The holidays are going to be different this year.
There will be an empty chair at the dining table this Thanksgiving. At Christmastime, there will be fewer presents under the tree and an empty stocking hanging on the mantel.
This will be my oldest child’s first holiday season in Heaven. And it will be my family’s first one without his physical presence.
It will be different.
I know there are too many parents who can relate.
You may not realize it now, but you will survive this season. It will be difficult beyond measure and there will be days where the pain is so staggering you will want to crawl into a hole, fall asleep, and never wake up.
But you will survive.
I realize survival doesn’t seem like the most adequate of options. But sometimes it’s the only option because it’s all we have the strength for. And that’s OK.
I urge you to let yourself break down, rest, mourn, and cry whenever and wherever you need to. You’ve been told that grief is an important part of healing. It’s true. And grief has no wrong way. Whether you share your sorrow with your support circle, or prefer being alone, you must do whatever is healing to your soul.
But I also invite you to search for serenity. And even happiness, because it does exist. It exists in your partner, your other children, and in family and friends.
During Mother’s Day earlier this year, a friend of mine, another angel-mom, reminded me of the mystery of pain and joy being held simultaneously. Before experiencing the death of one of my children, I never would have understood that. I do now.
And this holiday season will be the same way. We will experience delight and joy from our other children and family at the same time we endure grief for our loss.
It will be different
This Thanksgiving, we will be thankful for the time we had with our oldest son and for the memories we have of him. We will remember his smile and his great joy at spending time with his friends and family. We will be grateful for the time we did have with him, and would do it all over again despite the pain of him leaving this Earth far too soon.
At Christmas, we will hang up our oldest child’s stocking and remember previous seasons that we spent together. We will place his hand-made ornaments on the tree. In lieu of gifts for him, we will donate, in his name, to a charity that is important to us.
It will be different.
To our family members and friends…
This season, be kind and patient with us. Talk about our children. We don’t need platitudes; instead we may need you to sit with us and hold our hands. We may need you to laugh and cry with us. We will need your understanding while we choose to avoid some of the festivities. We always need you to pray for and love us.
And to my fellow bereaved parents…
Please remember to do what you need to do, and avoid what you need to avoid. Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. Accept help whenever it is offered. Ask for help if it is not offered. This holiday season will be different. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be filled with peace and joy amidst our grief. We will celebrate our children and be thankful for them and for the joy they brought to us.
And please know that we are connected through this unimaginable web of loss and I am praying for you and holding you in my heart.