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Traditions at the holidays


This Christmas, Michael and Rebecca Holt will hang Charlie’s stocking. The ornaments he made in preschool will grace the tree. The photos he took each year with his favorite Santa will assume their rightful place in the home. With KinderMourn’s help, the Holts are learning to navigate the journey of the bereaved – learning to celebrate the holiday and all of life with a precious someone missing.


The Holts lost Charlie to a traumatic brain injury on April 14, 2017. Though he was just five, Charlie was an old soul. He avoided watching the bad guys on TV. On the playground, he looked for preschool classmates who might be having trouble fitting in. Those were the kids he chose to play with. “He was exactly what you’d want in a little boy,” Rebecca says. “He was the best of Rebecca and me,” Michael adds.

Within a week of Charlie’s passing, Michael and Rebecca found KinderMourn. So began the counseling and conversations aimed at giving them the tools to help themselves. They are learning to honor how each other grieves. At the hospital that April day, they said to each other, “I can’t lose you.” They are learning to be open about their feelings. Rebecca found an outlet in blogging, where early on she wrote, “I have to fight, fight for the joy that will keep me breathing…” They are learning that such well-meaning expressions as Everything happens for a reason offer less consolation than I don’t know what to say, but I am here. They are learning that it’s OK to remove yourself from situations and gatherings that make the pain too great. They are learning that there will never be a place of acceptance when it comes to Charlie’s death, and that there is no timetable when it comes to grief.

Michael and Rebecca continue with individual counseling. Charlie’s little sister, Ellie, 4, also benefits from meeting with a KinderMourn counselor. The newest family member, Causby, is 1. There is comfort in knowing that KinderMourn will always be there for her.


Here it is, the Holts’ third Christmas without Charlie. 


But that’s not exactly true, for Charlie is still at the heart of it, stockings, ornaments and all. And so, when the family observes its tradition of releasing balloons (“We keep helium on hand,” Rebecca says, smiling), one will be a “Charlie balloon.” Like the others, it will head straight for the heavens. 


The Holts have found an outlet in helping others: Their nonprofit, Charlie’s Heart Foundation, is devoted to helping keep families together.

Learn more at You’ll also find Rebecca’s blogs there.

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