Surviving the Holidays, Part Four

Shadow Reaper released Monday! So excited for the launch of the Gatekeeper series.
Just 2.99 through Christmas
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The concept of the Grim Reaper has fascinated me for years. I used to work for a residency program where I taught behavioral medicine to newly minted doctors. A few of them were quite sensitive to supernatural phenomena, and they’d come into my office and talk with me about sensing Death’s presence before a patient passed.

They’d also talk with me about the numinous aspect of both birth and death.

Fast forward the clock a few years to Supernatural. Sam and Dean dealt with both Death and Reapers—until Dean killed off Death in season ten. Then it’s mostly Reapers.

A Reaper tale has been running around in my mind for quite a while. I hope you enjoy the Gatekeeper Series. I finally snuck in a heroine who flies airplanes... I used to love to fly until it dawned on me we had kids who'd be in college soon.

Surviving the Holidays, Part Four
In case you missed the first three segments, part one was a general overview, and part two dealt with less-than-optimal families. Part three focused on children and the holiday season. All of them can be found on my blog (
Today’s segment will be on loss and how to cope with the holidays when those near and dear to us are no longer here. This was by far and away the hardest section to write. If you’re looking for warm and fuzzy, stop reading right now. This may have been hard to write, but it will be equally hard to read.
If you’re old enough, holidays mean missing faces around the tree or the holiday table. People we remember and wish they were still close enough to hug or call or run something past.
Some losses are more difficult than others. While we all expect to lose our parents at some point in our adult lives, having them die while we’re still children is hard. And losing our children is harder still. Nowhere is it written in stone that our children will outlive us, but we hold that expectation. When accidents claim them, or illnesses or chemical dependency, we struggle. It’s almost impossible not to feel like we failed our kids by not recognizing they were ill soon enough, or by not exercising Draconian measures to separate them from friends we knew were horrid influences. Sometimes our own chemical use got in the way, which adds to the burden of guilt.
I’ve never lost a child, but I had many, many clients in my office over the years who did. One of the stories that still tugs at my heartstrings is the woman who took her ten-month-old, in its carrier, out of the back of the car and set her toddler down to retrieve her handbag and groceries. The parking brake wasn’t engaged, and the car, which was on a hill, rolled over the child.
Another story is about a client of mine. Bright, beautiful, accepted at one of the top colleges in this country, an Olympic athlete, and multilingual. Also an abuse victim and intensely self-destructive. I did everything I could as a therapist. She suicided anyway. In a locked facility with 24-hour staffing.
Experiences like that mark you. Humble you. Change you. And no, I don’t think you ever truly get over them, but that doesn’t excuse you from finding a way to keep living.
If the holidays are hard for you because of loss, begin planning for them early. If your pain is linked to a place, like your home, see if you can’t go somewhere else for a few hours on special holidays. Most local charities welcome volunteers to help serve food over Christmas. Churches do as well. If you can afford to, leave town. Rather than wallowing in painful memories, begin to develop new holiday rituals that bring you peace.
Beyond that, though, find ways to forgive yourself. None of us are perfect, and even if we’d said and done everything exactly right, the only person’s behavior you have control over is your own. You might have been the very best mother, sister, daughter, father, brother, son, etc. ever, and the outcome that tears at your heartstrings would probably have happened anyway.
That’s easier for me to write than it is to put into practice. It took me well over a year to let go of the guilt I held over my mother’s passing. She was old (96) and terminally ill, but she hated the nursing home. Never did understand why she couldn’t go home, and I became frustrated trying to explain it. I have all the excuses in the book, but the hard truth was my compassion well ran dry. It happens. We’re all only human. What that means is we do the best we can, and sometimes we fall short of the person we’d like to be.
If the holidays are a source of pain, and you can’t wait for them to be over, do something different this year. Offer the gift of yourself to those less fortunate. None of us can change the past, but today and the future are well within the scope of possibility.
I wish you all the very best. Now and in the year to come. As always, I welcome your emails. Love hearing from you, and I’m honored by how many of you have shared snapshots of who you are.

Apple is working hard to earn your business.
Special pricing runs through the end of December!

Just look at those great prices on the audio versions of Highland Secrets and To Love a Highland Dragon!
Highland Secrets is 6 hours. Highland Dragon is almost 8.
Clicking the links above should take you right to the Apple Books site.

E-book and print versions are located on my website at 


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