How To Survive December With a Broken Heart

It comes up again and again-and not just for the parents facing their year of “firsts”How do I survive December with a broken heart?

There’s no single answer or list of things to do that will suit every family.

But there are some general principles that can make even this awful reality a little easier: 

Be gentle with yourself.  Accept that you will not be able to do all the things you could do before child loss.  Understand that tears will fall at the most inconvenient moments and grief waves will take you under when you least expect them to.  That’s OK.  You do not have to be strong or brave or keep smiling when you are sad.  Feel what you feel.  Do what you need to do.

Be honest with others.  No matter how wonderful it would be if they could truly understand what it feels like to bury a child (without the experience, of course!), it is not the way things ARESo if you need something from someone, speak up.  If you don’t want to go to this or that, say so.  If your heart can’t take one more family gathering or meal, send your regrets and stay home.  Use “I” statements and say something like, “I’m just not able to participate in gift-giving (or whatever) this year.  My heart won’t take it.”  They may not like it.  But they can’t argue with your experience.

Do not let people cross the boundaries you set up to protect your heart.  Once you have figured out where you need to draw the line and have communicated that to others, hold fast.  It’s really just fine to not return phone calls or text messages designed to force you to meet others’ expectations.  You don’t have to be rude, but you also don’t have to submit your heart to constant trampling.

Be open to change.  This is the fourth set of holidays for me without Dominic.  Each year I’ve entered the season with certain ideas about how they will go, what will and won’t be helpful, and where I needed to set boundaries.  And every year I’ve made adjustments.  Some things I thought I COULD do, I couldn’t. Some things I  swore I’d NEVER do, I’ve done.  Work schedules, plane delays, illness, or even happy surprises alter plans and require adjustment.

Remember that December doesn’t last forever.  As hard as this season is, it is only a season.  The earth turns, the sun rises and the days pass.  If you spend the month in bed with the covers over your head, January will still roll around.  If you get up and participate (whatever that looks like for YOU) then January will also show up on schedule.

These days are just like all the rest:  in the end we survive them one breath, one moment at a time.  

But we do survive.  

bereaved parents have one job during the holidays to survive

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

20 thoughts on “How To Survive December With a Broken Heart”

  1. Melanie you are an angel to me and everyone who is reading this blog.
    I truly am broken hearted, I have just lost my beautiful son two months ago at the age of 12, taken by Jesus in his sleep. We are totally devastated, and our family feels broken and shattered. If I did not have my faith I could not go on. I considered myself a strong person until this..this is something no one can understand unless they have lost their child. There isn’t any book or guide to this new life of loss. This is life now. My son was an absolute joy and so loved by all, I pray for him in his new life whilst I cry until that day God decides we meet again. He is safe in the arms of Jesus.
    This will be our first Christmas without our darling boy. Unimaginable.
    Do you know Melanie I just found your blog by chance, now I read it every day! Do you know how much you are helping me and all those others out there with your words, compassion and understanding.? God bless you Melanie.
    Dominic looks an amazing, handsome young man, and such a joy. I bet he was just like you too..a good soul… he will be looking down on his mum with eternal joy as she spreads Gods love amongst us who grieve..knowing we are not alone. Thank you from my aching heart Melanie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so, so sorry for your pain and your loss! I’m thankful that your broken heart is clinging to Truth and that the promises of God in Christ are speaking courage to your soul.

      I am deeply touched and humbled by your words. It’s been my earnest prayer that whatever I write encourages others walking this road.

