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“Thanks to my friend and her mom, I was saved from a pretty awful holiday—and found a husband.”

By Marisa Renee Lee

“Do I really have to go? And if so, do I need to change?”

These are the questions I posed to a friend before heading out the door to meet some guy I met online. It was the fourth shitty Christmas without my mom, and I was somewhere between anger and acceptance. Because of this, I still hated what had once been my favorite holiday.

Christmas when my mom was alive literally started in July. 

She would take advantage of Fourth of July and Labor Day sales so she wasn’t “waiting ‘til the last minute and shopping on Black Friday like a crazy person.” Our house was fully decorated the day after Thanksgiving, including our kitchen table set with holiday china that we had to move to eat dinner each night. We baked at least half a dozen types of cookies, had at least one gingerbread house, and hosted friends for Christmas Eve, followed by brunch with my grandparents on Christmas morning.

Even though she spent 12 years battling multiple sclerosis before her three-year battle with breast cancer, my mom always managed to nail Christmas, each one better than the year before. So when she died, Christmas died with her.

I developed many coping mechanisms, such as hiding out at my godparents’ house—which is where I was when I tripped down the stairs and “hurt” my arm on Christmas Day. I figured going to the hospital on this day would be extra, extra miserable, so I popped a few Advil, drove myself home to my father’s house, and hoped for the best.

The next day, I learned that my elbow was broken and needed time to heal. This meant I was officially stuck in Upstate New York for the next week, in the home where I had watched my mother die.

My childhood best friend, Allison, who’d lost her father almost 10 years before my mother died, was always good at sensing my misery and stepped up.

That’s when my Option B presented itself. My childhood best friend, Allison, who’d lost her father almost 10 years before my mother died, was always good at sensing my misery and stepped up. Since I was unable to drive, Allison offered to pick me up and bring me to her house every day until I could return to D.C. This was a house where I had spent some portion of my holidays for years. A house with a fireplace, homemade cookies, and a pretty fantastic mom. The only other option was being stuck in my father’s house—the house where my mother and Christmas had died.

I was so excited to experience real holiday cheer that I immediately accepted. But I soon realized I had been duped.

I hadn’t been on a date in over six months and Allison had decided this made me kind of a loser, so she seized the opportunity to put me on eHarmony. I could not have been any less interested, but I was also drugged, couldn’t drive, and didn’t want to return to my father’s depressing house. So I succumbed to the pressure.

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I was forced to answer roughly 1,000 questions about myself as Allison and her mother typed up my profile. I figured they’d leave me alone once I was signed up, but instead they began searching for eligible bachelors. I eventually settled on a guy from Green Bay, Wisconsin. I was already a Packers fan and, having been to Wisconsin twice, was confident he wouldn’t kill me (this obviously predates Making a Murderer on Netflix).

A few weeks later, it was time to go out with the guy from Green Bay. After working 12 hours with a broken arm, the last thing I wanted to do was go meet someone who probably wouldn’t murder me, but probably wouldn’t be that awesome, either. I’d been on enough first dates to know that there are a lot of perfectly nice but perfectly boring people out there, and I wasn’t particularly interested in meeting another one.

A good friend ultimately convinced me to take some pain medication and suck it up. She also promised to call me in an hour so I could leave. But after an hour, I was intrigued.

Seven months later, he moved in.

And after two years, in an attempt to reinstate Christmas as my favorite holiday, he asked me to marry him. We’ve been married for three years, which means he didn’t kill me, was far more interesting than expected, and Christmas reigns supreme once more.

Thanks to Allison and her mom, I was saved from a pretty shitty holiday and found a husband.

Thanks to Allison and her mom, I was saved from a pretty shitty holiday and found a husband. I would venture to say my Option B is working out pretty well so far.


Marisa is the founder of Supportal, a platform that helps turn empathy into action by making it easy to respond when someone you care about is faced with a life-changing challenge.

Image credit: Marcus Hague

Grief & Loss

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