US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Grief at Christmas

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One mother’s Christmas traditions include visiting the grave of her son.

By Guest Blogger Kathleen O’Hara

Living with the loss of a loved one, especially to violence, is especially difficult at this otherwise festive time of year. People are celebrating with their families, yet for those of us who have lost a loved one, the chair that will ever be empty is a reminder of those we truly yearn for. Still, we do know where our loved ones are—they are already living the eternal life of light that we can only imagine and hope for.

Since my son Aaron was murdered in 1999, every Christmas is different, and I haven't yet formed a new tradition. It is as if getting through each year has been a miracle in itself.

Yet I do go to his grave every Christmas. I went at the beginning of Advent to bring a spray of evergreen with a big red bow. I stood in the cold wind and prayed for him to remember us to our blessed Lord and help us wait in faith for the light to once again return to the world. I reminded Aaron of his brother and sister and how he should look after them—and say a prayer for his mother that I might not give up hope.

I try to find Aaron in the little things of Christmas: the joy of the children, the love that we show for each other, in the true gifts of the spirit that best embody this holy season. And I remember that Christ comes as a child for us to hold and treasure in our hearts, and in mine, Aaron will always be that child—given in grace and held in love.

Guest blogger Kathleen O'Hara is a psychotherapist and author of A Grief Like No Other: Surviving the Violent Death of Someone You Love (Avalon, 2006). For more information, visit She wrote “My life after death” for U.S. Catholic.

Read more blogs about Advent and Christmas traditions at Submit a guest blog to We may put this together into a holiday theme Meditation Room for the magazine next year. Any reflections selected for publication will win $50!

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.