by Kay Bevington
Editor’s Note: Although Kay wrote this article especially for parents with no surviving children, everyone will find useful information for coping with the upcoming holiday season.
The forthcoming holidays are often the most difficult times of the year for bereaved parents, now childless and other bereaved people. I have some suggestions that will hopefully assist you during this season. My husband and I have attempted some of the following since our daughter, Rhonda, died and others are ideas from other bereaved friends.
YOU WILL SURVIVE the HOLIDAYS!
Those first few years of bereavement cause us to think that we’ll certainly die without our child/children. You may not be able to ENJOY the holiday but rest assured that there will be a day in your future when you’ll be able to once again gain some pleasure from them. It will never be the same without your child/children but you will learn to cope and reinvest in others and have a life again. Read more
by Hamp Thomas
One of the hardest times of the year is facing Christmas morning. It’s anticipation in reverse. We tend to dread this morning, knowing we should be happy and thankful for all the blessings we still have. But somehow, the blessing we are missing overwhelms our thoughts. You can’t feel the joy through the pain. For those who have suffered the loss of a family member, especially a child (whether it’s been one year or twenty-one years), Christmas is not the same. Emotions are high all around us, and our emotions are also at their peak during the holidays. They offer us the time to think and remember, and to grieve. Read more
by LaFreda Kilburn
The holidays are difficult to face after the death of a child or loved one. One way we can remember and share time with our loved ones is to place a Memorial Tree in our local mall. We now have two nine foot ones, full of angels.
Each November, we gather and decorate our trees with pictures and names of our children and loved ones who have gone on without us, and remember how we use to decorate our trees with them. Then on the second Sunday in December, we gather around our trees to spend one evening during the holidays with our children and loved ones. Read more
by Ruth Stoecker
Many families share the pain of Christmas without their child and how the extended family reacts to them at that traditional Christmas get-together. It is so common to ‘just pretend’; just pretend that all is well! They seem to think that maybe if they don’t talk about it, don’t even mention her/his name, the day will be more pleasant, not so awkward… maybe it will be like it really didn’t happen… And there, in the room, is an elephant the size of King Kong and everyone steps around it. Read more
by Tom Wyatt
There are important moments in our grief recovery where we take a stand, so to speak, or make a decision to pursue a new path. These decisions are turning points and even though this new path may lead to a dead-end, it can signal a positive step in a willingness to try something new.
One of my turning points came during the first holiday season without Johnny. It was mid-November and I was already sick of the holidays. I was at a very low point but kept on a happy face at work. One morning in particular was horrible. I had sat in traffic on the way to work just like every other day except this time I was stuck behind a flatbed roll back tow truck. For those that don’t know, that was the kind of truck that hit and killed my son. By the time that I got to work I was a basket case. I decided to hide in my office and possibly have a good cry when one of my “caring” co-workers stuck his head in the door and with a big Hallmark holiday smile on his face said, “how ya doin today, Tom?” ‘How are you?’ tends to be one of those throw away lines that people greet you with but never want the real answer just as sure as this gentleman didn’t want but got. Read more
by Darcie D. Sims
It has been a loooooong time since our first bereaved holiday season, but one of the very special ways we learned to help ourselves through the sometimes crushing grief, was to make sure that we still include our son in our celebration. We do this by buying a gift to him and then giving it away to a child who would otherwise not have a gift.
Dad buys a gift for the age Big A would be and I always buy a gift for the age he was when he died. We wrap them in beautiful paper and then tag it, “Boy, age”…putting the appropriate age on the tag. Then we either take it down to the local homeless shelter or to the Salvation Army or find a minister who will make it sure it gets to a child in need. The first time I did this, I realized that I was a mother who no longer had a child to give a gift to, but I was giving a gift to a child who did not have a mother to receive one from. In that moment, I realized the circle of love that I thought had forever been broken…was mended. Share the love we received from our loved one with others and it will never be lost. We are a family circle, broken by death, but mended by love. Read more
by Armen Bacon
Surviving the holidays when your heart is in ‘Griefland’ (and you’d rather be home alone in your sweats) can be daunting at best. Saying yes to party invitations, cooking, shopping, managing the multitude of ‘to do’s’ generally associated with this time of year, only add to the nagging hurt we feel with the absence of our loved ones.
As someone who has navigated holiday blues for nine years, let me just say that any way you get through this season is heroic. While there are moments when you might want to be surrounded by friends and festivities, there are other moments of profound sadness, when all you want to do is lock the doors, curl up in a ball, and wake up in January. Give yourself permission to do both. Read more
by Margaret Jackson
In 2010 after my son died, I knew that I could not survive unless I did something drastic. For me drastic, was starting a nonprofit RJ Smiles that focused on making people happy. Somehow I figured if I made others happy, that might somehow seep into my life and bring me some kind of happiness or joy. Christmas however, was a completely different thing. Christmas had always been my most favorite time of the year and something that Richard and I shared, laughed about and enjoyed. My favorite tradition was going through the stockings we had prepared for each other. Read more
by Deborah Anthony
Welcome to the “holidays”, a component of the grief journey that can find everyone sporting a veil, not just the grievers. Holidays are those times when the most discord can surface, not only between the immediate family members of the child no longer here, but extended family member and friends as well.
In efforts to simplify this complex aspect that surfaces upon the death of a child, please consider the following perspectives:
For the grieving:
- Create only that which you can manage
- Follow your heart
- Celebrate at the level you feel up to
- Put yourselves first
- Make a joint family decision incorporating at least one piece from each person
- (meaning those living in the bereaved family home)
- Make no more than a 20% change each year
by Taya Jo Kupsch
My fourteen year old son, Robert Kupsch ( Bobby), died 24 February 2012 in his sleep of a heart condition we never knew he had (no signs or symptoms all his life). He was such a sweet child who served his life’s purpose in such a short time, but we are so blessed still for having those fourteen years spent with us.
Our first Christmas without my son Bobby, we still set a place for him at the Christmas table, with place card and photo. We decorated his room and his bass guitar with lights, something he loved so much doing at holiday time. We would leave little treats like chocolate and candy to remember his love for the sweet things in life. We would leave an empty decorative box under the tree and we would fill it with the things written on paper that we would love him to know and have. Our intentions of love, our gift we would have bought him.
We would take this box that was filled with little notes and love to his resting place and leave it on his gravestone, sending it straight to heaven. We are heading towards our second Christmas and I’m already thinking about my intentions and gift for him.