Here Are Some Practical Ideas for Dealing with Holidays after Child Loss

It cannot be overstated:  holidays are extremely hard after loss.  Every family gathering highlights the hole where my son SHOULD be, but ISN’T.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to handle the holidays after losing a child.

For many, there is only survival-especially the very first year.

So here are some ideas from other parents that can help.

Read the rest here: Practical Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays after Child Loss

Holidays 2020: What The Bereaved Need From Friends And Family

I wrote this four years ago when I realized how hard it was for wounded hearts to tell friends and family what they needed around the holidays.

It’s been shared more than 130,000 times which might reflect that it hits the mark for at least a few folks. My prayer is it makes a difficult season a little less so.

If it speaks for you, feel free to share and let the ones you love know how they can make a hard season slightly easier on your heart. ❤


“I know it is hard.
  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

Read the rest here: Grief and Holidays:What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

What About The Holidays?

I know it’s still rather warm in many parts of the United States but like it or not the holidays are coming.

And this year promises to be more difficult for everyone.

Now it’s not only the bereaved trying to avoid the mines of tradition set amidst the fields of fall and winter celebrations.

We are all going to have to manage different expectations, needs, comfort zones, fears and anxieties.

Christmas is coming - Home | Facebook

So, in hopes of helping families have the hard discussions sooner rather than later, I’m going to share a series of posts I wrote several years ago.

We’ll start with this one-helpful hints on how to have those conversations. ❤

You don’t have to bury a child to know that changing long-standing family traditions around holidays is a hard, hard thing.

Just ask a parent trying to work out Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time after an adult child marries.  Suddenly the way things have “always been” are no longer the way things are.

Holidays typically involve so many more people and family members than everyday get-togethers and each person brings expectations, emotions and personal history to the table.”

Read the rest here: Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

A Walking Nerve

It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t walked this path.

Deep pain and unfathomable sorrow stripped me of any reserve, any defense, any padding between the wider world and my oh-so-fragile heart.

I was a walking nerve.

Every awkward and less-than-thoughtful word or deed by friends, family and acquaintances rubbed me raw. I was utterly incapable of extending grace even as I knew I should and understood that most often their intentions were kind.

I had suffered a grievous wound and spent most of my energy just trying to protect what was left of my heart.

All I wanted to do was retreat to the safe cocoon of my own home. I unfollowed people on social media, I screened telephone calls, I rarely ventured out for anything but the most necessary supplies. It was the only way I could provide the space and time needed for my heart to heal enough to bear even the slightest brush with folks who might say or do the wrong thing.

It helped.

Eventually I found the strength to venture beyond the safety of home, family and the few friends with whom I felt comfortable and secure.

I could scroll through Facebook once again without reacting to every single post.

I went back to church and even showed up for covered dish socials where I couldn’t be certain which way the conversation would flow or who might get me blocked into a corner and ply me with questions.

I attended a few large gatherings: graduations, weddings and a Stephen Curtis Chapman concert.

So if you are in the early days of this hard, hard journey, do what you have to and find the safe circle that gives you time, space and grace to help your heart toward healing.

It may take longer than you’d like, but resting from the constant pressure of trying to protect yourself from the hustle and bustle in a world where child loss is misunderstood and frequently ignored will make a difference.

And one day, like me, you might well wake up and realize that what once felt like personal attacks are simply folks saying and doing foolish things because they haven’t been forced to learn the wisdom of compassion through unfathomable loss.

I’m still more sensitive than I used to be.

There are times I just can’t take crowds, unpredictable settings, offhand comments about death, dying, grief and heartache.

But I’m finally able to walk in the world without feeling I have to protect my heart at every turn.

It’s liberating and I’m thankful.

You Don’t Need Permission To Grieve

You wouldn’t think we need permission from total strangers, friends and extended family to grieve but many times it feels like we do.

Odd looks, questioning stares and wagging tongues can make a heart doubt whether it’s really OK to do this or that while trying not to fall apart.

Well I’m here to tell you-ignore all that!

Read the rest here: Permission To Grieve

Lots Going On

I wrote a few months ago about how the pandemic changed the routine around here.

My long quiet mornings spent reading and writing were suddenly transformed by our living room serving as office space for my work-at-home husband.

It took awhile to figure out how to adapt but eventually we found a rhythm to our days.

Now life has taken another turn. He’s retiring! Which is a very, very good thing but means I’ve got another boatload of adjusting to do.

