Book Shelf: Surviving the Holidays Without You: Navigating Grief During Special Seasons

Author: Kelly Griffith

After my brother died in December 2011, I didn’t know what to do when I woke up on Christmas morning. His death was still real. I didn’t want to have Christmas without him. So, I didn’t. The second Christmas without Sam physically here, I wanted to find a way to honor his life and still feel him near me. I wish I had read Gary Roe’s book, Surviving the Holidays Without You: Navigating Grief During Special Seasons.

Book, Survivor the Holidays without you

In this easy to read book, hospice chaplain and bereavement specialist Roe shares how you can move through the holiday season with your loved one in a new way. It’s so nice to read that I don’t have to go on without my brother. Instead, I carry him in my heart. It’s validating to read that I’m not crazy for being extra sad on those special days when he should be with my family to celebrate life with us.

Roe’s book is reassuring in his relatable story of the loss of his father. With bullet points and short chapters, the book is easily digestible and will give you ideas on how to not just survive the holidays, but heal and grow through this season.

Although he writes some tough statements about reality, e.g. you have to feel the pain to get through it and no one can ever totally understand your grief because it’s unique to you, he also shares hope throughout the book. Roe says your holidays don’t have to revolve around your expectations or those of others. Instead, you can have grace for yourself and your family. You can include new rituals into these special days and months, and you can keep the rituals your loved one always enjoyed the most. He also shares some general grief and life tips that are helpful. Communication and decision making as a family is healthy to your relationships. And real strength lies in knowing your own heart and being honest with yourself.

Finding “safe people” with whom to surround yourself is a good idea every day of the year – not just at the holidays. It reminded me of the safe people I have met through TAPS, those people who will listen to my journey without passing judgment or giving advice, those people who are there just to love me, those people who are “rest stops” on this long road of grief. They are gifts that grief brought me.

If you are not a believer in the Christian faith, you can skip the last chapter of the book. However, Roe does a great job of sharing God’s love for the grieving. He doesn’t say our losses happened for a reason. Instead, he opines that God is there to comfort us through our grief and has a plan for our future. He even mentions that God is bigger than our anger and frustration – something so many bereaved Christians struggle with as they try to find comfort in their faith after a loss.

Kelly GriffithReviewed by Kelly Griffith, Surviving Sister of Maj. Samuel Griffith, Written by Gary Roe: Kelly Griffith is the surviving sister of Marine Corps Major Samuel Griffith, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on December 14, 2011. Raised in North Carolina, Kelly now lives in the Washington, D.C., area where she works for TAPS. Her degree in journalism and the profound impact of her older brother's life and service enable Kelly to fulfill her goal of sharing the compassion and care of TAPS with other survivors through her writing.