      May the Lord continue to give you the grace and strength you need for each day and may you feel His loving arms around you. ❤


      1. I lost my 38 yr old daughter on February 24, 2021. I got the call no mother should ever get. My son-in-law telling me he woke up and she wasn’t in bed. He went looking for her and found her in the bathroom cold and unresponsive. Paramedics couldn’t do anything. She hadn’t been sick, didn’t smoke, never tried drugs, and her idea of drinking was maybe a drink or two a month with friends. She was an elementary school teacher and lived her life to be a role model for the kids she taught. This is my first December without her. And the 12th would have been her 39th birthday. I’ve never felt such terrible pain before. I barely made it through Thanksgiving. She loved the holidays. She was my rock. Always there when I needed her. My husband, her stepfather, fell and became a quadraplegic on October 22, 2021. She kept me going until she died. I have a 26 year old son, but he lives 400 miles from me. He misses her terribly too.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This year on December 24th 2020, marks four years that I lost my precious son, Chase, to addiction. Words can never begin to describe the pain a mother feels when she loses a child, complete and total devastation. Since losing my son, I have met many parents, families, who have lost a child. The best advice anyone ever gave me is this: Our children are really not “ours” to begin with, they belong to God. He lends them to us for a time, as he sees needed. And for that time with my precious Chase, I am grateful. The memories that I have of my angel along with the fact that one day I will see him again, and oh what a blessed day that will be!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your words of encouragement. My son Jeremy died in August (2018) of this year. He was 26 and had an addiction that ultimately killed him. The pain from losing him at times is so overwhelming. I feel very much alone. I have three other grown children that are dealing with their loss in different ways. I’m just trying to cope and learn to live with my new reality. 💔😢

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so very sorry for your pain and your loss. You are very fresh in this journey. Just do the best you can-whatever that looks like-and don’t apologize to anyone who can’t understand it. Praying that you feel the Father’s loving arms around you and that He overwhelms you with His grace and mercy. May He strengthen you to hold onto hope. ❤


    2. I’m so sorry to hear this I lost my 22 year old son Austin in July 2021 and im so lost and heartbroken some days I’m ok and some I am not god bless and Happy Holidays

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautifully written, Melanie. You hit the idea of holiday survival squarely on its head. Words that give permission to say “no” when those who don’t understand want to sway us to join in their celebrations. With your permission, I would like to repost this piece on my blog for a future holiday. I will give credit. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We lost our son John in February of this year. I survived Thanksgiving pretty well. It was sad but I survived. I actually thought I was doing much better. But as soon as Thanksgiving was over and Christmas coming soon became a reality in my mind and heart it seems to hurt more every day! God’s love and comfort and the closeness of our family gets me through the days. Without Him I would be a total mess. What I once viewed as a rarity…losing a child…I have realized in these last nine months is far too common. So many broken hearts all around me. May God bless us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for these encouraging words. This is our second Christmas without our son, Peter. He died a year ago tomorrow (Dec. 4, 2016) of a cocaine overdose. We never realized his addiction had resurfaced, but he was 27 and on his own. Our friends and family prayed us through these past 12 months. Our hope is that we know where Peter is now, because he had accepted Jesus as his Savior as a boy. However, the pain and loss is still there; the holidays and our lives have a hole in them that will never be filled. As my husband says, it’s a “new normal” for us. We are crying when the tears come and learning to change things up in spite of our hurting hearts. God bless you for your help with us who are grieving.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so very sorry for your pain and your loss. What a precious gift to have praying friends and family to speak courage to your hearts as you carry this load. I pray that the Lord gives you strength and that He overwhelms you with His love, grace and mercy.


    2. We lost our 31 year old son Donnie on 1-1-20 to a motorcycle accident. He was our only child. We are devastated and still cannot comprehend he is not here. We are so thankful that at at 12 Donnie accepted Jesus into his heart so we know when Donnie took his last breath on earth he took his next breath in Heaven with the Lord. I am so heartbroken for everyone on this blog. So many heartbreaking stories of lives that have been shattered by the loss of their child. Thank you Melanie for all your posts, they help me so much. God Bless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am so sorry for your pain and loss. What a comfort to know with confidence where Donnie is! I pray that the Lord continues to greet you every morning with the grace and strength you need to face the day. ❤


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