How Friends and Family Can Bless the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place.

Read the rest here: Season of Joy: Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

Tell Me You Remember

As families gather around tables and in backyards to celebrate fall birthdays, Thanksgiving and (soon!) Christmas, my heart longs even harder to hear Dominic’s name.  

Of course I remember him-he’s my son-and of course others do too. 

But it is especially helpful this time of year to have friends and family speak of him aloud. 

Read the rest here: Let Me Know You Remember

It’s So Important to Make Space for Grief During the Holidays!

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

A week from today 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.

Read the rest here: The Importance of Making Space for Grief During Holidays

Holidays: Every Year is Different

I admire those families that have holiday plans pinned down for next year by the time they box up this year’s Christmas decorations.

Somehow we’ve never perfected the art of predictable patterns and unchanging life circumstances that make such a thing even possible.

So while we try to observe some of the same traditions from year to year, they tend to be expressed a little differently each time.

Of course, the year Dominic left us EVERYTHING changed.

“Changed” isn’t even really the right word. It was more like everything just stopped. Holidays were out of place in a world where all the color had faded to gray. What heart can make merry when all it feels is sorrow and despair?

Even still, the calendar beckoned and we muddled through the first Thanksgiving and Christmas as best we could.

This will be the eighth (!) holiday season since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

My children are all adults with established careers living away from home. We’ve added to the family circle through marriage and childbirth and we’ve had to say “see you later” to my mama who joined Dom with Jesus in 2019. Of course, like so many others, Covid interrupted last year’s celebration.

The past two years have been filled with travel (some planned, some unexpected) including a trip this week out to Texas to spend time with my son’s family.

So I find myself only days away from Thanksgiving without a concrete plan for when we will actually get together around the table and what, exactly, might be on it when we do.

(Please don’t ask me about Christmas yet!)

It’s more than a little uncomfortable for this gal who loves lists and planning and decorating to choose flexibility and flying by the seat of my pants. And it’s very uncomfortable to be the point of contact for various family members who are used to me having answers instead of more questions when they call to find out when they should show up and what they should bring.

But if there’s one thing I’m learning in this life after loss it’s this: Control is an illusion. All the planning in the world can’t account for random and unexpected.

I’m going to make some phone calls today to try to figure it out.

I’m pretty sure we will have plenty to eat, plenty to say and plenty of room for whoever shows up.

Hugs all around!

And pie for dessert.

Halloween: Not a Fan

Except for a few years early in childhood, I have never liked Halloween.  The combination of darkness and creepiness makes my skin crawl.

And now, this side of child loss it makes me angry. 

Why?  Because for one night (really, for a couple of weeks!) Americans not only think about death, they spend millions of dollars celebrating it.

Not celebrating ACTUAL death-not the absolute horror of being told your child is gone, gone, gone.  Instead it’s a fake, “funny”, silly made-up mockery of a very real, very awful truth.

Read the rest here: Halloween

Holidays: I Need Grace From Friends and Family

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

So…Yeah, The Holidays.

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 (a grandchild 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.

When I ran across this quote awhile back my heart screamed, “YES!!!”

Gathering an entire family (which may include teens and young adults) for any extended length of time is a feat of scheduling, negotiation, and preference management. International treaties have been worked out in fewer steps. The sheer number of details that have to line up is mind-boggling.

Elizabeth Spencer

There are the absolute parameters forced upon any family by distance and availability. Negotiating THOSE is truly a feat.

But when your family story includes profound loss, a mama often has additional hoops to jump through. Surviving siblings bring their own grief to the table and what that looks like can change over time. So something that worked one year might be rejected this season.

I wish I had some magical insight that could guide every wounded heart through these next, treacherous months.

I don’t.

What I can tell you is that it’s better to start earlier rather than later. Nothing falls into place without some planning. Old habits are hard to break and traditions are well-worn habits so don’t expect anyone to give them up easily.

No one can read your mind (are YOU telepathic?). Tell your friends and family what you need (even if it is that you have NO idea what you need!).

And then make space in your celebrations for times when you can grieve the absence of your child. It may be a shared moment or it may be you remember in solitude.

If you have surviving children, remember they are grieving too. They have lost a sibling, their innocence regarding death’s ability to steal even the young and the family they once knew.

Extend grace to others when you can.

Extend grace to yourself when you must.

Be honest and do the best you can.

Then remember that even these days are only twenty-four hours long. They will pass.

