Dear Abby – Can I give you some advice?

CCI01072017_00000I recently read a letter to Dear Abby asking for her advice on holiday cards – and it shows that some people, our Dear Abby included, just don’t get it. I am also sensitive enough to have warren this entry last week but held off posting it until after the holidays.

In short – the reader aske d if it was appropriate to send a holiday card to a friend or family who experienced the loss of a child or spouse that year.  Abby told her that there is no rule, and those who are grieving would appreciate knowing they are remembered.


That is where the miscommunication is (misguided advice is more like it).

Most cards say HAPPY HOLIDAYS! in big letters. Or MERRY CHRISTMAS, or HOPE LOVE & JOY. Something that is very joyful, happy, and celebratory. And that is great. That is what holiday cards are supposed to do – convey the joyful holiday season.

But for those who have lost a child, especially those who have suffered this devastating loss in the past year, we are not going to have a happy holiday, a joyful season, or a wonderful week off from work. It is much different. I am going to light the candles of Andrew’s menorah, as we have done for the past three years, without him. It will be right there beside Nicole’s, and ours. We will say the Chanukah prayers – with a tear in our eyes, but a smile on our faces as we give Nicole her presents. Christmas Eve and Christmas day we will be with Dorothy’s family cooking, relaxing, and opening presents. All without my son, who does not get to open presents anymore, who does not get to enjoy the holidays, who does not get to spend time with his family anymore.

For Dorothy and I, this season is not totally merry, joyful, or even happy. Of course we get to have Nicole with us, and she is our joy and our lives. She makes us smile, and it is because of her we get up every single day and look forward to life. But we still miss our Andrew.

So, when bereaved parents get cards that say MERRY CHRISTMAS – we open them and say our holidays will not be merry, they will not be joyful. We don’t have our children with us anymore. At best we will survive the holidays, put on a smile on our faces when we are with our surviving children and with our friends and family, and be as polite as we can. But it is a very difficult season for us. You should all know that.


Now back to Abby. She says one thing that is correct – those who are grieving would appreciate knowing they are remembered during this season. Yes, we would love that. But not with a bright and cheery holiday card with bells and balls. But with a small hand written note or Thinking of You card. We love to receive letters or notes or cards like that – they brighten our entire week. All you have to say is that you are thinking about us, that you too, miss our lost children, and that you wish us peace this time of year. A long note is not necessary, but of course those are nice as well, but just a short sweet note that lets us know that you are thinking about us. That our family and our children are in your prayers and your thoughts this time of year.

I have attended many group meeting with bereaved parents around the holidays and I hear this so many times from so many parents. There are some bereaved parents who don’t even open their holiday cards, their loss is too raw and painful. Others open them and pile them away in a box. We do love to hear about your children and see them in their holiday best, but just be sensitive and realize that we can never take those pictures anymore.

Please don’t take this post as criticism or condemnation of what you have been doing your entire life. Holiday cards are a great thing, and we do enjoy receiving them – now that we are three-and-a-half years out. All I ask is that you be sensitive to those who are newly bereaved, or those who might be several years out but still very sensitive and having a hard time dealing with life and the holiday season. If you truly care about them, if they are truly your friends and family, a short phone call, no matter how hard that is for you, to tell us that you are thinking about us this time of the year, is so much more appreciated. Or write a personal note saying that you are thinking of them. Stop by and say hello for a few moments and show them you really care. That would make our holidays meaningful so much more than a holiday card.

I know this post may not be so popular, but I have never written to win popularity contests – just to enlighten those who have friends and family that have experienced loss. If you want to send a card, go ahead, I don’t want to offend or upset anyone. Sending holiday cards are very special to some people. All I ask is that you realize who you are sending the card to, their situation, and take an extra moment to do something that would really be appreciated by them.

Now I ask one more thing. After you have read this – print it out. Fold it up and place it in next year’s holiday card box. So when you get ready to go out and purchase cards, or you make your card list, you can re-read this post and maybe give a little peace and a smile to someone who is grieving.


dear abby

10 thoughts on “Dear Abby – Can I give you some advice?

