Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Book to Help Widows Deal With Holidays

The Empty Chair--Handling grief on holidays and special occasions,
by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeege and Robert C. DeVries, Baker Books, 2001. 91 pages. Available through your local Christian bookstore, or online at or or, etc.
Written for a general audience, The Empty Chair is a GriefShare title. The authors are professionals who know grief in the counselling setting as well as personally. Their spouses died shortly before the holiday season.

Robert, having accidently set a place for his wife at the holiday dinner table his first year as a widower; and Susan, who wanted to skip Christmas entirely, write with practicality and compassion using the profound metaphor of grief as a forest fire.

If you've read this book, let's start a discussion by commenting on any (or all) of the following questions!
•What was your favorite feature of the book-- 1. the informative chapters, 2. the action points and healthy behaviors to implement, or 3. the reflection on Scripture with a written prayer?
•What was the best or most helpful thing you learned?
•Is the candle-lighting memorial described at the end of the book something you might take time for during the holidays this year?
•Is this a book you'd give to someone who's experienced a loss? And if so, please tell why?

Anything else you'd like to add?
Resources like this help prepare widows and their families to deal with the sometimes surprising ways grief sneaks up on us during the holidays.

This might sound weird or trite, but I'm absolutely sincere in saying I'm thankful for color! The trees have been blessedly brilliant this year. The "burning bush" bushes that line my set of condos here have all burst into glorious, rich red. I don't think they have a green leaf left! And the sunsets! They're like God's personal masterpiece to finish off each day. Not to mention all the other colors wherever the eye can see. I'm very thankful for color---God didn't have to include it in creation, you know? Ever think about that? We could be looking at the world in black and white, or shades of green, or boring beige. Thank you, God, for color! ferree


  1. There is no doubt that the holidays are a challenge to those missing their loved ones! Last year, I broke tradition and decided not to put up a tree; a "first" in my lifetime. My Christmas season looks altogether different since my husband's home-going, having set new traditions into place. It is good to give ourselves permission to do whatever works for us, and helpful to save our energy for the aspects of the holiday season that are most important to us. Thank you for sharing these resources with us, Ferree.

  2. Renee' I hope others will follow your example and invest their energy into meaningful ways to consider the holidays. Every year does not have to be the same, and we can go back to traditions some other time. Thanks so much for your good advice :)


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