As I sit here at my desk, I am surrounded by memories of my daughter, Becca. It always amazes me how some days memories can make me smile, and other days they bring tears.
Holidays definitely have the same affect on me. Some moments, some days, some years are filled with tears, and others are filled with warm memories that bring smiles and even laughter.
And I have learned that it’s okay. It’s okay to be smiling one moment and crying the next. It’s okay to be able to go to one event and but not go to the next event. It’s okay to want to talk about my child with someone who misses her. It’s okay to not want to talk about my child right now to anyone. It’s okay to fall apart and be a mess because something triggered a wave of grief, and it’s okay to have that happen with no explanation. It’s okay to finally have a burst of energy one day, and the next day not even get out of bed.
It’s okay to not be okay! Let me say that again, a little louder this time. Especially as a bereaved parent:
IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY!
And that is encouraging. Well, maybe not to those who have never faced a deep loss like ours. But if you are anything like me, this was a relief when I found out it is not only okay to be like this, but it is NORMAL!
It gave me so much hope to know that there are other bereaved parents who seem to have figured out how to live without their child, who were once in the same “not okay” place that I still find myself in at times.
So, what do we do?
How can you deal with all of this holiday stuff that is just so hard, and the people around you don’t understand why you are struggling so much? There are some events we can avoid, but how about the ones we really have to attend, and just have to figure out how to get through them?
May I offer a few suggestions to help you face the holiday events you just can’t seem to avoid in a way that will bring some relief to you, if only for a few moments.
1. Take a memory book, and ask people to write something to your child and a special memory.
2. Ask them to make a toast specifically acknowledging by name all family members who have passed on.
3. Play one of your child’s favorite upbeat songs and have everyone dance to it (even something fun like the Chicken Dance Song or Let It Go).
4. Have a silly hat contest, with your child’s favorite color featured. (This would have to be planned ahead, and might make a wonderful yearly tradition. Do the hats each year, or change it up.)
5. Find photos of the family members/friends with your child, and make it into a video with music everyone will enjoy watching.
6. Take a movie your child liked to watch, and ask the group you are with to watch it with you.
And if none of these suggestions seem like they will make you want to be there, guess what? It’s okay!
People around us who have never lost a child will say time heals, (which is why they think we should be over the death of our child after a year or two). As a bereaved parent who has been on this journey for six years, I don’t believe that. I believe it is a chain reaction of where we allow and train our thoughts to go, which affects the choices we make, which affects what we do with our time, which brings a measure of needed healing. (That’s a bit to unpack, which is better to leave to another article.)
Some of us are also told in this life, “It’s not about you.” But the truth is, sometimes it is. Only you know what is right for you as a bereaved parent through the holiday season. But whatever you do, do it with HOPE.
HOPE – Hold On, Pain Eases!
Based on those I have talked to who are much further down the road than I am, I will never say the pain ends. But it can eventually ease, depending on some of the choices you make with your thoughts and actions.
But if you are just in survival mode right now, that’s okay. Do what you need to do to get through it!
And let me end by saying, don’t expect people who have never faced a holiday season with the death of their child to understand. Those of us who are bereaved parents ahead of you on the path know that it’s okay not to be okay, because we are still not okay without our child.
If you would like thirty suggestions to help bring yourself comfort and take care of yourself body, soul, and spirit, just fill in your name and email address below, and we would be happy to get it right to you.
Expressions of Hope is written by author and speaker Laura Diehl to bring hope, light and life to those struggling in darkness after a tragedy, especially bereaved parents. If you would like more information about Laura as an author or a speaker for your next event, click here.
GPS Hope exists to bring hope to parents who have suffered the death of a child, acknowledging their unique grief with support, connection and education for them and those around them.