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Holidays & Grief

holiday grief peanuts

I can’t believe it’s been one year already.

Last November our family lost two loved ones. My uncle died unexpectedly on November 13 after a brief illness and my Grammy passed away on November 27, Thanksgiving Day 2014.

For our family the holiday season starts with remembering the pain of loss.

Not exactly holiday cheer.

We feel the loss renewed at the anniversary of their passing providing dramatic contrast against the backdrop of the holiday season when we are expected to be merry, lighthearted, and happy.

This holiday season we will miss family members who have been a part of the celebrations all my life. The warm feelings of comfort, joy, and peace of the holidays pair with reminders of profound loss and longing.

Our family is not the only one experiencing loss this season. I often think of a counseling client who lost his wife this year. He’s struggling to consider how he and his children will face Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time without their wife and mother. We are certainly not alone in our grief and neither are you.

Words are inadequate to completely heal grief but I pray the following words direct you and I to better journey this season of celebration and grief.

1. Remember.

Memory is a powerful tool intimately intertwined with emotion. In grief memory contains pain and sorrow but our memories also help provide healing. Now I’ll always remember Thanksgiving Day as the day we lost Grammy. It colors the day differently than before. As hard as it was to lose her on a holiday, seems appropriate to think of her that day because I’ll always be thankful for her influence on my life. Ignoring your grief may seem easier but it’s not a healthy option.

2. Cry.

Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you’re experiencing today. In grief emotion seems to come in waves. Each of our emotions play an important part in life and in grief. Acknowledge grief and the accompanying emotion rather than trying to hide or stuff your real emotion.

3. Celebrate.

It’s ok to celebrate the holidays even as you grieve. Your traditions will never feel the same but finding your way to celebrate will help heal the raw pain of loss. In his classic book on grief, A Decembered Grief, Harold Ivan Smith writes: “Be guided by the reality that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays after a loved one has died.”

4. Gather.

As impossible as it may sound, do not give in to isolation in your grief. Surround yourself with others. You are designed for community. At Christmas we celebrate the reality that we are not alone. God is with us. Jesus also experienced grief following the death of his friend and met with others in his grief.

What has helped you the most in the past when you’ve faced grief during the holidays?

Other posts on grief and loss from Make Some Wonderful:

What your spouse really needs in times of loss

4 Steps to Overcome Loaded Loss

Minor Loss Matters in Marriage

Related– The Secret to Delighting Your Spouse This Christmas: A Life Lesson From My Grammy

The Secret to Delighting Your Spouse This Christmas. A Life Lesson From My Grammy

delighted couple

The Secret to Delighting Your Spouse This Christmas. A life Lesson From My Grammy

One of my holiday bucket list items is to delight my spouse. When I imagine the perfect Christmas I see our family snuggling next to the fire. I look toward my wife and I see her contented smile. Delighting my wife is a wonderful gift; nothing is better.

Delighting your spouse may seem like the most complicated algorithm possible. I’ve certainly not perfected it. Check out my post about my marriage mistakes. (LINK mistakes)

My Grammy taught me the secret to delighting my spouse. She’d be surprised but thrilled I learned it from her.

She passed away on Thanksgiving Day 2014. I miss her hugs the most. Read about Holiday Grief.

You see Grammy lived the secret; it’s simply who she was.

Grammy was especially easy to delight.

Every birthday or Christmas she was delighted by whatever gift she received.

I’ll never forget her genuine squeals of delight and feet stomping followed by “oh you shouldn’t have.”

I always loved giving my Grammy a gift. The true gift was watching her delight and knowing she delighted in me.

The same can happen in your marriage.

The secret to delighting your spouse is to be easily delighted yourself.

Because your spouse loves you and wants you to be happy, seeing you happy is the best gift.

This Christmas season, be like my Grammy. Simply delight in the moment.

