Lauren Leatherman (left) with her grandparents. Photo courtesy of Lauren Leatherman.

Mourning the Loss of a Loved One During the Holidays

Behind all the presents and the abundance of food and drinks, the holidays are fundamentally about spending time with family and friends. However, the holidays can be difficult for those who are mourning the death of a loved one. 

Being a young adult comes with its own unique challenges, as many are either in school or working while trying to balance a social life at the same time. Unfortunately, most people tend to lose their grandparents between their teenage years and their twenties. This adds grief onto an already stressful plate. 

In September, I lost my grandfather to stage 4 cancer. This stage means that the cancer had spread to other organs, making the disease inoperable. His diagnosis was unexpected, as it shocked my entire family. We then had to make difficult decisions quickly, such as bringing in hospice or medical care to help someone with a terminal illness and making funeral arrangements. 

As I looked back at old photo books, I saw many of the important moments from his life. He served in the U.S. Army, was married to the love of his life for 59 years, owned his own plumbing company, was a proud member of the Methodist Church, and most importantly, was a father and grandfather. For the funeral, I created a slideshow of photos highlighting memories for family and friends to see.

As my grandfather’s only granddaughter, we were very close and spent a good deal of time together. He attended almost all of my school and sporting events with a smile on his face. My grandfather was a supporter and told me that he loved me on a regular basis. 

Because my grandparents’ home is relatively close to us, we were able to visit them on a frequent occurrence including large holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. 

As the holidays are right around the corner, my family and I remember him and hold past memories in our hearts, as we will make new ones with him absent at the table.


For anyone who is spending their first holiday without a loved one and feels like they may need some extra support, Frederick Community College’s (FCC) Kathryn Manwiller provides personal counseling. The type of support FCC provides is short-term solution focused counseling, crisis intervention, assessment and referrals to mental health resources. You can schedule an appointment with Manwiller at this link.

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