Loss, the Holidays, and the “Right” Thing to Say

I have written on this topic before and focused on phrases to avoid. But as I was having a conversation with an aunt during Thanksgiving about a dear friend of hers who had recently lost a grandchild, it prompted new thoughts and feelings. This will be that family’s first holidays since his passing and my aunt wanted to reach out and say “the right thing.” As humans, we worry about saying the right thing, and often we avoid sharing our feelings for fear of being wrong. We feel moved to share words as profound as the loss itself. Often times we get wrapped up in this need that we don’t truly speak what is on our mind or we fall back on the trite, pithy condolences, which can come across false and empty. The simplest of phrases can actually go a long way.

I am thinking of you during this difficult time. – Loss of any kind is isolating. We feel alone and devastated in our grief. Having someone make contact can often help heal some of the widest cracks. It says that you are with me in this dark time. And maybe opens doors to further communication.

I wish _______ were here. – There is nothing more profound than this statement, especially during the holidays when the focus is togetherness. Missing that person becomes especially sharp. Having someone tell you they are missing that person too helps carry that burden of grief.

I am here for you. – This phrase only works if you are willing to listen and not offer advice or those trite phrases I mentioned before. Or even better just sit and let that person cry and give them space.

Most of all – show up, reach out. Don’t skip saying something for fear of saying the wrong thing. Speak from your heart.


I am in a funk. To start, it is holiday time. We survived Thanksgiving. But I was very disappointed again that few people talked about Lincoln unless I brought him up first. I get all kinds of responses when I post on social media but when in person, people seem to avoid the topic. It makes me want to scream and yet I wonder if it is something I should just accept. I read a post by another loss mom about this same thing. At the time her words resonated with me but now they are lost. I can’t remember what she said that at the time seemed so insightful. How can I accept that others don’t mention my son? It feels like betrayal. I hear all the time that people don’t know what to say. I don’t know that I can tell you the exact words, just let me know that you are missing him too and say it first. Don’t wait to see how I am feeling or if I might bring him up. Because of course I miss him, of course he is on my mind. Every. Single. Day. And now I am dreading Christmas. I am dreading the effort it takes to decorate, but I feel this need to make things sparkly and bright. As though that might ease the hurt in my heart that I won’t have to tell my toddler not to play with the ornaments or my other breakables. Lincoln should be here to share in the wonder of this season. He even has his own stocking now. There was a visitor at our office last week. My CFO has a grandson named Lincoln, born a month after our Lincoln. He was wandering around picking up phones and anything he could get his hands on. My heart ached with the thought of my mischievous little boy and all the things he should be getting into. On top of all of this, we are struggling to get pregnant again. We have been trying for close to a year with no success. And we don’t know why. We have met with a new doctor, who is running tests to get to the root of our trials. But when he looked at our initial results, his response was “Everything looks great, why aren’t you pregnant?” I don’t know. I am finally feeling like I am getting my health back on track. But even that has added to my gloom, as I finished all 8 weeks of a new program. I want to start over, but can’t seem to find the drive that kept my going the last 2 months. I just feel as though I am in a quagmire of melancholy. I fear getting stuck but the more I struggle, the more I stay in the same place.