Holidays and Grief: Some Practical Ideas

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

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

Holidays and Grief: Surviving Siblings

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.  

beach-and-family-better

I promised them the day Dominic ran ahead to heaven our family would not be defined by what we have lost.  I committed right then and there we would not sanctify Dominic, wouldn’t whitewash his ornery ways and would not put him on a pedestal against which they would be measured  for the rest of their lives.

What I didn’t say, but purposed in my heart, was that I would not allow my own feelings of grief, sorrow, missing and despair to rob them of the mother they deserve.   I would not stop being there for THEM-because, let’s face it-Dominic didn’t need me anymore.  He is safe in his eternal home.

THEY are here with me in this less-than-perfect, messy and painful world we have to navigate together. 

So when I’m working on holiday plans, the first thing I do is ask them what they need from me. I want them to have a safe space to express what’s hard for THEM this year.  I welcome ideas, frustrations, hopes and dreams.

I will not shut them down because my heart is hurting

I know what I think-I have to listen to know what THEY think.

I don’t conduct a sit down interview but over the course of a few days or weeks, I ask probing questions, offer potential scenarios and try to hear the heart behind their words when they answer.

questions

Here are some of the things I ask my kids.   Maybe they will be helpful for your family as well:

  • What’s your work schedule for Thanksgiving/Christmas?
  • Do you have any other major commitments that we need to work around?
  • How do you feel about what we did last year?  What worked for you, what didn’t work?
  • Is there something special you really want to do this year?
  • Is there something you absolutely do NOT want to do this year?
  • How’s your head going into the holidays?  What are you struggling with?  What’s easier than this time last year?
  • Do you need something from me to make the holidays easier?
  • When would you rather have the main meal?  Do you want/need to invite friends or co-workers?
  • What would the ideal Christmas Eve/Christmas Day look like for you?

There are dozens of corollaries to each of these questions.  As my children share, I try to explore the edges of the conversation and probe a little further to get at what is really going on.  I am open about my own feelings and fears for the season.  I’m honest about where we can compromise and where, because of trying to manage everyone’s needs, we can’t.

best thing to hold onto is each other

I always assure them we will continue to work together, to adjust and to muddle through the best we can. 

Humans are flawed and fragile and hearts are unpredictable.

Frustration is inevitable at some point.  

Don’t apologize for tears. 

We will not have thought of everything.  

And that’s OK.

we will all struggle and fall brene brown

Holidays and Grief: Having the 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.

Holidays typically involve so many more people and family members than everyday get-togethers and each person brings expectations, emotions and personal history to the table.

So, that is why I decided to run this series of posts NOW.  Because one of the things I have learned over the years is that giving people time to adjust to change is a good thing.

Read the rest here:  Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

Holidays and Grief: You Need a Plan

When faced with the upcoming holidays and already rapid heartbeat and fading strength, the last thing a bereaved parent wants to hear is , “Make a plan”.

But the truth is, if you don’t it will be so. much. worse.  

fail to plan plan to fail

No one can tell YOU what the plan should be.  Each family is unique.  Each year brings different challenges-declining health, moves, children or grandchildren born and a dozen other variables that must be accounted for THIS year versus years past.

This will be our fourth set of holidays without Dominic and the one thing that has been, and continues to be, important is communication.  I need to communicate early enough and plainly enough to extended family what I and my immediate family can bear for this year.  If I don’t, there will be misunderstandings and hurt feelings all around. 

This year will be different than last year. 

That’s something surprising to me this side of child loss, nothing seems “fixed”.  No new tradition can take the place of the traditions we embraced before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  So every year I find myself feeling my way in the dark.

one bulb missingAnother important note:  Even though my loss is great I am not the only one whose heart should be honored this time of year.  I may not be able to participate in everything others want to do, but I can decline gracefully and encourage them to celebrate well without fear I’m upset about it.

If this is your very first holiday season after loss, I highly recommend keeping things low-key, whatever that looks like for you. 

Some families find that keeping tradition is helpful.  Some find it unbearably painful.  Some want to run away from familiar places and others want to wrap their hearts in shared memories.

Over the next few days I will be reposting past articles about how to survive the holidays after loss.  I hope they cast a little light on this hard topic.  Take what helps and leave the rest. 

It’s your call. 

Your life. 

Your heart. 

No one else gets to judge how you choose to do (or not do) the holidays. 

its ok to not feel like celebrating christmas

 

Trying to Hold off the Holidays

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.

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

Billboards, radio and television ads, and calendars count down the days.

Decorations assault my eyes and ears and nose (thank you pumpkin everything!).  I cannot get away.  There’s no where to hide.

pumpkin spice

So I have decided to take the offensive.  I will do the things that must be done as quickly, as efficiently and as quietly as possible.

I am sending Thanksgiving cards instead of Christmas cards.  I like the fall colors better than traditional yuletide hues anyway.  No one says the yearly update letter has to be postmarked in December.

Our gift-giving is much simpler now than before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  I’m less inclined to wrap dozens of presents to pile under the tree and more likely to give cash or gift cards along with a heartfelt note.   So I will get all this together before the weather warrants a fire here in the Deep South.

I’m easily overwhelmed.

And too much of anything just seems like entirely. too. much.

Instead of loads of decorating that involves changing out all the everyday with holiday, I will put out a few bright things and lots of candles.

glowing candles huff post

Flickering light in approaching darkness speaks hope to my heart.

I will concentrate on people, not on things.  I am making space on the calendar for casual conversation instead of constant motion.

I won’t be swept along by the yuletide current, struggling for air, barely making it to January and glad the holidays are over.

Sip and savor.

That’s my motto.

I’m sticking to it.

coffee cup fall leaves

 

Repost: Practical Ideas for Dealing With the Holidays After Child Loss

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