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Finding Light in the Shadows: Navigating Grief through the Holiday Season 

Ever since I was a little girl, writing was an outlet. I remember penning poetry under a tree while other kids played outside during middle school recess. It makes me chuckle now, wondering what grief my 12-year-old mind was writing about.


Those middle school troubles seem so small. 


The writing trend continued through high school, college, and my professional career. 

As the Communications Specialist with Hope For The Warriors, one of my roles is helping compose our monthly newsletter.

For December, I wrote about the lights, the cozy nights, and the feelings that come with spending time with loved ones.

But then, like an unexpected gust that swells autumn leaves, it dawned on me—the holidays aren’t the same joyous melody for everyone. In this vast country, a silent symphony of grief and pain crescendos between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, resonating deeply within the hearts of countless individuals. 


Many, including brave souls from our military community, navigate the murky waters of loss and longing.


Behind the veneer of festive lights, a shadow cast by financial struggles and the weight of relationship issues looms. And then there are those who, with heavy hearts, approach the dinner table, bracing themselves for the haunting vacancy of an empty seat.

The realization crashed over me unexpectedly, hitting uncomfortably close to home this holiday season.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, a member of our family took his own life. As I’m writing this, I’m still in shock.


None of us saw it coming.


At HOPE, we have conversations about suicide prevention often, utilizing the Columbia Scale as a tool to identify those who are at risk of dying by suicide.

I didn’t see the signs, even though I saw this family member a few months ago. How did I miss this? 

The emotional fallout is a heavy burden, a weight that I share with my grieving family.

The approaching holidays, once adorned with joy, now loom as an impending storm of anguish, promising weeks of unrelenting brutality.


I learned the news while driving to church on a Sunday morning.


I decided to attend the service because being with God at that moment felt like the right thing to do. I wanted to pray for the lost soul and my family as they grieve.

Little angels were on the Christmas Tree inside the church with names and gift suggestions. Those names are children of incarcerated men and women in my hometown who won’t be able to send them presents this year.

I pulled a name and felt a sense of calm and peace. 

Amid grief’s heavy burden, this small gesture will not resurrect the departed, but it possesses the transformative power to illuminate a 7-year-old girl’s Christmas morning.

We all navigate the labyrinth of mourning uniquely, acknowledging the diverse ways in which sorrow weaves into our lives. I share this poignant tale with those grappling with the shadows of loss this holiday season, hoping it serves as a beacon of solace.


Finding your peace amid the turbulence of grief is paramount.


Whether through acts of kindness, literary journeys, the embrace of yoga, meditation, prayer, or any path that resonates with your spirit—seize it. Let this season become a sanctuary for self-discovery and healing.

Moreover, as the world dons its festive attire, remember that not every heart echoes with the merry melodies. Take a moment to reach out to your loved ones, especially in December, when the facade of joy may cloak deeper struggles.

A sincere inquiry into their well-being, a genuine conversation, could be the lifeline someone desperately needs.

In my experience, the solace derived from sharing these words is immeasurable. I hope that, collectively, we contribute to a world where fewer families are left grappling with the haunting absence of a loved one during holiday gatherings. 



Kate with her family

About the author: Kate Dudley is married to a New York Army National Guard recruiter and has served as a military spouse for four years.  She loves the outdoors, so being a “boy mom” feels like a calling. Her family loves fishing, hiking, and golfing.

Her toddler has a better golf swing than she does, so she’s already looking forward to serious competition on the course in the near future.

Kate serves as a Communications Specialist at Hope For The Warriors, so she has the honor of interviewing military heroes daily and telling their stories.



*To read another post about this topic, go to Suicide is a Unique Type of Pain.


*For More posts from Hope For The Warriors, see their M:M Expert Author Page.



  • Hope For The Warriors

    Founded in 2006, Hope For The Warriors (HOPE) is a national nonprofit dedicated to providing a foundation of financial, career and educational stability. Physical and emotional strength. And social support with true connection and belonging that builds community. What began as post-combat bedside care and support has evolved to a national organization that has adapted to ongoing changes within the military community. The organization has stayed the course with our country’s post-9/11 veteran population as physical wounds healed, but emotional wounds still needed care. Since its inception, Hope For The Warriors has served over 159,200 through a variety of support programs. For more information, visit their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


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Supporting Our Military Children

Supporting Our Military Children

One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

Mission: Milspouse is a
501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

EIN Number: 88-1604492


P.O. Box 641341
El Paso, TX 79904


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