Saturday Morning Message: Making Plans for the Holidays

Author: Carol Lane

Carol's Lilac Bush

Good Morning,

The opening picture is my lilac bush with its beautiful red leaves signaling the beginning of the fall season in the part of our country where I live. Survivors know that their loved ones’ birthdays and angelversaries can be difficult, so plans are often made to help cope. Some holidays can be equally emotionally painful.

Today’s responses are a combination of those received this week and others from the Saturday Morning Message archives. The replies include plans survivors have found successful in making the holiday season less stressful. This year we may also have to think about new ways to navigate the holidays during COVID-19.

Carol Lane
Mother of Bryon


Responses from Survivors to last week's question

What have you done for the Fall/Winter Holidays and what are your plans for this year?

From Sandra, mother of Joshua: When my son lived at home, we always decorated the house together for Halloween. There was a spider web, a black bat, a witch’s cauldron and scary eye lights. One year, Josh bought a grey skull with a top hat and black cape that flew around on a steel pole. The Trick-or-Treaters were terrified by the flying skull, so I had to take it down. I would also get out the orange plastic pumpkin bowl, fill it up full of candy, turn on the spooky music and then Josh would take off with his friends. Halloween was Josh’s favorite holiday.

Halloween has become a sad day for me. I do not decorate or hand out candy anymore. I turn off the porch light. This year, I have a plan to eat pizza and watch a scary movie. It is always helpful to have a plan.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: From September, the month Blake was killed, until the end of the year has always been, for me, the hardest and longest four months of the year. November is not only the start of the seasonal holidays, but also Blake's birthday.

Veteran's Day happens to be my birthday as well, so the family always seems to come up with something or other birthday wise. As for the holiday itself our area has started having many discounts, free meals, and other freebies for our vets and active military. My husband, brother-in-law, and I are all vets ourselves, so we go out to eat at one of the places in town that always offers a great meal for vets. Once you lose a loved one in the military, the true meaning comes to life during this type of holiday and seems to hit you like a led balloon. They have become harder to deal with than the other holidays. 

From Rose, spouse of Troy: It is hard when holiday occasions near. I have to pretend everything is okay for my children's sake. (If it wasn't for my children I would rather curl up in a ball in my bed). I try to pretend everything is fine. We spend all holidays with my husband's family. I just continue what he was doing and I imagine he is there with us. I continue to live our life even though there's a hole in my heart. I feel closer to his family more than ever. My mother-in-law and I talk if it is the holiday season or not. 

From Debra, mother of Zachary and Jeremy:  The first year after Zachary died, as his death date, Christmas, and birthday are all close, I had an idea to make it a random acts of service time since one of the last things Zac wrote on his Facebook page was, “What can I do for you today?” I started donating blood, which I have continued every few months. Others began doing things like donate food or tickets to events, open a door for someone, or smile at strangers … anything. It has expanded to going to Walmart on the last day of layaway and paying off things for people. 

From Tara, spouse of Jay: For me, there was no planning for the holidays. There were times over the years when I wanted to be alone and the thought of attending a holiday party nauseated me, so I declined. There were times when I could not bear to be alone, so I reached out. There is no magic formula. I am grateful that I possessed the wisdom to be gentle and loving toward myself. Waves of grief come and go (especially during the holidays), so I maintain a plan that allows for me to feel the grief when it comes, and to recall the joyous memories when they come. 

From Charlene, mother of Devin:My advice would be to pace yourself and only do what you feel up to doing. All the prepping that comes with the holidays is exhausting enough. Then adding grief to it is very draining. I tried to stick to my usual holiday frenzy and just didn’t have the same focus or energy.

If you would like to send a note commenting on one or all of the responses in this week’s Saturday Morning Message, send it to and your thoughts will be passed along to each contributor. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another.


Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message 

TAPS was founded 27 years ago on October 17, 2020, so this week’s question will celebrate this healing organization. TAPS has helped us in so many ways, let’s think of one that is special. This week’s question is: What is one way TAPS has helped you on your grief journey? We look forward to your answers. 

The Saturday Morning Message was created so survivors can share questions and read how others respond. Questions for future messages are always welcome. You can reply to this message or email In order to have your reply included the following week, it is best to send your response by Tuesday morning. Thank you to everyone responding this week and to those who read this message.


Song for the Week

notes icon

This week’s song, ‘How Deep is the Ocean’ sung by Barbara Streisand and her son, Jason Gould, was sent by Leslie, mother of Eugene who wrote: “This is for those of us who have lost children and imagine them singing this to us, their parents. There is an unbelievable bond expressed in this song between mother and son. I wished my son, who was capable, sang this to me. I am fortunate, because I believe my son loved me that much and I know I loved him to the moon and back and then some.” 

Next Week: We will feature a special recipe from a survivor and why it has a special meaning. 

If you have a favorite recipe or song for this section, please send your ideas to me at and include a note about why there is meaning for you.


Related Stories

holiday table

Article: Handling the Holidays

The holidays are coming and I’m not ready. Everything seems to sparkle and there is always so much to do!

table place setting

VIDEO: So Much Has Changed: Managing Secondary Losses During the Holidays

This video recording of the webinar offers coping strategies for families as they face an empty seat at a cherished holiday ritual.


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).