Coping with Loss During the Holiday Season

ritt-0447I’m going to take some time to get a little more personal on the blog today. We are coming up on our first holiday season without Kevin. It’s been almost six months since he passed away. It feels like it was just yesterday that we were sharing photos of our parents’ kittens {and bonding over how much they dislike us but love our sister Allison}, talking about his new job and car and planning for the holidays.

I haven’t mentioned this before, but I had been thinking about blogging again for quite some time, and after the long summer, I felt like I needed a ‘happy’ place and a side project to keep me ‘busy’. And sure, for the past month or so, this site has focused on fashion and style inspiration because I haven’t wanted to dive into the deeper stuff.

It’s also why some of my posts have been short and sweet. Talking about our Thanksgiving and Christmas plans this year isn’t very fun. Honestly, it sucks. There really isn’t a way to sugar coat it. Spending our first holiday without my little brother makes me sick to my stomach. And knowing that he won’t be here to celebrate his 23rd birthday next month is even worse and truthfully still doesn’t quite feel real.

I realize that, unfortunately, we’re not alone in this and that others you may know are also preparing for a holiday season without a loved one. So, I’m sharing a few few thoughts to keep in mind whether you’ve experienced this with me or another friend or family member. I’m speaking from my personal experiences as I know we all cope differently, but I’m hoping it can help at least one person.

  • The pain hits me when I least expect it, and I might not want to tell you so if I shut down in a conversation or don’t text or call back, that might be why. And while you might bring up something that makes me think of Kevin, it’s not a bad thing. I still love sharing stories about him, and I don’t want you to feel like you need to walk on eggshells when you’re with me. I do realize that’s easier said than done and that often times it feels like you just don’t know what to say (I’ve been there with other friends and family). It doesn’t hurt to start putting your thoughts in a card or text and working your way up to a longer conversation.
  • The little things mean more than you know – a thoughtful text, a card in the mail, a Starbucks drink after a bad morning or really long day, etc. Some days are lonelier than others, even when I’m with people at work all day so having someone else take some time to show they’re thinking of you goes a long way. If you know that a birthday is coming up or a large family event that the loved one was supposed to be at is taking place soon, you can send a quick note saying Thinking of you today. It really doesn’t need to be much, just something.
  • Small groups of people are more manageable than seeing 20+ people at a time (okay, sometimes even five people feels like too many), even if it is close friends and family. It’s just a lot (to my big family – I say that with all the love in the world). With that being said, seeing smaller groups of people ends up taking up quite a bit of time and sometimes I just want to curl up in my pajamas and watch a movie at home. If I cancel or keep postponing something, I’m likely doing what’s best for me at that time. And in full transparency, sometimes you just want to be with someone else who truly gets it.
  • If you’re looking for something to say, try asking ‘How are you today or this week?’ instead of ‘How are you?’ The answer to the latter  will be not great for awhile, especially around the holidays. Obviously, in passing, asking me how I am is more than okay and something I’ll never get mad about. And, I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad who has already asked me that because it’s a pretty standard question. I’m referring to when you’re having a longer conversation with a friend or family member.

I’ve heard a lot of people say (and I’ve said it plenty of times), “This is a new normal.” And well, I don’t know if I would use normal to describe things quite yet or ever. Someone else said to me this summer that there is life before and after your brother passed away. And right now, that seems to resonate more with me. I know my feelings will continue to evolve especially since they’re all over the board lately.

I don’t tell you all of this so that you feel bad or sorry for me, but more so that you know what is going on behind the blog and social media. I see this posted pretty frequently but there really is so much more going on behind the styled and edited photos you might see online. Right now, I’m choosing to keep this space my happy place because, well frankly, I need one. It allows me to step away from the day-to-day and focus on something I’m passionate and excited about.

This year, I’m thankful for our friends and family more than ever. You have shared more thoughtful notes and gifts than I ever could have imagined. To my parents and sister, you’re the strongest people I know, and I hate to see you going through this. Bill, thank you for being my rock through it all.

