“Get Out of Christmas Free” Card

I remember playing Monopoly as a kid and how much I treasured that “Get Out of Jail Free” card when I was lucky enough to draw it from the pile.

Because it meant that even if I landed in jail, I didn’t have to stay there. 

As I walk this Valley of the Shadow of Death, I often wish there were cards like that for all sorts of seasons, places and situations.  I can’t help them coming around, but I would love to be able to skip right over and move to the next thing.

Christmas feels like that this year. 

Christmas is hard for all kinds of hearts for all kind of reasons.  And unlike most other holidays that are only a DAY, the Christmas season drags on for weeks which makes it even harder.

Now, you know I’ve posted here about why I still put up a Christmas tree-because the lights remind me there is a limit to the darkness.

But, that said, I want to offer a “Get Out of Christmas Free” card to other hurting hearts who just can’t manage even a lighted tree this time of year.

Shake off the guilt.  Wash off the worry.  Step free of others’ expectations.

There is no biblical imperative to celebrate the birth of Christ.  None.

And there is certainly no biblical imperative to dress up the celebration with all the cultural trappings we’ve added over centuries.

Furthermore, if you get right down to it, there is strong evidence that Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25th.

So if your heart cannot bear the thought of one more holly, jolly song, one more hap-hap-happy get together, one more frenzied rush to the store for a forgotten present or pantry item-just choose to sit this one out.

It is possible to go through the month of December without caving in to consumerism or being guilted into celebrating when your heart’s not in it.

Close the blinds.  Let the telephone go to voicemail.  Fast from social media and turn off the TV.  

The days will pass with or without your permission and January promises a fresh start. 

It’s OK.  I promise.

its ok to not feel like celebrating christmas

 

Ten Ways to Love a Mourning Heart at Thanksgiving

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:

1. Let them grieve.  Give space and grace for any outward display of grief or emotion.  It doesn’t require comment.  Maybe an outstretched hand or a tissue or maybe not.  Sometimes silence presence is best.

2. Begin conversation with statements that are true for you and then listen.  I appreciate someone sharing their heart with me.  It’s really OK to say, “Hey, I’ve wanted to reach out but I just didn’t know how.”  I would rather hear that than excuses.  ❤

3. Share a memory of their child or their pregnancy (if a child was born straight into heaven).  Whenever I hear a story about Dominic I may not have heard before, it is a gift.

4. Speak their child’s name.  It may make me cry.  But I cry anyway.  And if no one says his name I cry because I think they’ve forgotten.

5. Give them room to step away.  Sometimes I’m overwhelmed and I just need a breath of fresh air or a moment to gather my strength.  Don’t send the cavalry to “rescue” me and don’t make me feel bad by drawing attention to my absence when I return.

6. Find a way to commemorate their child in company with the living.  Light a candle, place a photo, set an honorary place at the table, give a gift in his memory to a charity and display the card-there are many ways to make him part of the holidays.

7. Allow them to participate/ not participate as they are able.  This will be our fourth set of holidays and I still don’t have a routine that feels “right”.  I do enjoy and even crave cooking meals so I appreciate being asked to do that.  Some other things are still hard so I appreciate not being forced to do those.

8. Don’t use this once or twice a year gathering to require an extended debrief of how they are feeling/coping/doing.  Invite me to share and then respect the boundaries I establish in my sharing.  It depends on the day whether I’m going to give you a brief response or a long one.  Let me lead the dance.

9. Try not to make assumptions about what is best for their heart.  Ask questions instead of making pronouncements.  Like I said, I still don’t have any traditions that feel right after nearly four years.  I need space to think about and make choices about what may work for THIS Thanksgiving.

10. Remember that all holidays are hard.  When the whole family gathers, it highlights even more that my son is missing.  Other times it’s easier to play a mental game with myself and pretend he’s just off somewhere.  But when the chairs are drawn around the table and his is empty, there’s no denying that he is gone, gone, gone.  Lots and lots of grace makes it easier for my heart. 

empty chair prayer

 

 

 

 

Holidays and Grief: What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

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.

So I’m trying to make it easier on all of us.  

I’m trying to be brave and think ahead and offer up what I can to help you understand.

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

Let Me Know 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.  

may cry if you mention their name

Of course I may cry. 

I cry often anyway. 

