Post Holiday Blues: When The Grief Comes Crashing Down

It’s a paradox really-that grieving hearts can be more anxious and more sorrowful BEFORE and AFTER a milestone day, birthday or holiday than on the day itself.

That’s not true for everyone, but it’s a frequent comment in our closed bereaved parent groups.

Fearful anticipation of how awful it MIGHT be can work me up into a frenzy.

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The day of whatever it is usually passes quicker than I thought it could especially if there is a big meal involved and lots of people milling about.

Then everyone leaves and quiet darkness ushers in space and silence.

That’s the moment my heart recounts all the places Dominic should have been but wasn’t. That’s when I think of how his baritone voice was missing from the conversation, his laugh from the chorus of merry makers, his opinion from the slightly heated volley over politics or another current event.

I guess it’s kind of a holiday hangover without the booze.

But there’s no strange concoction I can drink to rid me of these symptoms.

Instead I have to give my heart permission to take out each feeling and FEEL it. I have to acknowledge that even when I spend the day laughing and enjoying family and friends, I still miss Dominic.

So I try to build a day (or two!) of recovery into my holiday planning.

And that’s OK.

Whenever possible that’s exactly what I do.

So you won’t find me rushing out to shop the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas or any of our own family’s unique grief anniversaries.

Instead I’ll wake slowly, drink coffee and watch the sunrise.

I might take a walk, read a book or write in my journal.

I will definitely find moments of solitude to acknowledge that once again I have survived what I thought I might not.

And for that, I’m grateful.

Repost: I Don't Want To Know The Future

Many years ago my grandparents had a lovely Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration with family and friends.

My dad videotaped it and the tape was full of fun moments where my grandmother was smiling, laughing and having a wonderful day.

It was a short time afterward that she began to show signs of dementia and not very long after that she left us.

We watched the videotape a year or two after her leaving and I thought, “What a mercy she didn’t know what was coming!”

Those moments were full of unadulterated joy because a sorrowful future was hidden from her heart.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/11/29/i-dont-want-to-see-the-future/

How Lament Makes Room For Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday.

I loved everything about it:  the color scheme, the food (I love, love, love to cook-it was never a burden), family and friends gathered around the table, and the wonderful slowness of the day as it lingered into nightfall.

It was more flexible than Christmas for including all sorts of folks who otherwise didn’t have someplace to go. Living near colleges meant that  we welcomed students from around the world-we might have two or three dozen laughing faces milling about.

happy-thanksgiving

It was wonderful.

And I loved going around the circle, tummies bursting, to share what people were thankful for and why.

When Dominic left us everything  changed.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/11/24/the-power-of-lament/

Grief And Gratitude In The Same Heart

Gratitude does not undo grief.  

There, I said it.

Gratitude is important.  It is (in my opinion) a necessary ingredient for a healthy and hope-filled and useful life.  It is the key to any real happiness a heart might find on this broken road.

But it cannot fill up the empty place where Dominic used to be.  

Grief does not preclude gratitude.  

Although some broken hearts swear it does.  They have convinced themselves that if they cannot have the one thing they really want, then nothing else matters. 

That’s a lie as well.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/11/20/gratitude-and-grieving-appreciating-what-i-have-acknowledging-what-i-miss/

When Thanksgiving Is A Sacrifice

Rocking babies I never dreamed that one day my life would look like this. 

I never imagined that one of those tiny bodies I held close to my mama heart would not outlive me.

Now I sit in the same rocking chair in the dark, thinking about how so many things I wouldn’t have written into my story are now part of it.  

And if I’m honest,  it can easily overwhelm my heart.  It can carry me to a place of despair and desperation where there’s no room for thanksgiving-not the holiday OR the feeling. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/22/thanksgiving-as-sacrifice/

Reminder: It’s Important To Make Space For Grief During The Holidays


We are days away from plunging headfirst into the rough and tumble holiday season.  

Thursday is  Thanksgiving and I don’t know about you, but it seems that once I eat the turkey and dressing, the clock moves faster and the days crowd one another in a race to Christmas and the end of the year.

So I want to take a minute to think about how important it is to make and maintain space for grief during this busy season.

You have to do it.  

I know, I know-where to fit it in between family gatherings, social engagements, mandatory office parties and children’s pageants?

If you don’t, though, the grief will out itself one way or another.  

So may I offer the following practical suggestions for this upcoming holiday season?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/19/the-importance-of-making-space-for-grief-during-holidays/

A Single Candle Can Defy The Darkness

I like to greet the early darkness of winter by lighting a single candle so I can sit in its glow.

I’ve always felt a holy hush in those quiet moments as birds and beasts and other living things settle into night.

There’s something very personal about striking the match, lighting the candle and drawing near to the small circle of light it casts instead of flipping a switch to blaze away the darkness with brash, overhead fixtures.

So when a friend who posts encouraging things every day recently posted this quote by Anne Frank, I loved it.

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.

Anne Frank

Imagine Anne and her family in cramped attic quarters, whispering and walking oh, so softly to avoid detection by the Nazis.

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How precious that single candle must have been to this curious, bright and lively girl! A tiny bit of hope in an otherwise dreary and dreadful world.

As long as a candle burns it declares that darkness has not won.

As long as a candle burns it helps a heart see the difference between wrong and right, hope and despair, death and life.

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Candles can’t last forever. Eventually the wick burns down, the wax runs out and darkness comes again.

But there is one Light that cannot be extinguished. One Light that always points the way.

Later, Jesus talked to the people again. He said, “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness. He will have the light that gives life.”

John 8:12 ICB

This world is a hard and cruel place. Bad things happen. Evil men commit atrocities.

And yet, the darkness never fully conquers because the light of the love of Christ lives in the hearts of some people everywhere.

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There is always a candle somewhere as long as those who love Jesus choose to shine-a light that both defies and defines the darkness-and points the way to life and hope.

We walk in a “ravine as dark as death” (Psalm 23:4), and still we have nothing to fear because God is at our side: God’s staff and crook are there to soothe us (see Psalm 23:4). This is not just a consoling idea. It is an experience of the heart that we can trust.

Our lives are full of suffering, pain, disillusions, losses and grief, but they are also marked by visions of the coming of the Son of Man “like lightning striking in the east and flashing far into west” (Matthew 24:27). These moments in which we see clearly, hear loudly, and feel deeply that God is with us on the journey make us shine as a light into the darkness. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. Your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Henri Nouwen