When we have to say a final earthly goodbye to our child, it affects everything.
Even the word family takes on a whole new meaning. Our family will never be complete again. There are no replacements for child loss…
And because of that, phrases with the word family in them can bring on crashing emotions.
• Family photo
• Family reunion
• Family vacation
• Family meal
• Family pack (of tickets, etc.)
• Family holiday
• Family picnic
Any kind of family gathering, event, or even advertisements, is a glaring reminder of the child we are missing.
We get a front row seat to the meaning of the word bittersweet. For me personally:
Our middle son will be the only one of the siblings who had all five of them present at his wedding. The other three will be missing their sister, both at the event itself, and in the family wedding photos. Bittersweet…
We have had four grandchildren born since Becca died. The day those precious little ones made their entrance into the world was wonderful, but someone was missing. We only have one grandchild who knew her Aunt Becca. Any other grandchildren will not have that blessing. Bittersweet…
Our family is growing, and as my children get married and start their own families, it gets harder to have us all together for the holidays. On those fun times when we are all together, we aren’t really all together, because Becca and her daughter are missing. Bittersweet…
Graduations, school dances, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, birthday parties, weddings, baby showers…all of these and many more events can be overshadowed with a reminder of who is not there, and be bittersweet…
As I sit here at my desk, I am surrounded by memories and thoughts of Becca. It always amazes me how some days memories can make me smile, and other days they bring tears.
Holidays, like the ones we have just been through, definitely have the same effect 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 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 (much less get dressed).
It’s okay not to be okay! Let me say that again, a little louder this time.
IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY!
Well now, this doesn’t sound like a word of hope, does it? At least 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 NORMAL!
It gave me so much hope to know that there are other bereaved parents out there who were once in the same place I am and yet seem to have figured out how to live without their child. And that they still have moments of not being okay with their child being gone from this earth.
And it also helps, when we can find ways others around us make sure the memory of our child is kept alive at these bittersweet events.
With that being said, here are a few suggestions to help you face events this coming year, that 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 the always animated favorite 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. Then wear the same hats each year or change it up and make new ones.)
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!
So often we are told in 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 difficult events in the coming year. But whatever you do, do it with HOPE, knowing that means:
HOPE – Hold On, Pain Eases!
I will never say the pain ends, but it will eventually ease, as we learn how to carry the pain of our loss in a way that doesn’t consume and devour us.
But we will always have moments where it still does, and that is okay.
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Expressions of Hope is written by author and speaker Laura Diehl. Laura is a national keynote speaker and also a workshop speaker for both The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents USA national conferences. Laura has also been a guest on Open to Hope several times, and has hosted her own conferences, a virtual conference and many webinars. If you would like more information about Laura as a speaker for your next event, click here.