But if I cry because you remind me of the good friend Dominic was to you or because of a special memory you shared with him, they are tears of joy as much as tears of longing.

let them know you know they lived

Repost: Time Change

I wrote this two years ago and it still resonates with my heart.  If there was one message I could scream from the rooftops this side of child loss it would be this:  Everything, EVERY. THING. except time and people can be replaced.

Think about it.

Is it difficult to rebuild a home or replace favorite keepsakes, yes-but not impossible.  But it is utterly and unforgivingly impossible to recapture lost moments and there is no one but God that can breathe life into a body.

Please, please, please don’t take your people for granted thinking, “There’s always tomorrow.” Sometimes there isn’t.

Every spring and every fall we dutifully make the rounds to our clocks and digital devices, putting them first forward an hour and then back in an attempt to make the days “longer”.

As if time was in our hands.

The sun rises and sets according to the Creator’s schedule, we can neither speed the world’s turning, nor slow it down. We can only choose whether to be present in the moments He grants us.

Read the rest here:  Time Change

Grounding Exercise for Anxiety

Grief has a traveling companion:  Anxiety.  And it is relentless.

Before Dominic ran ahead to heaven I had no idea that along with sorrow, missing and heartache, I would have to battle a creeping sense of dread that could turn an ordinary day into a nightmare.

I’ve learned to plan ahead and minimize triggers I can identify, but sometimes I find myself suddenly overwhelmed with no easy means of escape.

That’s when I apply this technique.

It is amazingly effective and can be done anytime, anywhere without another soul even knowing I’m doing it.

I begin by taking five deep breaths-often I will place my hand on my diaphragm to remind me to breathe deeply.

Then I find:

  • five things I can see;
  • four things I can touch (I don’t have to touch them but if I can, it helps-even my own fingertips or my shirt or purse);
  • three things I can hear;
  • two things I can smell;
  • one thing I can taste.

I use my fingers to silently count down the list. 

While it doesn’t always erase my anxious feelings, it always tames them. 

Taking charge and taking action (even silent, mental action) helps give my heart the space it needs to regroup and reassess the actual “danger” my body is responding to.

Try it.  It’s easy.  It’s free.  And it works.

grounding exercise fall trees

An Open Letter to the Mom Who Was Almost Me

I hesitated to post this but plunged ahead for two reasons:

  • I want my friends to know that I welcome the opportunity to pray for them and their children-my heart longs to join in petition for the life of another mother’s child.
  • But it still hurts to hear too much detail about some things-you have no idea how well my imagination can fill in the gaps in stories of twisted metal and almost death.

So here it is.  I hope you receive it as it’s intended. ❤

heart baloon girl

Dear Mom Whose Son Survived the Accident,

I want you to know that I am beyond thankful that you will be spared my pain.  I prayed for your son as you requested-begged God to spare him.

They say misery love company but I say misery loves comfort.

I do not want one more parent to know the heartache of child loss.

Given the chance, I would not hesitate a moment to answer the Miss America question:  “If you could do one thing in the world to make it a better place, what would it be?” 

“I would make sure no parent ever had to bury a child.”

Not from disease.

Not from starvation.

Not from war or natural disaster or accidents.

No more out of order deaths!

Every parent would go to his grave assured his son or daughter would continue to carry the family legacy.

But that’s not possible.  So I rejoiced extra hard when YOUR son had that awful accident, yet lived.

You get to visit him in the hospital, take him home with medicine and physical therapy.  I met my son in the funeral home and could only choose a casket for his final resting place.

You will have this holiday season tempered by the shadow of what might have happened, but rejoicing in a second chance to make new memories.

This will be my fourth set of holidays without my son-without his presence at the table, his face around the Christmas tree, his stocking limp and empty because there’s nothing left for me to give him.

You were impatient when I asked you to respect how difficult it is for me to hear the details of your son’s accident.  Even in my joy that you will be spared my fate, it hurts to hear how close you came.  You were offended and that really hurt my heart.

I didn’t contact you; you contacted me.

I didn’t ask you to pray for me, you asked me to pray for you.

And I did. 

And I will.

Because even if you are insensitive, ungrateful and inconsiderate, I will ask God to continue to protect your son-that’s what a broken heart does.

It begs for mercy.

Love, 

A Broken Hearted Mama ❤

look into your own heart and refuse to inflict that pain