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.

Thanksgiving Plan Modified, Again.

We were pretty sure Thanksgiving was nailed down this year.

Several of us have spent months doing work down at Papa’s place creating the perfect space for the whole family to gather. Food was ordered, menu planned and travel coordinated.

But no one can plan for the unpredictable.

So when Covid cases skyrocketed and we did the math, it became too risky for four separate households to spend five days eating, sleeping and playing together under one roof.

We called it off.

It was and is heartbreaking.

But not as heartbreaking as adding another empty chair around the table or missing another face in our family circle.

Perhaps you’re faced with some equally hard choices this year, this season.

I’m so sorry.

It seems especially unfair to those whose hearts are already lonely from loss to be forced to give up the chance for fellowship and encouragement in company of family and friends!

I wish there were some magic to make it all better.

There isn’t.

And one thing I’ve learned in this life I didn’t choose is this: you have to make the best of what you have left.

Thanksgiving with the family before loss. ❤

So I pray no matter how small, how unusual, how disappointing your own Thanksgiving may feel this year that you find space in your heart for hope.

We are not doing what we planned, but we are doing something.

It won’t be what we wished for, but we will still have a day.

I’ll take it.

Thanks And Giving

The world can make a heart panic, scrambling to pile up extra lest “the worst” befalls us and suddenly there’s not enough.

That’s what happened back in the spring when, for some unknown reason, toilet paper became the currency of security.

But no matter how deep or full the pantry, stuff can’t keep us truly safe.

Ask me how I know.

Dominic ran ahead to Heaven April 12, 2014.

Only faith and trust in the ever-faithful, never-lying Almighty God guides our hearts Home.

So in this season of thanksgiving, when gratitude is in style, I want to choose a bold strategy to challenge the world’s wrong direction and misapplied “wisdom”.

It’s not enough to pray thanksgiving over my family, my home, my safety net stockpile.

I want my life to be full of thanks AND of giving.

Because when I give I’m boldly declaring that I trust the Lord to give more. I’m leaning into the True Source of provision and leading other hearts to do the same.

A heart of gratitude is beautiful.

It’s what God wants from His children. But that’s only the half of it. A grateful heart that freely gives to others what has been freely given to it is even more beautiful.

God’s economy is one of bounty. I am unconcerned that my Heavenly Father may run out of blessing.

Everything I have, He has placed in my hands.

I am most like Jesus when I open my fists and share the gifts God entrusts to me with others.

My true treasure can’t be counted in dollars and cents.

My real reserve is love poured out and love returned.

Sip and Savor-Simplifying Holidays

I first shared this post three years ago when our family was in the midst of hard circumstances and we all had frayed nerves.

This year is a different kind of hard because some of the plans we thought were coming together are falling apart. I imagine many folks probably feel the same way with the pandemic forcing changes to longstanding traditions. So I’m sharing again.

You’d think that writing something down would ink it in my brain but I forget too. I need this reminder to take a breath, take a sip of my favorite flavored whatever and savor the beauty of this season.

❤ Melanie

Here they come round the bend like a pack of dogs chasing that rabbit on a racetrack.

No way to slow them down, no way to step to the side and ward off the relentless message that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming soon-so, so soon.

Internet ads scream, “You’ve got to buy it NOW!  You’re running out of time!”

Read the rest here: Trying to Hold off the Holidays

Holidays 2020: Some Practical Ideas

Our family has yet to settle into a routine for the holidays even six years after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. I’m always looking for new ideas that might be suitable.

Pinterest just doesn’t cater to those trying to craft celebrations that make space for grief and empty chairs.

So here are a few ideas I’ve compiled from other bereaved parents. I hope those who read this post will add their own.

Maybe one or more will help your family make a plan.

❤ Melanie

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.

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

Holidays 2020: Surviving Siblings

Surviving siblings are often called “forgotten grievers”. It’s natural and understandable for folks to focus on parents who lose a child.

But many, many grieving families include siblings who are not only grieving their brother or sister but also the family they once knew.

Sometimes holiday traditions are comforting and siblings long for things to be as close to “normal” as possible. Sometimes they are an uncomfortable reminder of how very different things have become.

Either way, it’s important for parents to remember that surviving siblings need an opportunity to speak aloud whatever may be in their hearts.

❤ Melanie

I have never wanted to make my life journey with blinders on.  I realized young that MY perspective is not the only one.  I understand that more clearly now. 

So I try hard to think about, acknowledge and accommodate the feelings and needs of others.

But it’s especially challenging since Dominic left us.  And doubly so this time of year when every sight, smell and song screams, “It’s the holidays and HE IS NOT HERE!

I may not be as thoughtful to some in my circle as want to be, but I will expend every ounce of energy and effort I can muster to make space for my living children’s needs during this season. 

Read the rest here: Holidays and Grief: Surviving Siblings

Holidays 2020: What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

This is the most shared post on the site.

When I wrote it, I was writing my personal feelings after a couple of years trying to fumble through holidays with friends and family. It was an honest expression of how hard it was and continues to be to navigate the stress-filled season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

I’m not sure I’ve grown any more skillful in fitting all the pieces together-especially as our family grows and moves in different directions-but I continue striving to keep the lines of communication open and to try to acknowledge and accommodate everyone’s needs as best I can.

❤ 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

Holidays 2020: Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

One of the things I’m learning in this journey is that people are much more likely to listen and be willing to make accommodations for my tender heart if I approach them BEFORE the “big day”-whatever that may be.

And yes, it seems unfair that those of us carrying a load of grief are also the ones that have to alert others to the load we’re carrying, but that’s simply the way it is.

They don’t know what they don’t know.

So, if you need to change things around consider speaking up NOW instead of huffing off LATER.

Read the rest here: Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

Holidays 2020: Blessing the Brokenhearted

The question is starting to pop up with greater frequency in our closed bereaved parent groups: How do you make it through the holidays after child loss?

So for the next few days I’m going to share again from the many posts I’ve written in the past five years addressing different aspects of holiday planning, celebration, family dynamics and just plain survival for grieving parents, siblings and those who love them.

❤ Melanie

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. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

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