Thanksgiving As Sacrifice

Rocking babies I never dreamed that one day my life would look like this. 

I never imagined that one of those tiny bodies I held close to my mama heart would not outlive me.

Now I sit in the same rocking chair in the dark, thinking about how so many things I wouldn’t have written into my story are now part of it.  

And if I’m honest,  it can easily overwhelm my heart.  It can carry me to a place of despair and desperation where there’s no room for thanksgiving-not the holiday OR the feeling.  

Here we are-the fifth year of holidays without Dominic-and I’m no better at it than I was at first.  

empty chair prayer

Oh, I’ve figured out how to make my way through the day.  I can lay out the plates, fill the pantry and put on a spread.  I am not nearly as prone to tears as I once was-at least not while folks are watching. 

But that easy flow of laughter and near chaos that once marked our gatherings has been replaced by a kind of mechanical plodding that moves from one moment to the next until the day has passed and I’ve survived once again.  

I always expected our family to grow larger.  I looked forward to the day we would no longer fit around the dining room table and we’d have to figure it out.  Spouses and then grandchildren peopled my imagination with such clarity!  While I never saw faces, I could hear the laughter and watch the motion of so. many. new. lives filling my home.  

This year is especially strange.  

Circumstances and work schedules and distance dictate that Thanksgiving will be spent with most of my family far away from my table.  

So there won’t be just one empty chair today, there will be several.  

And if I stare too long or focus too closely on what I don’t have, I can forget what I still possess. 

It’s a temptation-always.  

But temptation can be resisted.  I am not doomed to follow that train of thought to the bottom of the pit of despair.  

I refuse to let the darkness overwhelm the light.  

I will be thankful for all the love this house has known, still knows and will know.  I will be grateful that even though we are physically distant, we talk to one another, sharing laughter across the miles.  I will cherish the moments I had with Dominic and rest in the knowledge that in eternity we will have so many more.  

I can’t fill that chair-no one can fill that chair except my son-but I can fill my heart with good things.  

I can choose thankfulness even when it’s hard.  

Maybe that’s what Thanksgiving is really about-not an unending list of all the sweet things in life-but a short list of beauty extracted from the hard places.

Thanksgiving isn’t always bounty, sometimes it’s sacrifice.

Repost: Gratitude and Grieving

Gratitude does not undo grief.  

There, I said it.

Gratitude is important.  It is (in my opinion) a necessary ingredient for a healthy and hope-filled and useful life.  It is the key to any real happiness a heart might find on this broken road.

But it cannot fill up the empty place where Dominic used to be.  

Grief does not preclude gratitude.  

Although some broken hearts swear it does. 

Read the rest here:  Gratitude and Grieving: Appreciating What I Have, Acknowledging What I Miss

 

The Importance of Making Space for Grief During Holidays

We are days away from plunging headfirst into the rough and tumble holiday season.  

Thursday is  Thanksgiving and I don’t know about you, but it seems that once I eat the turkey and dressing, the clock moves faster and the days crowd one another in a race to Christmas and the end of the year.

So I want to take a minute to think about how important it is to make and maintain space for grief during this busy season.

You have to do it.  

I know, I know-where to fit it in between family gatherings, social engagements, mandatory office parties and children’s pageants?

If you don’t, though, the grief will out itself one way or another.  

So may I offer the following practical suggestions for this upcoming holiday season?

  • Start each day (whenever possible) with a few minutes of alone time.  Let those moments be the buffer between you and the day ahead.  Don’t allow your mind to wander to your “to do” list.  Sit.  Sip the hot beverage of your choice and let silence soothe your soul.
  • Don’t overschedule your days (or nights!).  Exercise the option of saying, “no” to things that are not really important or necessary.  Just because you have done it every other year doesn’t obligate you to do it this year.  Exhaustion always magnifies despair.  
  • Try to balance busy days with not so busy days.  The surest path to meltdown is traveling in the fast lane.
  • Let other people take on responsibilities-especially if they offer- and even if they don’t.  Asking for help when you need it is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness.
  • Keep a pad and pen on your nightstand and jot down any random thoughts that you don’t want to forget before bedtime.  There is no sense worrying about something you can’t address until morning and writing it down means you won’t forget it.
  • Make use of online everything.  Have gifts sent directly to recipients.  Order groceries for pick up.  There are many ways to make life less hectic and more enjoyable.  If you don’t know what’s available in your area, ask friends and family.
  • Plan for at least one recovery day for every large gathering/party/meal you have to attend.  Some of us need two.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.  If you are used to having matching everything, perfect centerpieces and gourmet meals it may be hard to lower your standards.  But if there is one thing I have learned since Dominic ran ahead to heaven, it’s that the companionship of those we love trumps anything else.  People rarely remember how you set your table but they will remember who sat around your table.
  • And if your heart is too tender to do anything but hold on and hope this month passes quickly, then do that.  You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations.  Sometimes that’t the best we can do and that is OK.

Grief requires so. much. energy.

And you can’t spend the same energy twice.

So make space for grief in your holiday plans.  

bereaved parents have one job during the holidays to survive

When You Just Don’t Feel Thankful

It’s all well and good when things are going just dandy to post a daily, “I’m thankful for [whatever]”.

It’s another thing entirely when the bottom has fallen out or your world is turned upside down or your heart is shattered and you can’t find even the tiniest spark of gratitude in your dark world.

Yet the Bible clearly states I am to “give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

thanks in all things blackboard

REALLY?????

I am absolutely NOT thankful that my son is dead.

I am not thankful my family circle is broken and my living children have to carry the weight of sibling loss for a lifetime.

I am not thankful that there will always be an empty chair at every holiday gathering regardless of how many show up around the table.

But the verse doesn’t say I have to be thankful FOR all circumstances, but instead to be thankful IN them.

Even on the morning of the dreadful news, I was filled with gratitude for the knowledge that nothing can separate me from the love of God.  

nothing-can-separate-hands

As I held the hands of two of my living children, I was oh, so thankful that they were there and that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we would walk through this together as a family.  

When the sun came up, my heart reminded me that the world was still turning and God was still on the throne.  

sunrise trees

And while it was a long, long time before these feelings were more than faint whispers against a background of screaming pain, I could still hear them.  

Now I have learned that thankfulness and brokenness can live side by side in a heart and in a life.  One does not overshadow or negate the other.

I may not be thankful for what I’m going through (frankly, I’m not) but I am thankful I’m not going through it alone.

I can come into the Presence of my God any time I choose because Jesus has made a way. I can bring my petitions before the Throne of Grace because there is no longer any veil separating me from the Father.

And I am always, always thankful for that. 

you are not alone

Thankful Heart, Broken Heart

I think I will repost this every year as long as I maintain this space.  

It may get old for some, but it will never get old for me.  

While my heart is turned toward thankfulness this time of year, I’m also profoundly aware of my own brokenness…

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.

My birthday sometimes falls on the day itself, and I have often been able to celebrate with extended family and friends-a full table of food and a full house of fellowship.

Read the rest here:  Thankful But Broken

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