Saturday Morning Message: Holiday Adjustments

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

The holiday season officially starts with Halloween, so today's picture is from my yard with the leaves turning color. Many people have a hard time with the holidays that occur in December. Today survivors shared what they have done to help them go through this season. In addition, you might want to read an article written by Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D, CHT, CT, GMS in a past TAPS magazine titled Handling the Holidays which may be valuable. It includes short ideas on getting through the holidays while you are grieving. Remember that whatever you do is the right thing for you and your family. 

Fall Leaves in Carol's Garden

Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep the message fresh, I am looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or if you have creative ideas on how to make the Saturday Morning Message more supportive. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to the questions and ideas you share. 

One suggestion from a survivor was to include a song of the week, which is now a regular weekly section. If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive. 

One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny,   makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance." This can be wonderful for listening while you are on the computer or exercising. 


Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

Mary, mother of Nicholas,  sent the question this week. She asks, "Since the loss of your loved one, do you feel like you are living your life to the fullest and how or when have you felt that way?"

Mary sent a few examples, "For me it is at events with other Gold Star Moms where I feel like I can be myself, laugh,challenge myself and feel safe because I know that the other moms really understand. We are all walking in the same shoes. Maybe different style shoes or different sizes but we are there for one another.

Last year I was blessed to attend the TAPS Moms Retreat in Charleston. One of my favorite memories that still brings a smile to my face is when my kayaking partner and I were sailing along under a sun filled blue sky giggling and feeling like our sons were pushing us along. We were both Marine Moms both sharing the exact same date our sons were killed in Iraq." It will be great to read about other's experiences. 

♫ Song for the Week 

From Belinda, mother of Benjamin:  My son passed away Dec. 26, 2015. He was my only son and my hero. I have prayed for God to let me dream of him but to no avail. But, God did something better, because He loves me so much. He gave me a vision of two men walking who I could only see from the back. One had his arm around the shoulder of the other and they were talking. One man had on a long flowing tunic-like garment and his hair was a little long. The other was wearing pants, a shirt and had a military style haircut. Yes, it was Jesus and Benjamin. Benjamin had the same shirt on he wore the very last time I saw him. 

That is why this song by Guy Penrod & Sarah Darling means so much to me. It is "Knowing What I Know About Heaven".  I hope you listen to it on YouTube. 

Answers from Survivors 

From Diane, mother of Caleb:  This journey is different for everyone. I have friends who didn't put up any Christmas decorations for seven years after their loved one passed. Some still don't. I put Christmas decorations up the first Christmas after Caleb went to heaven, because I just had to. Caleb loves Christmas. He was the one who always helped put up the lights and decorations. I always had our home fully decorated, especially if I knew he was going to be able to spend it at home. The last time we spent time together was Christmas. Two months later he was in heaven. I will say, I couldn't put our faithful family ornaments on the tree for a couple of years. I didn't send any cards that first year. A new family tradition started that first year. Instead of putting our tree in our family room where it always stood, I put it up in our living room. It was too hard thinking of putting it in our family room. Everybody seems to be OK with it in its new location. As for conveying a message that there will come a day, I'd say only that person will know when, if and how much he/she can do for the holidays and whatever it is - much, little or none --  it is OK. Christmas to me is the reason I know I will see Caleb again, so I decorate with joy and tears mixed together.

From Robert, father of Louis:  We did everything we previously did from the first year except mail cards. That was rough and took me three years to face. Vivian just started sending cards again last year, the 11th year.

We couldn't let our grandkids know that there are no more holidays. For the first years it was pretty grim after everyone left, but we did it and survived. I can say that there is rarely ever the sense of anticipation that we had before that awful day.

All that being said, I wish you all the best for the season. Remember, it's mostly what's good for you.

From Donna, mother of Eric:  Last year was our 4th Christmas without our Eric. I decorated for the first time. I'm not in that same mood this year, so I probably won't. But maybe next year, I will. I will just take it one holiday at a time and decide what I want to do.

I don't think I will send Christmas cards ever again. The thought of not having Eric's name on our cards is a big no.

I have a cousin who sends me an ornament for Eric each year. I usually place these on the table runner during December. Last year, they went on the tree, of course.  

My advice is do exactly what you want to do. Don't let anyone tell you it's wrong to not decorate or it's wrong to decorate and celebrate. Each person grieves differently. I went small last year, with only a tree and a few things that Eric loved like his nutcrackers. Then, when the holidays were over and I was crushed by another Christmas without him, it wasn't too much to put away.

Of course, my situation is different from most. Eric was an only child, single and had no kids.  If I had other children or grandchildren, I would probably do some decorating for them - maybe.

We left for most holidays the first two years. That seemed better for me, but not for my husband.

Time doesn't heal all things, but it does let us learn to cope.

From Merry, mother of Wesley:  It has taken time to even approach the thought, but returning to the joy of the season has developed over time. One year I only got out one tiny tree that was given to me years before and only put small decorations on it. That was my one and only contribution to Christmas. Now, I think about going through all of them and maybe getting them out.  

The one thing I do every year and have done every year is to place a vintage 5-bulb candelabra in each front facing window of my home. I've done that for 25 years and that I can handle. I think the first years, that was the only decorating I did. It goes up the day after Thanksgiving.  

I will put out any of Wes's decorations I find this year. It's not quite as painful this year and it will be a nice remembrance that will make me smile.

Other Items and Events of Interest

Arlington Cemetery family at headstone

Join us on Memorial Day Weekend, May 28 to 30, for our 27th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar! We will be live streaming all of our general sessions with guest speakers.

Important Note: In-person registration is still open, but we are in a waitlist situation due to COVID occupancy restrictions in the State of Virginia. 

If you have any questions, email or call our Helpline at 202.588.TAPS (8277).

Learn More and Register


▶▶  Connect With Your TAPS Family 

You can discover all the opportunities to connect with your TAPS Family on our website at the TAPS Event Calendar.

About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication contributed by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer-based connections for support and encouragement. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive place where we can openly share in a nonjudgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable. Content submitted for the SMM is edited for space considerations and may be used in other TAPS publications. The loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please call 202-588-TAPS (8277).