For most people, the Christmas season is a happy time of year, filled with traditions and time spent with family. However, for those who have experienced profound loss, such as the death of a loved one, the season can bring more sadness than joy.

The traditions and events around the holidays that are meant to be shared. When someone is missing from the festivities, it can be a painful reminder of loss. It’s a particularly haunting sort of sadness because it follows you into every event and reminds you that someone is missing. Especially when grief is fresh, it can make even an innocent Christmas party conversation a minefield for sadness.

In theory, the holidays are supposed to get easier as time passes after a loved one is lost. However, I can personally attest that grief never really goes away. Ever since I lost my mother to ALS in May of 2007, the joy of the Christmas season is tempered by a deep sadness. Christmas was always a special time for my mom and me. As an only child, she lavished me with gifts and girly traditions around the holidays. While I am grateful for the memories, the season that used to bring me such joy is now weighed down by grief at times.

I was 27 when she passed away, an age that suggests I was grown up and no longer “needed” my mother.  In the 12 years since I have learned there is not an age where you don’t need your mom.  In a sense, it doesn’t feel like she has been gone all that long, maybe because she is never too far from my mind. I still dream about her and crave her company as though she were only a phone call away.

Thankfully, I have a community of friends who not only acknowledge that they know this time can be difficult for me but who also tell me that they miss my mom too. It feels like a warm hug and reminds me that my feelings are okay and normal. I love to say and hear my mom’s name, and it is indescribably helpful to be able to talk about and share my grief about her loss.

Being able to share my grief with friends is a beautiful gift, and I hope that someone reading this might be inspired to share a friend’s pain by simply acknowledging it. By sharing in their grief, you will lighten their load and help the holiday season get back some of its joy.