The sun will rise and you will, undoubtedly find out you survived.

Sometimes I Need a Little Extra Grace

Each day I am reminded by sights, smells, sounds and memories that Dominic is in Heaven and not here.  

But there are moments and seasons when his absence is particularly strong-when I can’t breathe in without also breathing a prayer, “Father, let me make it through this minute, this hour, this day.”

And that’s when I need grace-from family, friends and strangers.

Read the rest here: A Little Extra Grace

Grief and Holidays 2021-What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

Many of us pretty much skipped the holidays last year. That was actually kind of a nice break for some bereaved parents who were rescued from having to navigate family expectations while grieving the loss of a child.

This year looks like a lot of folks aren’t only embracing long-held traditions but also pulling out all the stops to make up for last year’s lackluster celebrations.

So I’d like to simply put this perspective out there.

While others feel liberated, the bereaved are still carrying the same load.

❤ 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.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

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

Seven Ways to Support a Bereaved Dad on Father’s Day

Holidays are hard on bereaved parents’ hearts.

Even though our children are always on our minds, holidays act as megaphones, amplifying the missing, sorrow, grief and lost opportunity to build more memories.

So it’s particularly helpful when friends and family step up and step in, showing extra support on and around those extra hard days.

Here are seven ways you can bless a bereaved dad this Father’s Day:

MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE IN THEIR GRIEF

Sometimes friends and family let their expectations of how parents should grieve and for how long influence the quantity and quality of the help they’re willing to give. I can’t emphasize enough that no one outside the child loss community really understands how very, very difficult and how very, very much time it takes for a parent to even wrap his or her mind around the fact their child is truly gone. Instead of pushing or pulling a grieving dad forward, simply accept where he is, meet him there and let him take the lead in conversation, activity and whether or not he can join in a Father’s Day celebration.

LET YOUR FRIEND KNOW YOU’RE THINKING OF THEM

This is probably the most important and the simplest way to make a difference in a bereaved dad’s life! I know we all get busy and let days and dates slip by. But set an alarm on your phone if you have to as a reminder. Send a text or make a call. Tell him you haven’t forgotten he will be missing his child and wishing his family was complete this Sunday, especially.

SAY THEIR CHILD’S NAME

As the years go by it is often more and more unlikely for a parent to hear their missing child’s name spoken aloud. Yet it’s something we all long to hear. Sometimes friends and family are afraid that mentioning the child will make a dad “sad” or “remind him” the child is gone. Trust me, “sad” is something he feels often and he never forgets. Knowing someone else is willing to remember too is a great blessing.

SHARE MEMORIES OR DO SOMETHING TO HONOR THEIR CHILD-IF YOUR FRIEND IS READY

Not every grieving parent wants to talk about their child though many do. And even if they are ready, they may not want to talk about him or her right now. Pay attention and let them lead. If a bereaved dad is receptive, share a memory or photograph you might have of his child. Write a card and include details of how his child influenced your life. There are many ways to honor a child’s memory on important dates: make a meaningful donation, place a book in his honor, add to a foundation or scholarship that bears her name or send a small token that speaks of a child’s interests or personality.

SUPPORT SURVIVING SIBLINGS

Surviving siblings can be forgotten mourners. Grieving parents are frequently caught between their own needs and the needs of the children still with them. Child loss changes everything-for the whole family. So when friends come alongside and encourage and care for surviving siblings it helps everyone. Our family’s first Mother’s and Father’s Days were spent in company of friends of our children. It took a huge load off me and my husband to know the day was still special without all the focus being on us.

ENCOURAGE SELF-CARE

Grief from child loss is so overwhelming that often parents find themselves in a downward spiral where self-care is practically impossible. Even parents years into this journey sometimes say holidays and milestone days bring back the intense feelings of those first days. When that happens we need friends and family outside our immediate grief circle to help us find a path out of the darkness. Father’s Day is a great opportunity to offer a dad a healthy meal, take him on a hike or fishing expedition, or just sit and watch a ball game.

STAY IN THE PICTURE

Everyone gets busy and it’s completely natural that over time people forget days and dates. But Father’s Day doesn’t necessarily become easier for bereaved dads over time. So don’t assume because it’s been years that a dad isn’t still in need of extra support. Commit to checking in and helping keep his child’s memory alive.

Sometimes we just don’t know what to do for a grieving friend and often they aren’t able to express what might be helpful.

I hope these seven suggestions encourage you to try.

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