stabbing pain of her loss. In the LOTR movie The Two Towers, King Théoden said, “No parent should have to bury their child.” I have watched the movie more than 10 times and it still makes me cry. It doesn’t matter how old that child is, the grief of their loss will never go away. I don’t come from a close family so had no support from my parents, or 3 siblings and my husband was completely closed up. It’s been a long, lonely journey. I’m only just realising how my life has changed and the choices I’ve made that would have been different if I didn’t have a personal relationship with Grief. Thank you Diane for sharing your story about the loss of your son Eric.

    • dianekratz says:

      (((Hugs))) Jianna! I feel so lucky to have shared his sixteen years of life with him. I can’t imagine having all those hopes and dreams of being the mother of twins and coming home with one. It must have been unbearable. And like Debra expressed, “Society doesn’t know how to help others with there grief.” I think your gestures are a loving tribute to not only to but your daughter’s as well to her bond with her twin. I love LOTR! My favorite quote was Frido’s when he’s writing in Bilbo journal and say’s, “How do you pick up the pieces of and old life? In your heart you begin to understand there is no going back. There is some things time can not mend. Some hurts that cut so deep, they have taken hold.” I believe this is true for any parent who child dies before them. You are NOT alone Jianna anymore! I’m happy my story helped you share yours.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s