  1. Mandy Gersten

    Wow, Perry. Thanks for sharing. This is very powerful and helpful. Your posts always help
    understand a little better what you have and continue to experience.
    My love and prayers are always with you, Dorothy and Nicole.

  2. Lynn

    I am sorry that You, Dorothy and Nicole are without Andrew this time of year and everyday. I can relate to your email. Several years ago I lost my mother in February, my father in July and the painful loss of my child Jessa in January. Her accident was on January 13 and she went home on January 17th. She is my only child. I am very sensitive during this time. Jessa was born in October, then Thanksgaiving, Christmas, New year, and then Jessa’s day of going home. Since I am sensitive during this time I decided that I would take quite time during these months. I chose to celebrate the holidays on different days/months of the year. I acknowledge the days they celebrate by saying a nice remark for them. (I chose to say it that way because it is difficult to say those special words).I have made a decision to send out cards in the second month of the year (to share/wish) to let them know I think of them. I am sorry for the length of this comment. My thoughts are with you and your family as we go day by day.

  3. Ned

    Perry, You help me and others who have not lost a child understand what you go through and how we can act with sensitivity at special moments, like holidays. I think this advice fosters understanding and enables kindness and closeness during difficult times. Thanks! Ned

  4. Karen

    This was incredibly helpful. Thank you and thank you again. My friend lost her husband, right after she delivered their second child. They also had a 7 year old. Her husband had AIDs and had gone without diagnosis until 2 months before his death (he was full blown status before anyone figured out what was going on). This was 2 days before Christmas, she had an infant, a 7 year old, no job and until 8 weeks prior, no idea why her husband was so ill. Medical bills were looming. Potentially devastating diagnoses for herself and her two children were also looming. And the OVERWHELMING advice and questions were pertaining to Christmas. I must have heard the question “You’re going to have Christmas, right?” at least 12 times. I was so shocked, so dismayed, so frustrated by what seemed to be the callous questions put forward people who cared. I thought there was something wrong with me that I was so shocked and dismayed. Thank you, Perry. I hope never to have to draw on this knowledge again but knowing that it’s OK to just stop by, make a call, send a card and let someone know you care is more important than carrying on a now-painful tradition.

  5. Warren Tabachnick

    Perry, my thoughts are with you, Dorothy, and Nicole at this time and always. Thank you for sharing this.


  6. Mini

    Perry thank u for ur post. Wish it could be printed in newspapers, Facebook etc because for us that r still grieving our loss, it is never Happy Thanksgiving or Merry Christmas, Happy holidays etc.

  7. Ramona Agricola

    Amen! I have asked to not receive holiday cards for 10 holiday seasons now but some still come….I throw them under my junk mail & wonder why our wishes cannot be respected. We do not decorate or celebrate, we even moved far away not to have to have to continually turn down invitations to holiday events….

  8. Sally Klein

    So appropriate, Perry,

    The holidays remain painful but lately I have been trying to remember all the past 25 years of celebrating the holidays Jill and I had instead of the 26th year when she was gone. It does help because the focus is then on gratitude for all the years we had instead of dwelling on the painful loss. Maybe it will help you to try that next holiday? Take care, and all the best to you, Dorothy and Nicole.

  9. Lee D'Elia

    To Perry–first let me just say to you & your family -I don’t know you -but truly sorry for your loss. Your post was very insightful –I lost my Dad when I was 12 right before the holidays in November-not that any other time of year would have changed how I felt at what is suppose to be a happy time -we were very close–for years there was no happy-merry or joyful anything just went through the motions-couldn’t wait for season to end.Then I had children but still conflicted emotions in beginning did things (putting my feelings aside) because I wanted my kids to remember the Holiday Season as I did before (I called it the BEFORE)-my Dad died. My whole thing-& I truly can’t & never want to experience the raw emotions your family feels-all the time not just certain times –but what you said-“just let us know you’re thinking of us” a card saying Thinking of You or In Our Thoughts –is -I believe letting the family know —that even months after & dust is settling (somewhat)– that people do & still remember–because soon after that last day of mourning with friends & family –it’s just alittle while when everyone is gone & you can almost feel like an outcast & people don’t want or don’t know how to be around you. I apologize this reply is so long but it hit a nerve —I think your post -what you said was perfect


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