The Hidden Killer: How to Save Your Marriage from Financial Infidelity

financial infographic

I love this Infographic from, it illustrates the remarkable stats related to financial infidelity in marriage. Amazingly, 58 percent of couples who are divorced or separated admit to lying to their spouse about money. The part that didn’t surprise me is 60 percent said they kept their spending secret to avoid problems at home.

Avoiding conflict is a tempting marriage improvement strategy. Conflict is no fun and often really painful. But avoiding conflict only last a short time and lying always makes conflict worse. Dishonesty in any area but especially about money, kills trust and intimacy. Every time.

The infographic also points out, when compared to a number of other issues, financial disagreements last longer and generate more negative communication techniques like defensiveness and yelling.

You may be surprised to know 60 percent of divorced or separated couples believe financial infidelity is as destructive as sexual infidelity.

I’m not sure which is more destructive. Certainly both financial and sexual infidelity have destroyed many marriages. In each form of infidelity, trust is demolished and lying fuels the destructive fire.

Financial infidelity could be secretly destroying your marriage. Rotting your marriage from the inside out. Protect your marriage and make some wonderful in your marriage by committing to financial transparency.

1. Work on finances together. ends the infographic by recommending “GET OUT OF DEBT AND STAY OUT OF DEBT” Good advice. Couples who operate separate accounts and responsibilities experience more difficulty reaching financial goals like getting out of debt. The easiest way to guard against financial infidelity is to work on finances together. Partner with your spouse, align your financial goals and share the tasks of managing your money.

Action Point: Discuss with your spouse how you feel your current money management arrangement is working and respectfully negotiate how you can better share the work of managing your money together.

2. Have honest conversations.

To prevent pain and divorce, I recommend “STOP LYING AND NEVER LIE AGAIN.” I understand it’s not easy, especially when you know tough financial conversations are necessary in your relationship. Stop avoiding difficult conversations by lying. It may be tempting but lying never helps relationships thrive. Your lie will always be found out and the longer you lie the more destruction it will cause in your marriage.

Action Point: Come clean and tell your spouse about spending or debt you’ve been hiding. Take responsibility and don’t blame your spouse for your inappropriate behavior. Also apologize for your dishonesty or for withholding information from them.

3. Focus on communicating love.

It’s easy when talking about money to get hyper-focused on the details of the numbers and forget you’re in relationship. The more you focus on communicating love to your spouse the better you will negotiate finances. Personal finances are intimately personal. You must address your emotions related to money in a way that strengthens rather than tears down your connection in marriage.

Action Point: Tell your spouse why you care about them and your desire for intimate connection in every area of life, even finances.

4. Get help and use professional resources.

If you’re not sure how to start a conversation with your spouse about money or you know any conversation will lead to a dangerous fight, get help. Securing counsel is wisdom in action. Find a relationship counselor to help keep the conversation safe and on track. Use resources like Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey to give you and your spouse a shared understanding of money management.

Action Point: Identify together what resources would benefit your situation. You may need credit counseling, accounting or tax advice. Then commit to following through with professional recommendations.


The Best Movie of the Year (and How it Can Transform Your Marriage)

inside out on blue

Movies magically transport viewers into stories. The best stories create powerful emotion in those who experience them. You know a good movie when you feel it. My favorite movies leave me feeling a strong emotion. Braveheart and Gladiator leave me feeling strong and courageous. Marly and Me leaves me feeling sadly reminiscent. The Sound of Music leaves me feeling content. I avoid scary movies because I don’t like to feel afraid. Rudy leaves me feeling capable and proud.

How we feel after watching a movie is the real measure of it’s greatness. If the story can go beyond entertainment and touch your emotions you’ve really experienced the story.

Emotions not only impact our experience of watching a movie, they also color our entire life. The greatest experiences of life impact us deeply because of emotion. Think about the most meaningful parts of your life; birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, your wedding day, the birth of your children. These moments are significant because you experienced strong emotion.

Inside Out by Disney’s Pixar (now available on DVD) is the best movie of the year. Watch the trailer.

