Unhappy Holidays: When the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ Isn’t

By Cherita Booker
November 30, 2022

For some, the holidays are one, long unhappy reminder of the people no longer with us. If you are among the millions feeling the void, you’ re not alone.

“We can all feel that someone is missing,” explained Stephanie Crowe, who lost her grandson Michael Daugherty. ”I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone.”

Michael was just 18  when he was murdered by his girlfriend in Milwaukee last October. 

“He moved into his first apartment and three days later his girlfriend killed him,” said Stephanie. “She was angry that he left her at the apartment after they got into an argument. When he returned with his friends to watch the Dallas Cowboys play their first game of the season,  the argument continued and she stabbed him in the heart.”

REALTED: Reports of Domestic Violence Reach Record High in Wisconsin

Stephanie said Michael’s relationship with his girlfriend had a history of domestic violence, and that she also dealt with mental illness. 

“My family and I are trying to get the word out that men can also be abused,” said Stephanie. 

The Numbers

Although domestic violence is more common against women, 830,000+ men are also victims every year, according to WebMD. Domestic violence is about abuse and control and impacts every race, gender, and age.. 

Stephanie said her last conversation with Michael is now a heartbreaking memory. The two spoke on the phone for about an hour. 

“He told me that he loved his new apartment and that no matter what, he would always be ‘checking in on me’,” recalled Stephanie. “Those were his exact words.”

Michael Daugherty holding his high school diploma from Wauwatosa West

Stephanie says Michael was energetic, outgoing, and “loved his granny.”

“Everybody loved Michael,” she explained. “He was the life of the party. The room would light up when he entered.” 

Even at a young age, Michael took pride in paying for things himself, which led him to get his first job at the age of 13. He dreamed of owning his own plumbing company and becoming a real estate mogul. He was set to begin classes in January of 2022, but he never got that chance. 

Michael Daugherty as a young boy

“He’s not here to make new memories,” said Stephanie, explaining the holidays are extra hard.  “We try to be happy for the sake of Michael’s siblings. But I miss his sense of humor, his hugs, and how we would stay up and talk all night.”

During the holidays, the Crowe family still spends time together and shares what they’re thankful for. 

“We honor his memory by talking about him every day,” said Crowe. “We speak his name and acknowledge the presence of his spirit in our home.”

Crowe credits her faith in God with giving her the strength to cope. 

What You Can Do

Grief is different for everyone. It’s important, especially during the holidays, to lean on family and friends for support. 

If you are experiencing something similar, these tips from Psychology Today can help: 

  • Allow yourself space to acknowledge any losses, despair, or hurt you are feeling. Don’t pretend your feelings do not matter—they do. And they will do more harm to your well-being if you don’t acknowledge they exist.
  • Don’t isolate yourself from others. Social connection has great healing power.
  • Share your feelings with others who care about you—make it “okay” for you and for them to talk about the person who’s no longer there.
  • Create a special new ritual that honors the person who is no longer there. Light a special candle and offer a silent or spoken tribute to this person. Choose a special recipe that was always a favorite and prepare it each year. These activities mark the joy that person brought to you and let you honor their memory in meaningful ways.
  • Seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed and unable to manage on your own. Don’t turn to unhealthy self-soothing behaviors such as alcohol, overeating, or other risky behaviors.


  • Cherita Booker

    Milwaukee native Cherita Booker attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has worked in various roles as a multimedia journalist since 2017. She enjoys photography, dancing, and spending time with friends and family.

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