There was a period of time after my dad died that I felt lonely and alone, especially during the holidays. Dad passed away when I was 15, my siblings were grown and out of the house and I was left at home with my mom. Those were tough years and even tougher holidays, especially Christmas and New Year’s.

It’s not uncommon for people who have suffered tragedy, lost a loved one, or have been estranged from family members to feel down during this time. The impression that the rest of the world is joyful while you’re not can make you feel even worse. That’s how it was for me, too.

Things changed for me on the Feast of the Holy Family the Christmas season after Dad died. I’d stayed in the pew at the end of Mass, crying, and not wanting to go back to a lonely house. So, I just sat there, wiping away the tears, sniffling, and staring at the Nativity scene at the front of the church. I looked at the Holy Family, who were so joyful and so peaceful. They were filled with the love and closeness that I longed for. I wanted a family just like that; I wanted to feel loved and included.

Spontaneously, I poured my heart out to Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Somehow, in that deep sorrow, I was inspired not to pray for a family like the Holy Family, but for the Holy Family to become my family. I ever-so boldly asked the Holy Family to adopt me as their own. The peace that suddenly came over me is impossible to fully describe. It was akin to being huddled in bed, wracked with chills and having someone tenderly enfold you in a toasty-warm blanket.

I’ve repeated my bold prayer every Christmas since that sorrowful one after my dad’s death and it’s carried me through many more sad years. Eventually, I met my husband and we started our own little family. My Christmases no longer were lonely and alone. Still, I carried on my private tradition, each year meditating on the nativity, each year renewing my request for the Holy Family to take me into their hearts and enfold me in their love. And, every year, they granted my desire.

Now as our family ages, it’s become more and more difficult to have everyone all together at once during the holidays and I’m experiencing twinges of that same old sadness. It’s at those moments that I stop, turn to the Holy Family and ask – once again – for that toasty warm blanket of their love to be wrapped around me. Before long, the sadness eases and I feel loved and secure. I ask the same for my children and I’m confident that, whether they’re aware or not, they become enfolded in the Holy Family’s love.

True, there is only one Holy Family with three members who never change. But they are so full of the love of God that they have plenty to go around. Their unity is so all-encompassing that they’re able to include countless numbers of people in their hearts. Their radiance lights even the darkest corners of sadness. No matter how down you may feel, the Holy Family can and will uplift you and draw you in out of the cold. You need only ask.