Since he’s had an apartment in California for several years, he returned to clean it out and move things here. I need to declutter and rearrange at home to make space for some furniture and other items he’ll be bringing back.

I wish I had been one of those people who spent the past few months of stay-at-home to dig into closets, deep clean corners and dejunk junk drawers but I wasn’t. So that means I’m trying to do it now. Which is not only time consuming but sometimes overwhelming as decades of daily memories fall out of folders, show up in odd places and hit my heart.

I’m soldiering on though.

I doubt I’ll tackle the toughest space-Dominic’s room-before my hubby makes it home. But I’ll have most of the rest of the place shipshape.

Until he brings that truckload to the door.

I better take pictures.

It may be the last time the house looks this good.

I Have A Question: Can We Talk?

Can we talk about my missing son and quit pretending that just because he’s no longer present in the body, he’s not still part of my life?

Can we say his name without also looking down or away like his death is a shameful secret?

Can we share stories and memories and laughter and tears just as naturally about HIM as we do about anyone else?

Read the rest here: Can We Talk?

What Not To Say To A Grieving Parent

This came across my Facebook newsfeed and I really liked it.  

Concise,  it also acknowledges that most bereaved parents understand folks generally mean well, even when they say something less than helpful.

Honestly, this is great advice for what not to say to anyone going through a tough patch. 

Read the rest here: Helpful Advice on What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent

What I’d Like You To Know About Grief

There are some things I’d like you to know about grief.

Things I didn’t know until I was the one walking the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Things that can help you companion me and others compassionately, wisely and graciously.

My grief is here-get used to it (please and thank you). Grief has entered my life and while it may be an unwelcome guest, it’s here to stay. I won’t be getting over it or moving on. Grief is the price you pay for love. I will love and miss my child as long as I live, so I will grieve him until my last breath.

The goal of grief isn’t to forget. In fact, the goal of grief work (facing and working through my feelings, my fears and finding a way forward) is to remember and remain connected. I no longer have a physical relationship with my child. I’m trying to figure out how to have one with him in his absence.

I have to do grief my own way. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Who I am, who my child is, what my family looks like, circumstances surrounding my loss, previous life experience all inform how I face this challenge. There is no “right way” to grieve. As long as I am not harming myself or others, there’s only “my way” to grieve.

I am the same person, but I’ve also changed. I know you are trying to figure me out post-child loss. I’m trying to figure me out too. I didn’t get a how-to manual when I buried my son. Even six years into this journey I’m still finding ways in which I am profoundly changed. But I’m also still the same person that needs your friendship and longs for compassionate connection. It’s work for both of us but I don’t want to be alone in my grief.

Even when I’m OK, I’m still grieving. It’s normal for friends and family to look for signs I’m “better”. The early days of sobbing and unceasing pain do (usually) morph into a more gentle, quiet and manageable burden. But even when I’m laughing, participating and gathering new, joy-filled memories I’m grieving. My son’s absence is background music to every moment. I’m never free from the feeling he should be here but isn’t.

I may stay connected to my loved one in ways you don’t understand, but trust me, they’re normal. There are SO many ways hearts work hard to stay connected to their missing child! Dominic’s jacket is hung on a peg in our mudroom right where he left it the last time he was home. I see it every day and touch it often. There are other little mementos here and there that keep his presence part of daily life. I have tokens I carry in a pocket that help me take him with me. Other parents sleep with a favorite stuffed toy or their child’s pillow. Some make blankets of old t-shirts or clothing. It’s all normal.

Grief will visit every heart eventually.

If it hasn’t come to rest in yours yet, consider yourself blessed.

I’m sure you have at least one friend carrying this burden.

When you take time to try to understand even a little how they feel, you help them bear the load.

Repost: Tomorrow’s Not Guaranteed. Live Like It.

I shared this last year but think it’s especially appropriate for the times we’re living in right now.

Every day is a gift. I’ll say it again: Every. Day. Is. A. Gift.

Don’t waste this season wishing or complaining it away. Don’t toss these moments on the trash heap as worthless. This is your life. This is your family’s life.

Time is the only thing you can never spend twice. Use it wisely.

We say it often.

Usually after someone we know or someone we love or someone famous is suddenly and unexpectedly taken from this life to the next.

And for a few minutes or a few days or a few weeks we think more carefully about what we say, what we do and what we worry about.

Read the rest here: Tomorrow’s Not Guaranteed. Live Like It.