Can I Just Skip the Holidays This Year?

alone branches bridge bright

Well? Do you feel like skipping the holidays this year? Do you even have the option to skip the holidays or do you have obligations that have to be fulfilled? For the past 3 years I have offered this holiday grief program. I remember trying to think of a title that would capture how I felt throughout my grief journey. Although it’s a long title, “Can I Just Skip the Holidays This Year?,” seemed to encompass how many people feel at this time of the year. The holiday season can be challenging anyway even if you aren’t grieving! There are so many expectations, plans to make, details to remember….If you are grieving then you know that everyday can be tough to get through but the holiday season can magnify our loss. What once was meaningful and magical about the holidays may now seem painful and empty without your loved one.

So what do you do about it? There’s a lot of advice out there-go on a vacation and experience Christmas somewhere else, make new memories by starting new traditions, disengage from the festivities so that you don’t have to be around other people, don’t decorate or put up a Christmas tree. None of these are right or wrong, it’s truly all about what is best for you. Sometimes blending some of these ideas will work better for you and sometimes what worked this year isn’t what helps next year. You have the right to make that choice, to switch things up or to keep the same traditions that you’ve practiced for years. The first year without our son Brogan was very difficult as our older son wanted to stick with the tradition of choosing and cutting down our Christmas tree as we had always done. My husband and I could not even think about that (we were definitely in the “let’s skip Christmas mode”) but we didn’t want to let our son down so we compromised with an artificial tree. Hanging ornaments that were Brogan’s and had special meaning was really tough so we bought some new ornaments and decorated the tree with a mixture of old and new. By the second year we were able to add some of Brogan’s special ornaments and we started a new tradition of picking out an ornament in his memory. If you have other family members to consider it is important to talk about what works for everyone.

Please feel free to share what has worked for you. If you would like more information on how to survive this holiday season, registration is open for my holiday grief program on Friday, December 13th at 6:00 pm. Just go to the Register tab on my website. If you have any questions or need more information, I can be reached at 240-298-2442 or

Isn’t mourning the same thing as grief?

close up of tea light candle against black background
Photo by George Becker on

In our culture, we use grief and mourning interchangeably. There’s quite a big difference between the two! According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt at the Center for Loss and Life Transition, grief is “the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when someone we love dies.” Mourning is when “you take the grief you have on the inside and express it outside of yourself. Another way of defining mourning is grief gone public.” Many times people ask me what they can do to help with their grief. Mourning is actually something that someone can do to help process and release tough emotions. It can be something like a daily or weekly ritual or something as spontaneous as a visit to the cemetery or lighting a candle. As a grief and loss counselor, although I love my work doing individual/family counseling. I also love to introduce people to the many ways that grief can be expressed through mourning activities or experiences.

Throughout the year I offer various workshops and groups that invite people to experience different ways to mourn. Last year I held a shadowbox workshop (The Art of Creative Mourning) where people brought in photos, mementos and special possessions of their loved one and they arranged them in shadowboxes. This was a very meaningful activity as people reminisced and shared about the items they brought as they created a beautiful memorial to their loved one. I have also offered a Mindfulness for Grief and Loss program as well as Forest Therapy. This coming Friday, November 22nd I am hosting a Make and Take Greenery Workshop with the help of local designer and artist Lisa Gillespie. We will create fresh greenery arrangements to take home and use as centerpieces or as mailbox or headstone covers. My hope is that through this mourning activity, people will have an opportunity to be able to honor their loved ones as they create something that brings meaning and remembering. I believe that mourning experiences are always available to us, we just have to be open and receptive to trying different ways to connect. As an example, some people like to journal and some do not but it’s important to be curious about the different ways that you can express mourning. Watching old videos, looking at pictures, creating art, writing, telling stories, participating in a ritual or simply crying can all be ways to mourn. If you have found something that has particularly helped you mourn, please share it here if you would like. If you would like to register for the Greenery Workshop just follow the Register link on my website or contact me at 240-298-2442 or The last day to register is this Wednesday, November 20th.

Make and Take Greenery Workshop


Join us on Friday, November 22nd at 6:30 pm for this special workshop. We are fortunate to have local artist and designer Lisa Gillespie here to guide us in creating a unique arrangement made from fresh local greens. You can chose to make a centerpiece or saddle style arrangement which will fit over a mailbox or headstone. Click on the Register tab for registration and payment.

Meet Cindy Maxted from Mid-Atlantic Mindfulness


I am so excited to welcome Cindy back to southern Maryland for the “Finding and Sharing Peace with Mindfulness” program on Friday, October 18th. If you’ve heard about mindfulness but you’re not sure what it is or how to start practicing it, this program is for you! Consider joining us at the Old Village Barn in Mechanicsville for an evening of serenity and learning. Just follow the Register link to reserve your space!

Here’s some info about Cindy Maxted:

Cindy Maxted has spent her life in the mind, body, spirit field. She has over 25 years of experience working with children and families as a registered nurse in the neonatal ICU, Operating Room, and School Nursing with a degree from Georgetown University. As a certified Mindful Educator/Yoga instructor in conjunction with Johns Hopkins D-stress Baltimore, she has taught over 400 young people, teachers, and parents in Baltimore City schools. As a nurse, coach, and yoga teacher she has integrated Mindfulness throughout her career. Currently, Cindy is teaching meditation and mindfulness in schools, corporations, and both individual and group settings. Cindy has an interest in advancing the health and well-being of individuals and communities by bringing awareness, compassion, and joy to their lives. Mindfulness gives you the skills to thrive in all areas of life, even the very challenging ones.

It’s Summertime and Someone is Missing

photo of beach chairs on seashore

What comes to mind when you think of summertime? Picnics, road trips, family reunions, a trip to the ocean or lake…or simply a break from normal routines. But for those grieving the loss of a loved one it can feel like the absence of their special person is magnified. Many summertime activities focus on being with family and friends and building memories. Of course everyday life is hard enough when you’re missing someone but something doesn’t feel quite right when the focus is on togetherness and fun. It’s blatantly obvious that someone is missing and that life will never be the same.

So what do you do about it? Do you cancel all future summer plans? Do you never again rent the same beach house that your family has enjoyed for the past 10 years? Do you stop attending every gathering, pool party or picnic? Well, if that’s what you need to do, do it. If you need to change things up or take a break this summer (or the next or the next…) or start new traditions at some point, do it. I am a firm believer in nurturing yourself and validating your grief. Making space for your grief is essential to your healing. It can be so tempting to isolate and avoid anything that makes us feel too sad-while there is validity in doing so sometimes, it’s also important to balance these feelings. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, I like to think of it as “making adjustments.” You’re adjusting to life without a loved one and it’s unbearable at times. Even if you’ve experienced the loss of  loved ones before, each relationship was unique therefore each grief experience is unique.

Summertime may look and feel completely different for you now. Be gentle and kind with yourself, make those adjustments as you navigate unchartered territory.