KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The countdown to Christmas day has begun.

Trees are up and lit and holiday cheer is flowing throughout the city, but one local family has more on their mind.

“It’s really hard not having her here,” Chaquala Ford, Andrea Dean’s Sister, said.

This Christmas will be the first time Andrea Dean’s loved ones must celebrate without her.

“I told one of my sisters I finally know how they all felt without their big sister for their birthday,” Chaquala Ford said. “I didn’t know how they felt until this morning when I woke up and didn’t get to get that call.”

Ford said every Christmas the family gets together at her mom’s house, but this time around there will be an empty spot where Andrea once sat.

Police say the 32-year-old was shot and killed in front of her three kids in June.

It’s a tragedy compounded by the fact that the man accused is the father of Ford’s children.

Investigators said Spears, the father of her kids, turned himself in and said he killed Dean.

It’s their kids first holiday season without their mom.

“My niece takes it the hardest just as much as we thought she would,” said Ford.

Therapists said what this family is feeling is normal and they encourage anyone feeling those emotions to have self-compassion.

“The amount of grief you’re feeling is equivalent to the amount of love you had for that person,” Elizabeth Brown, Marriage and Family Therapist, said.

Brown said this is a busy time of year for therapists and she recommends people to get help and stay connected to hobbies they enjoy.

“What would you like to do this year that you enjoy doing with them and maybe finding the things that they didn’t like as much,” Brown said.

Ford said the family is having those conversations and will continue to love on one another as they all cope with the loss.

Brown also recommends people write themselves a note when they are not feeling okay or use the holidays to remember their loved one. There is a GoFundMe account to help Ford’s three kids move forward.