Facing Loss During the Holidays

Content warning: This blog contains discussion of suicide.


The season for celebrating holidays is here, filled with parties, family gatherings, and copious amounts of food and drink, but what if making merry is the last thing on our minds?

It just occurred to me that the recent suicide of Stephen “tWitch”Boss, a mere ten days before Christmas, is likely to have coloured the holiday season for his family for years to come.

Aside from the devastation they’re feeling right now, the loss will forever be associated with this time of year.

Recently, Ontarians experienced a tragic loss. Abakar Kazbekov, an up-and-coming London Knights hockey player from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), is thought to have taken his own life on December 17th.

My heart goes out to his family, friends and teammates. I can’t imagine the pain they must be feeling. And now every year, while others are celebrating all around, those he left behind will be remembering their loss.

The expectation around the holidays is that we should be joyful and carefree. But what if this time of year has painful associations?

Tragic events become tied to an external marker — like a place, a time or an event. When tragedy strikes during the holidays we inevitably associate this time of year with painful loss.

So, how do we find our way through the holidays after having lost a loved one during the same time of year? Do we try to ignore our pain and force ourselves to be eat, drink and be merry? I think not.

For my part, I try to integrate all my feelings into the experience of the season, letting my sadness mix with the joy. I allow myself to miss the people who are no longer here while appreciating those who are.

Paradoxically, the losses I’ve suffered over the years have made me more grateful for those loved ones who remain in my life today. I don’t take anyone for granted.

For those of us who associate this time of year with loss, the season is more bittersweet than purely joyful. And that’s okay.

It’ll be a while before the families of tWitch and Abakar can feel anything but sadness, hurt and confusion, but that’s to be expected.

Over time, and with the right kind of support, their grief will undoubtedly become more bearable.

And like with any wound, when it heals there’s an opportunity to become more empathetic and more resilient; to become a better version of ourselves.

For those of us who associate the holidays with loss, it doesn’t mean that the season has to be ruined.

We can take the bitter and the sweet and create our own holiday traditions — ones that acknowledge our losses while celebrating who and what we’re grateful for.

We humans have a remarkable capacity for carrying many seemingly contradictory emotions in our hearts at the same time.

We don’t have to push away the pain and grief in order to feel the joy and contentment. We can feel all of it together.

We can acknowledge our losses, heal our wounds and hold onto one another more tightly, right now and all throughout the year.

A peaceful and loving holiday season to everyone.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, here are some resources:

Talk Suicide Canada (National) 1–833–456–4566

Distress Centres of Greater Toronto (GTA) 416–408–4357


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Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series

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Marcia Sirota

Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series