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving. Cherish the time together.


Photo by June & Jae Photography
I’m also extremely thankful for Quyen for capturing such incredible photos on our wedding day that we will cherish forever.


  1. Lynn Connolly wrote:

    This is beautifully written. Much love to you and your family as you brave the holiday season together. I do love your blog!?

    Posted 11.23.16
    • Thank you so much! Lots of love to the entire Connolly family. xoxo

      Posted 11.27.16
  2. Colleen Cowen wrote:

    Blessings with you and your family this holiday season. My daughter Molly was a class under Kevin’s class at Homestead. He was a wonderful guy. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for the above blog on loss during the holidays. My mom passed away this year and you are right. The holiday’s will be very difficult. Even though we don’t know each other, know you and your family are in my prayers as I know you are missing Kevin.

    Posted 11.23.16
    • Hi Colleen, Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a note. It means more than you know. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Thinking of you and your family, especially during the holiday season, and sending lots of love.

      Posted 11.27.16
  3. Katherine wrote:

    The tightest, biggest hug to you and your family, girl. xo. Constantly in my prayers.

    Posted 11.23.16
    • Thank you very much. So grateful for your continued love and support. xo

      Posted 11.27.16
  4. I think this post is very brave of you and I love your honesty, it’s very refreshing to hear your insight and thoughts. Thinking of your family 🙂

    Posted 11.23.16
    • Thank you so much, Riva. That means a lot. Hope you have a wonderful vacation! xoxo

      Posted 11.28.16
  5. Erin wrote:

    Sending you all my love this holiday season and always!


    Posted 11.23.16
    • Thank you so much and for all of the puppy photos that make me smile 🙂 xoxo

      Posted 11.28.16
  6. Nick wrote:

    Hang in there Carly. Thinking of you and your family often.

    Sorry we missed you this past weekend – but hope your time with family and friends this weekend hits the spot.

    Talk soon.

    Posted 11.23.16
    • Thank you so much, Nick. That means more than you know. Can’t wait to see you all for Christmas!

      Posted 11.28.16
  7. Taylor wrote:

    I am on a plane to Milwaukee for the weekend and thought of you. Crying in my plane seat. Thinking of you and your family and I hope that yesterday (and everyday) went as well as it can….. which I know can be a total mish-mosh of everything. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. The first holidays are always the hardest (but yes, they’re always hard of course) so I hope you were surrounded by as many loving family and friends as possible and I’m sure you were.
    Stay strong thinking of you!!! xx


    Posted 11.25.16
    • Taylor, I truly cannot thank you enough for your note. It means more than you know. Thursday was hard but the days leading up to it and the build up were somehow worse. We’re extremely grateful for such an amazing support group, especially around the holidays. Thank you again, and sending lots of love your way. xoxo

      Posted 11.29.16
  8. Nan Swain wrote:

    Oh my Dear,
    You should do as you like…
    You should take all the time you need…
    We all love you and think of your sorrow as our own.
    Maybe someday you can honor your own son…
    By naming him Kevin.

    Love, Nan

    Posted 11.27.16
    • Thank you so much, Nan. Sending you and the Swain family lots of love.

      Posted 11.29.16
  9. Sal wrote:


    Posted 11.30.16
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    Xoxo Carly

    I lost a loved one on Christmas Day and I know how acute the pain can feel. Just remember to take deep breaths and think of the peace surrounding your passed on family member. Much love, hope and calm through this trying season.

    Posted 12.17.16
    • Thank you so very much for the note. Sending you love as we welcome a new year with a fresh start. xoxo

      Posted 12.31.16
  11. Margaret wrote:

    Dear Carly,
    May peace be with you. I’m thinking of you and Allison and your dad. Be at peace to know your mom is no longer suffering and that she and your brother are together once again. God bless you all. And let your tears flow. It helps the the heart and mind. Margaret Mathias

    Posted 12.19.17

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