I have never wanted to make my life journey with blinders on. I realized young that MY perspective is not the only one. I understand that more clearly now.
So I try hard to think about, acknowledge and accommodate the feelings and needs of others.
But it’s especially challenging since Dominic left us. And doubly so this time of year when every sight, smell and song screams, “It’s the holidays and HE IS NOT HERE!“
I may not be as thoughtful to some in my circle as want to be, but I will expend every ounce of energy and effort I can muster to make space for my living children’s needs during this season.
I promised them the day Dominic ran ahead to heaven our family would not be defined by what we have lost. I committed right then and there we would not sanctify Dominic, wouldn’t whitewash his ornery ways and would not put him on a pedestal against which they would be measured for the rest of their lives.
What I didn’t say, but purposed in my heart, was that I would not allow my own feelings of grief, sorrow, missing and despair to rob them of the mother they deserve. I would not stop being there for THEM-because, let’s face it-Dominic didn’t need me anymore. He is safe in his eternal home.
THEY are here with me in this less-than-perfect, messy and painful world we have to navigate together.
So when I’m working on holiday plans, the first thing I do is ask them what they need from me. I want them to have a safe space to express what’s hard for THEM this year. I welcome ideas, frustrations, hopes and dreams.
I will not shut them down because my heart is hurting.
I know what I think-I have to listen to know what THEY think.
I don’t conduct a sit down interview but over the course of a few days or weeks, I ask probing questions, offer potential scenarios and try to hear the heart behind their words when they answer.
Here are some of the things I ask my kids. Maybe they will be helpful for your family as well:
- What’s your work schedule for Thanksgiving/Christmas?
- Do you have any other major commitments that we need to work around?
- How do you feel about what we did last year? What worked for you, what didn’t work?
- Is there something special you really want to do this year?
- Is there something you absolutely do NOT want to do this year?
- How’s your head going into the holidays? What are you struggling with? What’s easier than this time last year?
- Do you need something from me to make the holidays easier?
- When would you rather have the main meal? Do you want/need to invite friends or co-workers?
- What would the ideal Christmas Eve/Christmas Day look like for you?
There are dozens of corollaries to each of these questions. As my children share, I try to explore the edges of the conversation and probe a little further to get at what is really going on. I am open about my own feelings and fears for the season. I’m honest about where we can compromise and where, because of trying to manage everyone’s needs, we can’t.
I always assure them we will continue to work together, to adjust and to muddle through the best we can.
Humans are flawed and fragile and hearts are unpredictable.
Frustration is inevitable at some point.
Don’t apologize for tears.
We will not have thought of everything.
And that’s OK.