Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thanksgiving & Christmas Ahead - Further Along the Journey

Handling the Holidays after a Loss by Nancy Hamlin

My mother died on July 1, 1993, so we went into my daughter’s birthday, (November 25th), Thanksgiving, and Christmas thinking we had grieved.  When I look back on this time, I want to laugh at how totally crazy were we in thinking that we had even begun to understand what my mother’s death meant for our family.

I went “over the top” for my daughter’s birthday, making this elaborate Teddy Bear cake from a mold, and I think it took me 6 hours to put the star frosting on, star by star.  Julia had far too many presents for a 2-year-old, one present after another.  She couldn’t even comprehend all of the unnecessary bounty.

I was frantic.  I didn’t stop moving.  I made Thanksgiving dinner and then proceeded to buy  tons of Christmas presents.    On Christmas day, my husband, daughter, father, and brother kept opening presents until we were exhausted. I remember us sitting in my parent’s living room after opening the presents.  We were all very quiet, just looking at each other, and I remember feeling…terrible, just terrible. What was wrong? What did I miss? What didn’t I do right? Why did I feel so incredibly sad?

The answer is that I had not planned on anything feeling different. I had not planned on what it was going to feel like to NOT have my mother at my daughter’s 2nd birthday, or at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  I so wish I had. I so wish we had. We caused ourselves unnecessary additional pain because we were all pretending that we could just “go on” without her and not feel this amazing void, this huge hole in our lives. Oh my. It was so sad…

Lesson learned – DO NOT go into your holiday season and pretend that nothing has happened, that you can just do everything the same as before and it will “all work out.” IT WON’T.  Be wiser. Be healthier. Plan. Do something different.  Realize that the whole world has changed and don’t fight it.  Embrace it.  It’s your chance to make some decisions that make you feel comforted, loved, and cared for. You can do this….you can handle the holidays and grieve and love and rest in God’s care.  The best way to honor your loved one is to not just survive, but to THRIVE. 

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  1. We just lost our baby daughter on November 16th. I don't even want to go to any family holiday thing this year. I would rather just stay home with my husband. I feel like I don't have to face anything when it's just him and I. We understand how each other feels, we can laugh, or cry, and it doesn't matter. I don't want to deal with the "looks" or the "longer hugs" or the awkward "How are you doing?"...I mean, really how do you even answer that? I wish I knew how to THRIVE with the loss of my daughter, but I can't even grasp that I have lost her yet...I mean, I'm still supposed to be pregnant, she goes 3 months early, fights for a week, and goes home to God.

    1. Dear Sarah, we are deeply sorry for your loss. The conflict of the “holiday season” and your “grieving season” will further heighten the pain and tension you are experiencing. We encourage you to take time for yourself to grieve, empowering yourself to choose the places and people you can tolerate to engage with now and if/when you have had enough, know it is ok to retreat and do some healthy hiding. For more thoughts on approaching the days ahead, I have posted the audio recording of our Handling the Holidays teaching held on 11/13/13 on the upper right section of this site. You can listen to this by following the link and downloading it. We also suggest you register and attend the next Grief Support Workshop by following the link on this site.

      And lastly, for those people who ask “How are you?”, it is your choice to share, how much you share or not to share at all. I find a simple “taking one day at a time” is enough for most people and I encourage you to embrace this in practice. This is a time to simplify your commitments and take each day as it comes. We pray you will find remnants of peace in your current ruptured world.