Inside Out not only left me with a strong emotion like all great movies, but it’s also about emotion. The emotions of Riley, the story’s main character, take center stage. As Riley faces a series of changes in her life joy, sadness, disgust, anger and fear get to work. The movie brilliantly animates the abstract experience of emotion with a revealing look inside our minds.

Inside Out can transform your marriage if you apply these 3 lessons well.

Emotions matter deeply. They run the show and profoundly impact our lives. For a wonderful marriage identify your own emotion and then seek to understand the emotion of your spouse.

Our experiences and most importantly, our memory of these experiences hold emotion. Inside Out illustrates well how memories are intertwined with emotion. Get to know the experiences of your spouse. Their childhood experiences can be powerful as well as how they feel about their experiences of today.

Every emotion is needed. At first in the movie, Joy doesn’t understand why Sadness is around, but by the end, Sadness plays an important role. Don’t run from emotion in your marriage no matter how uncomfortable you feel. Respond to your spouse with love through all their emotions to build a strong connection.

I love emotion. Helping couples identify and use emotion to build a strong connection in their marriage is my favorite part of my job as a counselor. When you pay attention to emotion in your marriage your relational intimacy deepens. The same happens in your relationship with your children. The more you pay attention to your child’s core emotions, the deeper your connection. Your children learn the most about emotion by watching you and experiencing emotion through their relationship with you. Gather your kids, get some popcorn and watch Inside Out together. You’ll have fun, build lasting memories with good emotions, and perhaps it will spark new conversations about emotions. Pay attention to emotion and you’ll not only deepen your relationship with your spouse but with your children as well.

inside out color

The Real Predictor of a Successful Relationship is Not Your Credit Score
Photo Credit: Creative Commons _Drinkel_

Last week The Today Show shared the story Will Your Relationship Last? Your Credit Score May Have the Answer

Basically, it discusses Federal Reserve Board research which says your credit score and the credit score of your significant other can predict the success or failure of your relationship. Couples who have a drastically different credit score than each other are at a higher risk of separation.

You may already know your credit score is designed to predict how likely you are to repay a loan. Additional research has suggested your credit score can predict other behaviors and life events. For example, apparently your credit score can predict your driving ability and if you’ll have a heart attack. Now the latest research indicates your credit score can predict how successful you’ll be in your love life. Maybe next we’ll find out the credit score can predict your favorite flavor of ice cream.

Sorry to break up this “credit score is a crystal ball” idea but the greatest predictor of relationship success is not your credit score.

Besides, is it really news that finances are a major part of married life? Money fights are the number one reason for divorce in North America. People who cannot pay their debt (lower credit score) have more stress in their relationships. “What an earth shattering nugget of helpful relationship advice,” says the marriage counselor sarcastically.

The greatest predictor of relationship success is mutual commitment.

Both partners must commit to the relationship for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, good credit or bad. Sure, your past history deeply impacts your intimate relationship, but commitment always trumps history.

You and your spouse control the success of your relationship. Commit to love and to cherish one another no matter what circumstances come your way and you’ll succeed beyond your most sentimental dreams. Never let the detached and temporary measure your committed intimacy.

On a side note, this quote from the Today Show article drives me crazy!

Financial adviser Suze Orman believes this is so important that she’s known for telling people “FICO first, then sex.” Translation: Find out your date’s FICO score — a measure of how likely someone is to pay their bills on time or repay a loan — before getting more serious about a relationship.

FICO first, then sex? I otherwise appreciate the enthusiasm of Suze Orman but this snippet of advice is terribly wreckless. Get to know people without an impersonal number and without sex. Shortcuts to intimacy never lead to lasting beauty.

The holidays are right around the corner. If you’re a normal couple you’ll go through the motions, conceal your thoughts about money, avoid difficult conversations, and let it rip with an epic fight with your spouse when the January credit card bill arrives. Replace your tired and unhealthy holiday routine with true connection. Get my Holiday Survival Guide for Your Marriage FREE or my ebook, The Best Holidays Ever: How to Move From Conflict to Connection this Holiday Season for only $5 on Amazon.