Christmas 2022: What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

Dominic left us in April, 2014.

At the time all I could manage (barely!) was the twenty-four hours of each long, lonely and pain-wracked day.

After seven-plus years I’ve learned to look ahead, plan ahead and forge ahead to birthdays, holidays, special days and not-so-special days.

But it takes a great deal of effort and often uncomfortable conversations because no matter how long it’s been, I’m still dragging loss and its after affects behind me.

I wrote this in 2016 when I was desperate to communicate how hard it is to try to marry joy and sorrow, celebration and commemoration, light, love, life and darkness, grief and death.

It remains (I think) my most useful postGrief and Holidays: What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Christmas 2022: Nine Years. Sigh…

When I was a little girl I never thought about how the holidays impacted the adults around me. I figured it was all about ME. Or at most, me plus my brother and Santa Claus.

I was blissfully unaware of budgets and baggage.

Now I know better.

The holidays require us to wrap more than presents. They force us to wrap all the pain and expectation and hope and heartache in a giant package and serve it up hot and ripe for dissension and disappointment.

It’s relatively easy to figure out what to put under the tree (or give for the nights of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa). It’s much harder to figure out what to bring to the dinner table or the family gathering or the we’re-doing-something-different-this-year NON-gathering.

I’ve written a lot about the holidays in previous years and I will be sharing those posts again because there is always someone who hasn’t read them or who is just now in need of them. But I wanted to add something to the canon this year-on the ninth set of holidays with one child in Heaven.

It’s not easier just because I’ve had practice.

We have yet to settle into a system that makes space for all the feelings and changes that time brings to lives and loves and hearts and homes.

I’m just as jealous TODAY of whole families as I was the first Christmas without Dominic. I’m just as likely to sit for hours wondering what, exactly, I should cart down from the attic, what I should set up in the living room, how I should honor him without making him a “saint” and when tears are appropriate or distracting and indulgent.

I don’t want to discourage anyone.

I have developed many more coping skills and ways to make it through the season than I had that first awful Christmas when every song, every memory, every EVERYTHING stung like driving snow on frozen faces.

I’m just being honest which is the first and most important commitment I made when I started sharing in this space. And I don’t want any heart who still struggles to think he or she is unusual or defective or weak or “less than” the hearts that declare unmitigated victory over grief and sorrow.

Life is life.

It’s not less treacherous because I’ve developed bigger emotional biceps as a result of child loss.

There is, in fact, a greater gap between what I expect from myself and what I find I’m able to give.

But I keep trying.

I’ll buy the presents, deck the halls, make the meals and cherish every moment I’m with the ones I love.

Because I’m oh, so aware that this Christmas may be the LAST Christmas.

A beautiful and terrible burden to bear.

There’s A Lovely Moment When the Light Makes it Through Again

A few years ago, I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.

As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.

One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.

Read the rest here: There’s A Moment When The Light Makes It Through Again

Listening is Love in Action

Listening is love in action.

If you know someone whose heart carries great grief-and child loss is not the only hard journey hearts are makingoffer to listen. 

Give up a few minutes to hear how they are really doing, what is really hard, what they really need to say but may be afraid to speak aloud.  Leave spaces in conversation so a heart can work up the courage to share.  Don’t be quick to offer platitudes that shut down deep discussion.  

It often takes many, many repetitions of traumatic events for a heart to begin to heal. 

Read the rest here: Why I Have To Talk It Out

Here Are Ten Ways to Love a Mourning Heart at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is only a little over a week away and I know many are making final plans and preparations to gather family and friends around the table.

In the rush toward celebration, please don’t forget those in your circle who have suffered loss.

The past years (!) have prevented or limited many of the ways we publicly gather and mourn so it’s easy to overlook that some families are facing their first set of holidays without a loved one.

Even the second or third Thanksgiving with an empty chair is unbelievably hard.

Here are some helpful ideas to get you started. 

❤ Melanie

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:

Read the rest here: Ten Ways to Love a Mourning Heart at Thanksgiving

Here’s My Heart. Handle With Care.

When someone invites you in and serves up her deepest pain along with the coffee it might feel like a trap or a burden or a bother.

But it’s actually an act of great respect and trust.

Read the rest here: A Sacred Privilege

Holidays: Why I Need Grace From Family and Friends

I think the most helpful post I’ve ever shared is this one.

So as a follow-up to yesterday’s thoughts about the holidays I’m sharing it again.

I hope that you feel confident sharing it with your family and friends as an invitation to conversation and as a bulwark against unrealistic expectations.

Holidays are hard no matter how long it’s been. 

Melanie ❤

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

There’s No Avoiding The Holidays (As Much As We Might Like To)

I will confess: I’m no better at this than the first set of holidays after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Every. Single. Year. has brought changes and challenges on top of the empty chair round the family table.

Since Dominic left us we’ve had additions (two grandchildren and various significant others) and sadly, more subtractions (my mother joined Dom in 2019). We’ve dealt with distance, deployment, healthcare and retail work schedules, a pandemic and lots of other, less easily defined tensions and difficulties.

Read the rest here: So…Yeah, The Holidays.

What SHOULD I Say or Do for My Grieving Friends or Family?

I have learned so much since that day when Dominic left us suddenly for Heaven.

Some of the things I know now are things I wish I didn’t know at all.

Many serve me well-not only in how I respond to my own pain and loss-but also how I respond to the pain and loss in the lives of those I love.

Read the rest here: So What SHOULD I Say or Do For My Grieving Friends or Family?

A Wish List For Bereaved Parents

I remember when my wish list could be filled from the Sears Roebuck Toy Catalog.

Sure I couldn’t have EVERYTHING but I was pretty well guaranteed to find at least one or two of my coveted items in our living room or under the tree on Christmas morning.

Now the things I wish for are not so easy to come by.

This list is adapted from a friend’s Facebook post (with permission) and a list published by Children’s Hospital of Colorado.

BEREAVED PARENT’S WISH LIST:

1. I wish my child hadn’t died. I wish I had my child back.

Read the rest here: Bereaved Parent’s Wish List

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