When You Can't Be With Loved Ones Over The Holidays

by Chanel Schwenck
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and FatCamera/Getty

Every time the holidays roll around, memes circulate through social media about remembering loved ones who’ve passed away and how difficult holidays will be without them. There is so much truth to this; holidays will never be the same, and family members need to let each other grieve in their own way. There is no time limit on grief, and nobody gets to tell us when enough is enough.

For the most part, people are sensitive to others grieving the loss of loved ones, especially during the holidays. Empathy and sympathy are in full effect, and this is wonderful. For many people, the word “grief” is closely associated with death, but I’m here to talk about another kind of grief… the kind so many of us have experienced but rarely discuss. The kind we almost feel guilty for feeling because… well… because no one has died. How can we grieve people who are still alive?


I’m talking about grieving loved ones you aren’t able to see or spend time with during the holidays. Maybe your job moved you across country. Maybe it’s too expensive to fly home. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a research project and can’t take time off. Maybe your health prevents you from traveling. Whatever the case, you are here and they are there. Knowing that is hard enough; forget about having to watch everyone and everything you’re missing come to life on social media. Those beautiful pictures and compassionate posts feel like a knife through your heart. It’s even worse when there’s absolutely no mention of you. You watch from a distance as their holiday traditions go on without you.

You feel dead.

This grief is real.

It’s that other kind of grief no one talks about.

You tell yourself to be logical, stop getting upset at what you see and read. Everyone is allowed to post whatever they want on their own page. They’re not posting it intentionally to make you feel awful. They would never do that.

But the end result is that you feel awful.

What can you do with these feelings? You can’t talk to your loved ones about them, because the last thing you want is for them to feel guilty about having a great holiday. No, that wouldn’t be good. They may even remind you that you’re the one who moved away; it’s not their fault you’re not around for the holidays. So these feelings remain bottled up, which we know is not healthy. We put on a smile and try to get through the holidays with our grief.

Sadly, I do not yet have an answer. I really don’t know how to deal with these feelings and this terrible grief. I do know it helps to stay off social media during the holidays. At least that way you don’t have to see and read about everything you’re missing and notice that once again, your name was never mentioned. Maybe someday I will have a solution, but for now, I just wanted to put it out there. It’s a type of grief, and it’s real. Maybe it’s time people start talking about it.

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