Holidays and Grief: Having Hard 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.

If you’ve decided to try to do things differently this year, you know that means telling other folks who might not like it.

And that’s really hard.  

But the sooner you have those conversations, the better. 

Because the only thing that makes it worse is procrastinating until it feels like an ambush to your extended family and friends.  

Read the rest here:  Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

 

 

 

Grief and Holidays: Some Practical Ideas After Loss

I wish I had found some of these ideas before we headed into our first set of holidays after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

It would have helped so very much.  

So I’m sending these out early enough so that someone else may be both validated and liberated in planning how to approach one of the most difficult times of year for bereaved parents.  

I pray they reach the heart that needs them.  ❤

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.

These days also stir great internal conflict:  I want to enjoy and celebrate my living children and my family still here while missing my son that isn’t. Emotions run high and are, oh so difficult to manage.

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

What the Bereaved Need from Friends and Family (But Might Not Tell You)

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

Repost: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here:  Healthy Boundaries in Grief

The Elephant in the Room

I’ve often been the person who refused to go along with some group’s plan to ignore a real issue and try to talk around it.  

I usually begin like this, “I know it’s hard to talk about, but let’s be honest and…”

I’m even more inclined in that direction now. If my son’s instant and untimely death has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there’s no use pretending.

So I’m not going to pretend:  Western society doesn’t do grief well.  

grief is often the elephant in the room

I’m not sure that was always the case but like so many other unpleasant, sad and/or uncomfortable aspects of life, we’ve sequestered grief to separate buildings and specialists. We’ve tried to clean it up and clear it away from the everyday.

Like they say, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

If we can hide it, we don’t have to deal with it. 

But I’m here to tell you, you WILL have to deal with it.  One day, one way or another, death will come knocking at YOUR door.  No one gets out of here alive.  

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  

Let’s stop ignoring death and grief and how one person’s departure for Heaven leaves others behind trying to deal with the loss, the pain, and the hole that missing life leaves in their hearts.

I know it will take effort to learn the language of grief.  It’s a lost language and it will feel strange on your tongue.  

The more you use it, the more you will realize that it’s really just the language of love with a slight accent.  There are a few more pauses between words, a bit more emphasis in some places and less in others.

And when you don’t know what to say, it’s fine to admit that. 

Just say, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

Because that means you see the elephant too.  

Should I DO Something? Yes. Absolutely.

It’s possible to stand frozen at the corner of good intentions and helpful action.

I’ve done it dozens of times.

And every time I’ve allowed myself to swallow “but I don’t know what to do” and done nothing I’ve regretted it.

Every. Single. Time.

So I’m here to tell you that when you get that urge, feel that itch, hear that still, small voice that says, “DO something“, then do it.

You may already have a good idea of what it is you need to do, but in case you don’t know exactly how to make a difference in the life of a heart hanging on by a thread, here are some things to get you started:

  • Text, message or write.  Sometimes a phone call is too hard for a weepy friend to answer.  Better to send something that she can read and answer when she is able to talk.  You can always ask, “Can I call you?  I really want to hear your voice.”
  • Deliver a meal or send a restaurant gift card.  Sometimes daily chores are overwhelming and having supper already decided often gives a little breathing room to a heart already struggling to breathe.
  • Offer to tag along.  Go with your friend to that required event or necessary appointment and be a safe space in the crowd, a buffer against too many unwanted questions.
  • Send flowers or a plant or almost anything sweet and unexpected.  There is something magical about the doorbell ringing and a beautiful surprise offered on the other side.
  • In the case of a grieving friend, photos of her loved one are always a wonderful gift.  In the age of digital everything, taking time to print and frame one or two is really special.
  • Clean the house.  When things are cluttered, dirty and messy, it reinforces a sense of futility.  Sometimes waking to a tidy space makes all the difference in whether a heart has the energy to get out of bed and start the day.
  • Run errands.  Things that are easy for most people can be overwhelming for a hurting heart.  Pick up the dry cleaning, buy stamps, grab some bread and milk.  Anything that can save extra stops on the way home from work.
  • Make a care package.  It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant.  If you know the person well, include small things that show you are thinking specifically about THEM.  A new journal, a pretty pen, a puzzle booklet, tea bags or anything that they might like will encourage a heart.
  • Take the kids where they need to go or just take them out for a fun time.  Parents often bear the burden of their own struggle and also the burden of knowing that same struggle is hurting their kids.  Doing some of the heavy lifting of getting children where they need to go helps so much.
  • Offer quiet companionship.  Just come over and sit with your sad or hurting friend.  If she chooses to talk, then listen.  But don’t feel you must fill the empty air with words.  Often silent support does more for a heart than all the sappy sentiments we like to toss at people when they are upset.
  • “Like” their social media posts.  You’d be surprised at how isolated a heart might feel in this age of hyper-connectivity.  If your hurting friend is bold enough to admit it publicly, then let her know you see that, affirm it and are not offended by the admission.  Sure it can be hard to hear the same sad song over and over but if it’s hard for you-and you can walk away or shut it down-how hard do you imagine it is for the person who cannot get away from the reality of living it?

Don’t ignore that voice that says, “Do something”.  

Showing up and choosing to walk with a hurting heart can make the difference between a person giving up or going on.

In the end, love is what we DO and not simply what we SAY.

love is not what you say it is what you do pooh

 

 

Bereaved Parents Month Post: What The Bereaved Need From Friends and Family During the Holidays

I’m taking the opportunity during July to re-post some articles that have been popular and helpful in the past.  

One of the most trying seasons for grieving parents extends from November through the first week of January. 

The holidays are hard for so many people, but especially for parents trying to navigate these family  focused holidays without the presence of a child that they love.

I know it’s still several months away, but once school starts it seems the weeks roll past faster and faster until suddenly there’s no time to plan and the day is upon us.

I highly recommend speaking to family and friends NOW.  Make plans NOW.  When folks have plenty of time to make adjustments, it is much more likely they will accommodate a grieving heart’s need for change.  

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.  

 

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