All I really remember is a blur of deep suffocating pain the first holiday season after our daughter, Becca, died. But one thing I do specifically remember was knowing we were heading towards a new year, and I felt panicked about being in a different year than the one she died. I was not ready to “leave her behind” like that! Have you had similar thoughts?
As it happens every year, many stores already have fall items on clearance and are filling the shelves with Christmas while we are still in October. This can make for a very long three to four months, as we wrap up this year and head into a new one.
Believe it or not, there are things you can do to help ease the pain and bring in a glimmer of light here and there into your place of darkness.
I like to think of them as gifts you can give to yourself.
- Change one tradition. If there is one that is particularly painful, change it to something that makes you feel less torn. (Example – instead of the painful memory of shopping for the perfect fresh Christmas tree, buy an artificial one.)
- Be up front, and let close family and friends know this is still painful. (You can do this by giving them something to read, written by someone else on this journey, to explain why this is normal and what will help and what will hurt those of us in deep grief.)
- While you are at it, ask everyone to come to the family event prepared with a special memory of your child/loved one to share. Just a note: funny is good, as laughter brings a measure of healing. (Remind your family that the holiday gatherings are a precious time to spend time with each other and to talk about and share memories with those who couldn’t make it. Death just puts your child in the category of one who could not make it.) You may find you hear stories you never knew, and this may even give you something to look forward to instead of dreading being with others.
- Buy a special notebook and write to your child/loved one over the holidays. Describe holiday scenes to them, share with him or her events you attended, let them know how much you miss them. (There will probably be lots of tears, but tears are cleansing and will also bring a measure of healing.)
- Do that one thing you enjoyed doing with your child/loved one with a close friend or family member who will share the memories with you. (For instance, have someone over to help bake and decorate Christmas cookies who will allow you to go through all of the emotions from tears to laughter as you go through the motions of the activity.)
There is one last “gift” I want to share with you, which I personally believe is the most important.
Isolation is paralyzing. I understand our need to be alone, I truly do. We need lots and lots of time alone to work through the painful suffocating darkness, and start to figure out who we are now without our child (including deciding if we even want to know).
But we also need people.
We need people who will hold us up while allowing us to grieve deeply.
It took me over two years to connect with other grieving parents. I didn’t want to be around a group of people who were a mess like me. When I finally made myself go to a gathering of grieving moms, I discovered the opposite – how healing it was to be around a group of people who were a mess, just like me!
They understood. They got it. I didn’t have to explain myself, or excuse myself for any emotion I was feeling or reacting to. It was wonderful!
We also need people who will help us move forward in a way that is not pushy, but supportive.
This may be the same group, or a totally different group of people. I have found “my people,” and for me, it has been a different group.
Last week, I was surrounded by over 200 kindred spirits who have a personal message to share and are moving forward in taking that message to those in the world who need it. They are souls on fire, and Kary Oberbrunner is the Chief Igniter.
I cannot begin to tell you what these few days did to boost the desire to allow God’s fire of purpose burn brightly in me once again. Yes, it is a completely different purpose than it was a few years ago, of traveling to the nations for children’s ministry and trainings. But it is a flame that was fanned to new proportions. It now feels like a blazing fire of determination to not let Becca’s death be wasted; to reach as many bereaved parents as possible with the message of hope, helping each pareavor find their personal path to a fulfilled life of purpose beyond the pain.
Oftentimes, our deepest pain becomes our greatest purpose.
That has definitely been the case for me and, if you allow it, will be the same for you. How do I know? Because of those I rubbed shoulders with at the Igniting Souls conference. Each one there had a story to tell, and many have told it by becoming an author with a published book (which was celebrated and made available to the attendees) including several who have faced the death of their child/children.
Each one in the Igniting Souls “tribe” has connected, because they have chosen to surround themselves with others who will impart into them what is needed to make their purpose as effective as possible.
Each one has chosen not to become isolated in their pain, but to take the risk to reach out and help others behind them on the same journey.
How about you? Where are you on this grief journey of pain to purpose?
May I recommend you start with the list of five gifts that you can give to yourself. Pick only one, or do them all. Wherever you are in this journey is okay. Only you know what is right and will work for you.
Then make sure you are connected to those who are on this path ahead of you; someone who can walk with you, with support and encouragement. It will make such a huge difference, especially during the dreaded holiday season.
And if you are ready, ask God to connect you with a group who will help you find a purpose from the pain of the death of your child. If you aren’t quite ready for that step, I pray that I have convinced you that at some point, it will be important to find and grab hold of a group of people who will help you move forward by discovering and walking in your unique purpose, with your gifts and talents.
Don’t stay on a path that keeps you in total darkness, pain and fear.
Make a choice to take at least one step toward light, hope, and a fire in your soul once again. It can take a while to get to the point of wanting it, and it will be something you have to fight for. When those two things come together (a desire to have it and a willingness to stay in the battle to win the war), you will find yourself standing on a different path; the path of learning how to live a fulfilled life with meaning and purpose beyond the death of your child.
You can do it, because I did it, and I believe in you!
If you have not been able to find a group that will help you move forward, while allowing you to feel the pain of your loss, you might want to consider joining author Laura Diehl during the holidays in a semi-private coaching session for the next three months. There is a limit of twelve people who will be meeting together with Laura via the internet twice a month from November through January. The cost is only $75 for this valuable opportunity.
Click here to fill out a simple application form to submit.
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.