We are all on a journey through life and each carry some sort of load. Mine is child loss. Yours may be something else.
We can help one another if we try.
Love and grace grease the wheels and make the load lighter.
Here are ten ways to love a mourning heart at Thanksgiving:
1. Let them grieve. Give space and grace for any outward display of grief or emotion. It doesn’t require comment. Maybe an outstretched hand or a tissue or maybe not. Sometimes silence presence is best.
2. Begin conversation with statements that are true for you and then listen. I appreciate someone sharing their heart with me. It’s really OK to say, “Hey, I’ve wanted to reach out but I just didn’t know how.” I would rather hear that than excuses. ❤
3. Share a memory of their child or their pregnancy (if a child was born straight into heaven). Whenever I hear a story about Dominic I may not have heard before, it is a gift.
4. Speak their child’s name. It may make me cry. But I cry anyway. And if no one says his name I cry because I think they’ve forgotten.
5. Give them room to step away. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed and I just need a breath of fresh air or a moment to gather my strength. Don’t send the cavalry to “rescue” me and don’t make me feel bad by drawing attention to my absence when I return.
6. Find a way to commemorate their child in company with the living. Light a candle, place a photo, set an honorary place at the table, give a gift in his memory to a charity and display the card-there are many ways to make him part of the holidays.
7. Allow them to participate/ not participate as they are able. This will be our fourth set of holidays and I still don’t have a routine that feels “right”. I do enjoy and even crave cooking meals so I appreciate being asked to do that. Some other things are still hard so I appreciate not being forced to do those.
8. Don’t use this once or twice a year gathering to require an extended debrief of how they are feeling/coping/doing. Invite me to share and then respect the boundaries I establish in my sharing. It depends on the day whether I’m going to give you a brief response or a long one. Let me lead the dance.
9. Try not to make assumptions about what is best for their heart. Ask questions instead of making pronouncements. Like I said, I still don’t have any traditions that feel right after nearly four years. I need space to think about and make choices about what may work for THIS Thanksgiving.
10. Remember that all holidays are hard. When the whole family gathers, it highlights even more that my son is missing. Other times it’s easier to play a mental game with myself and pretend he’s just off somewhere. But when the chairs are drawn around the table and his is empty, there’s no denying that he is gone, gone, gone. Lots and lots of grace makes it easier for my heart.
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