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

Repost: Faithful Waiting

I’ve been working on Christmas posts for weeks now and really thought I’d have something original and new for today.  But life has conspired against me and I find myself worn and fragile and oh, so very tired!

Then a thread on a bereaved parents’ page reminded me of Simeon.  And my heart knew that even though this post was written two years ago, it was precisely what I needed for THIS year, THIS Christmas.

I am clinging with both hands to the promises I can only see by faith:  That this pain will be redeemed, that every tear is captured and treasured by God Almighty and that every single stolen thing will be restored and renewed.

I will proclaim with Simeon that God is faithful and He cannot lie.

So I open my eyes on Christmas morning to a world where joy and sorrow live together for now but look forward to the morning when only JOY will reign.

I fell in love with Ron Dicianni’s painting,  “Simeon’s Moment” many years ago.  My husband bought and framed a print for me and I sit opposite it every morning as I drink my coffee.

It never fails to touch my heart.

Read the rest here:  Faithful Waiting

Remembering the Missing: Four Candles

I have always loved candles.  Something in the flickering light speaks to my heart.

It’s one of my favorite parts of early evenings-watching the candles I light on every flat surface cast a soft glow and chase the darkness.

Even a small light offers hope.  

Christmas Eve is a natural time to gather with family and friends, to honor the ones no longer present, to share our love, our memories and our sorrow.

So when I ran across this post on a Compassionate Friends site, I wanted to share it.  I hope it blesses your heart like it blesses mine.  

This four candle ritual is a beautiful way to create space for tears and also invite laughter and hope into hurting hearts.  

four candles

Repost: Not Giving Up-A Victory Worth Cheering

It’s hard to watch since winning a medal is off the table.  They lost their place in front when they took that awful tumble.

But we cheer them on-the limping athletes that manage to cross the finish line.

And we should.

Read the rest here:  Not Giving Up-A Victory Worth Cheering

Christmas and Grief Brain

I wrote this post almost a year ago after a discussion in online grief groups about our common experience of forgetting things, having trouble concentrating and losing words.

“Grief brain” is a real thing!

Stress of any kind makes it worse.

I used to be caught off guard when I’d go to special events as I’d stand there, dumbfounded, when trying to recall the name of the person who just walked into the room-especially if I needed to introduce them!  Now I just ‘fess up and say, “I’m so sorry, my brain is on overload right now, could you tell me your name again?”

So for those among us who are wondering if they are going crazy, I’m posting this entry again.

I’m looking right at her.

know her.  In fact, I’ve known her for years.  But please don’t ask me her name.

I have no idea.

Read the rest here:  Grief Brain: It’s a Real Thing!

When You Think You Can’t Hold On

So many ways to be reminded of how hard it is to hold on in these days and weeks around Christmas.

If your heart is barely able to beat, the pressure to be “hap-hap-happy” can send you over the edge.

If your home is empty of cheerful voices, the constant barrage of commercials touting family togetherness can leave you feeling oh, so lonely.

Early sunsets and darker nights send feel-good hormones flying and leave a body aching for just a little relief from anxious and depressing thoughts.

SadGirlBeach

When you think you can’t hold on, let go.  

Let go of expectations-yours and other people’s.

Let go of traditions that no longer serve your heart or draw you closer to the Babe in the manger.

Let go of tons of baking or cooking or entertaining with perfect centerpieces and fragile china.

Let go of blasting Christmas music through the house.

Let go of shopping for the perfect gift or mailing all those cards.

candle and hand

Be still.

Light a candle in the darkness.

Sit quietly and see how even the faintest light can chase away the black of night.

And then hold your empty hands out to the God Who made you, the God Who loves you, the God Who longs to draw you to His heart and let Him fill you with hope.  

jesus-the-heart-of-christmas

There IS hope.

He came in the form of a Baby-weak and vulnerable just like us.

He KNOWS our pain.

He is not impressed with our busyness or our decorations or our presents piled high beneath the tree.  

He sees the heart.  He looks with mercy on a broken heart.  He is the Healer of hearts. 

He longs to heal yours.  

heals the broken hearted

 

 

Why, Oh Why, is Christmas So Hard???

As the fourth Christmas without Dominic rapidly approaches, I am pondering the question:  “Why, oh why, is Christmas so hard?” 

I think I’ve figured out at least a few reasons why.

For me, probably THE biggest reason Christmas is hard is because it throws off the routine I depend on to shepherd my heart through a day.  It’s easiest for me to manage when I have at least a couple of hours of quiet time each morning.  I need those silent moments to let my heart feel what it needs to feel, to cry if I must and to orient my thoughts after, once again, “remembering” that Dominic isn’t here.

Changing schedules and extra commitments mean that some nights I stay up later than usual and can’t manage to get out of bed in time to have those hours.  Extra people in the house mean that they may get up and join me in the living room.  While I love the company, I have to be honest and say I would love it more a little later in the day 🙂 ,

Another reason I struggle at Christmas is because all (almost all!) the family is together in one place.  This may sound odd to anyone who hasn’t buried a child, but when every single person I care most deeply for is together, it highlights the space where Dominic SHOULD be but ISN’T. 

Other times of the year we are more or less a full circle-as long as one or two others are missing, it kind of feels like maybe, just maybe, Dominic is away for awhile instead of away for the rest of my life.  But when we are all gathered round the table or the tree or the fireplace, it is oh, so obvious that he isn’t here.

ask me about the empty chair

Buying presents and filling stockings I go down the list.  I have to skip Dom because he won’t be here to open gifts or pull out his favorite candy from a Christmas sock.  I can’t even mail him a package where he is.  So I try to focus on the fact that his Christmas is the best one, because he is with the One Who IS Christmas.

But my heart still hurts, still yearns for one more hilarious morning when the camcorder won’t work or one of our sleepy young adults refuses to roll out of bed while the rest of us are waiting.

We are waiting now for a different kind of morning-one where the light dawns and never dims.

While I am in no way ashamed of the grief I carry-great love means great grief- I do try not to burden others with my tears at events or in places where smiles should rule.  The Christmas season multiplies those occasions and calls for so. much. energy.  just to maintain my “happy face” for the masses.  It’s exhausting in a way only other grievers can truly understand.  

straw that broke camel back

And, of course, we celebrate Christmas in the US during what my grandmother used to call “the dark of the year”.  Shorter days, longer nights means less time outside, less sunshine to generate the feel-good hormones I depend on to get me through each moment.  When the nights come early and linger long, my mind has more time to ruminate on what was and what will never be again.  

Finally, because Christmas is stressful for everyone for different reasons, people can just be a little harder to deal with-less flexible, more impatient, quicker to take offense or give it.  All that emotional drama can overwhelm my heart in a flash-leaving me speechless, crying and anxious.  It’s no one’s fault.  It just is what it is.

For all these reasons-and dozens more-Christmas is an especially difficult time of year for this hurting heart.

So I try to be gentle to myself and to extend the same grace to ME that I extend to others.

I remind my heart that it is perfectly OK to turn down invitations when I just. can’t. go.

I lean into the Promise born in the manger-Emmanuel, God with us-and hold on with both hands.  

christ-in-christmas