Christmas time — bright twinkly lights… presents wrapped in beautiful paper and bows… pine trees decorated with lights, pretty bulbs and ribbons… rich food… friends… family… happiness.
Why do I feel so sad???
Many of us who have lost a loved one, don’t feel the wonders of Christmas and wish it would just go away.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the media, picture perfect Christmas that we miss those that feel the depths of grieving at the holidays. I know because I lost a son 9 years ago. Most people (those that haven’t experienced this…hope you never do either), would say it’s time to get over this grief.
I know your hearts are good and you want to see us happy, but the loss is so great that, may I say, we will NEVER get over it. There is a song by Vince GilI that says
“I’m trying to get over you, but it’ll take dying to get it done”.
It is exactly how I feel. I will grieve and miss my son until the day I die. I am writing this for those of you that have great loss and for those of you who don’t understand our grief.
There are several things I did after my Joey left this earth. I want to say here that I have moved on.
I have two adult children, three adult stepchildren, two daughters in law, one son in law, six grandchildren and an amazing husband (I re-married a year ago).
My first anniversary is this Saturday. I am extremely blessed in all of this, but nonetheless, I can be at the grocery store and see the penny horse that kids ride and have a huge wave of grief hit me. It just happened today.
I was finished paying, walking to the car and got a quick picture of Joey when he was about 3 years old riding that horse and waving at me.
I had to use all the tools within me to not lose it right there in the crowded grocery store.
The good news is that those moments are less frequent and not as intense as they used to be. The most important thing I did after Joey’s death was to stay closely in touch and keep in communication with God. I simply would not have made it without my faith.
I will say that I was angry with God until I came to understand how completely good his heart always is.
This took time and some wrestling with God, but it made my faith stronger and my gratitude to God greater. Another thing we (my two kids went with me) did after he died was to join a support group for a period of time. It was a great help in moving on.
There were people there that were farther down the road on the journey of grief and really helped me to have hope about the time I would feel so awful! The third thing was that we changed how we did Christmas. We (the kids and I) decided to change the location from my house to my daughter and son in law’s house.
It’s sometimes the traditions that leave the gap so evident and raw. We really didn’t do too well the first three Christmases, but it did begin to get easier.
The fourth thing we did was to talk about him. It was not a taboo subject with us. We supported each other when we had a ‘Joey moment”. If you notice, I use the pronoun “we” a lot because I was not in this alone. If you don’t have family, find a support group.
You need others during this time. There are a few other tools that helped me get to my present day life without Joey.
1. I made & took time to grieve.
I spent time that was very intentional to grieve. I would set aside a morning to just read about grieving, write letters to Joey or letters to God or just journal my feelings. I hated those times, but I also needed them greatly.
It is so important that you grieve. Don’t numb yourself or skip those hard feelings.
They are really a gift that will help you to feel better and move on in your life, When the anger came I would write a letter about how angry I was and I would get an old ugly plate from good will, put it in a plastic bag and break it with a hammer until I felt better. Anger and tears are those feelings that must be let out.
2. I practiced “heart breathing”
This really helped me to calm down when an intense moment would hit me and I needed to not break down. The way you do this is to put your hand on your heart. Now imagine that when you inhale your breath is entering through your heart and your hand.
When you exhale imagine that your breath is leaving through your hand and your heart. It is a great way to line up your body and your energy. I would concentrate on the breathing instead of the feeling that was about to overtake me.
3. I grieved in my own way.
One last thing that I allowed my self was that I didn’t let others tell me how to grieve. Everyone grieves differently and some people have a harder time moving as fast.
If you need to go to the grave-site often, then do it.
If you need to have pictures all over the house then do it.
If you need to scream in your car or in your house then do it.
I know this sounds crazy but sometimes it’s how you as a person can move on. I want to say this and it is very IMPORTANT. If you stay stuck and can’t get though your life get counseling. If you have depression that leads to suicidal thoughts, get a counselor.
There is no shame if you need help through all this. I needed a counselor and did EMDR (Eye Movement desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) It’s one of the hardest things you will ever have to get through. My son’s death was sudden and had trauma around it so I needed to get help to move forward.
For those that have a friend or a family member that is struggling with grieve this Christmas, the greatest gift you can give to them is your presence and your spirit of listening.
Don’t try to fix it. Don’t try to explain it like saying everything happens for a reason… that does not help us. (I know your spirit is good, but we really don’t want it explained with simple explanations).
Just be patient with them, love them, and be there to support them. Easier said than done, I know, but it is what we need.
“Grief never ends . . . but it changes.
It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor
A lack of faith . . .
It is the price of love”