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The Empty Chair at the Table

Holidays can be an emotional reminder of loss. Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most difficult.

If someone at your holiday gathering has lost a significant person, here’s a suggestion to let them know you care:

Mention their person.

There can be a fear of bringing up someone who’s no longer with us - what if it causes the person to cry or to be reminded of the loss? I promise you; they are already thinking of their person. I can’t promise they won’t cry, but the tears could be of joy that you’ve acknowledged their loved one.

Here’s my personal experience. The first holiday season after I lost Keven was only a few months after his death. No one brought him up. Not a word. The entire time, I was fighting back tears of both anger and sadness. What was going on!? Didn’t they care? How could they not say anything?

I would cry the second I left their house.

As time passed and I could think clearly, I realized I knew they cared. They were too uncomfortable and fearful to bring it up. I told myself that it was okay. I know they loved Kev and love me. It’s not their fault.

We are very uncomfortable around death and loss - which is why I’m writing my next book.

The following holiday season, his name was still not mentioned, but I had zero resentment, anger or hurt. I realized I was the one that needed to bring up Keven to show everyone that it was okay to talk about him. I told a story about something funny he did as a kid. It opened the door for his cousins, aunt and uncle to talk about him too.

It means a lot to us to know you care about our loss, our person and us. If you gather with family or friends this holiday season, use the opportunity to mention the “empty chair”, especially if the loss was recent. Something as simple as, “I miss Keven” will send a loving message.


Very helpful again. I think everybody needs to be named and known and seen and loved even after they have departed us.


Nov 23, 2022

This is so good!!! That is exactly what happened to us w Ethans death the first Christmas at my stepsons house In my so-called blended family. No one brought up his name. It was beyond hurtful. And afterwards at some point I realized they did not know what to say so they said nothing. I was so mad at them I remember telling myself I would never spend another Christmas w them.

Fast forward six years later I held a paint party in Ethan’s honor on his bday and they ALL showed up. I wanted to give them a place as a family (even crazily blended as it is), to experience our grief as a family. And it worke…

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