‘Tis the Season
It’s that time of year again, the time of year that bereaved parents struggle with all of the anxiety from the anticipation of what the Holidays will bring in the way of unwanted gifts, Holiday memories. For some it’s the past Holiday memories that cause the pain while others, like me, it’s the lack of memories since both of my children were babies when we lost them.
I come from a Christen background so for me it’s the not knowing what it’s like to take my children to church service on Christmas or watching the excitement from your child as they open gifts on Christmas morning. Since many of the followers of this blog come from different religious backgrounds, I am sure many of you have similar types of Holiday traditions that cause you to reflect more during this time of year than other times.
Regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof, this time of year is tough because it also brings the end of another year without your child or it marks the first year without them.
I get a lot of emails from grieving dads this time of year telling me how hard it is or emails asking me for ideas on how to navigate through these 2-3 weeks. I wish I had all of the answers.
The one thing I have learned from the hundreds of conversations I have had with grieving dads is that many of the dads that have found hope in their lives again are doing something to create a legacy for their child as a way to honor them and their life.
Living to honor our children’s life can take on many forms. The way we honor our children is very unique and personal to the individual. It’s important to do things to honor our children throughout the year, but it’s especially important during the holiday season.
I remember the first Christmas following the death of my son Noah; it had been about 6 months since he had died. I was at a locals Macy’s department store when I had a meltdown that came out of nowhere. I found myself hiding amongst the fake Christmas trees. I was hiding because I was unable to control my crying and I didn’t want others to see me. What triggered it were the pink and blue baby ornaments that they had displayed on the tree. My mind was thinking about the “what if’s”, the “what could have been’s” and the “what will never be”.
Over the years, the holidays have become easier for me. Not easy, but easier.
I have a large pine tree in my yard and one of the things I do every year is decorate it with blue and white lights as a way to let Katie and Noah know that I am thinking about them. It’s the only thing I decorate on the outside of my house. However, the Christmas tree on the inside of my house is decorated with ornaments such as those pink and blue baby ornaments that use to trigger many emotions. No, the Holidays are no longer the same. I have no living children to enjoy the holidays with. All I can do is find ways to let Katie and Noah know that they are with me.
I have spoken to many grieving parents regarding how they handle the holidays. Some of the ideas that they have given me include: donating gifts to less fortunate children, sponsoring a family in need, volunteering at a food kitchen, visiting a children’s hospital or a retirement home. These are all excellent ways to honor your child. Some may appeal to you while others may not. If you can, try to find a cause that reminds you of your child. If you’re not feeling strong enough to take on big tasks, you can do something as simple as lighting a candle in their honor. Try to do something.
Wishing you and your family a peaceful Holiday Season!
What are your plans for the Holiday Season?
Thanks, Kelly, for providing a thoughtful forum for us dads. And thank you to other fathers for sharing. It helps to know there are others who understand.
For us, we’re still very much in the “can’t believe this happened to us” stage. And, of course, the holiday makes that even more painful. Our six-week old son, Grant, died suddenly on Thanksgiving and so it has been just four weeks really. We were joyful with anticipation at his first Christmas and instead we try to salvage little bits of the holiday. Gathering with family is both a comfort and a stark reminder.
The true gift this season has been the love from family and friends that surrounds us and holds us up – sometimes quite literally. But it is not easy to celebrate the birth of one baby when ours is not here. Christmas is my wife’s favorite holiday and in addition to attending to my own grief, I am trying to find some small ways to unwrap the Christmas spirit. It’s all so new, though, and raw. I know this will probably be our toughest year. I don’t want Thanksgiving and Christmas to always hold so much sadness. They will always be days of remembrance, but I look forward to being able to remember the best of those six weeks we had with our son and not the tragedy that holds so much power now.
So to answer the question, we’re taking it one day at a time. Some family and friends are getting pictures of them and Grant. Others are sending us messages that they’re lighting candles in his memory. And we’re thinking of our son constantly, remembering, and holding him alive in our hearts.
To you and yours, a peaceful holiday.
You are welcome. Unfortunately, there are a lot of us who understand your pain and the journey you are on. We are all at different points along this path.
I understand the holding you up “quite literally”. I understand that all to well. It is often difficult to handle all of this raw pain by ourselves. I applaud you for allowing others to help you, there is no reason that you should do this on your own. The tragedy does hold a lot of power for a while, but embrace the precious time you had with your son. Cling to those moments and find ways to live your life to honor him. In time, the pain will start to recede, but for now, you must do what it takes to survive these Holidays and the New Year approaching.
We are here for you Thom, call or email me anytime.
This year Christmas will be very hard for us. Not only do we not get to spend it with our daughter, but today, Dec. 23rd would have been her first birthday. This last month leading up to today has been one of the toughest I have ever faced. It seemed like things were getting better as the monthly anniversaries passed, but as December came closer and closer I know it was going to be tough.
To honor our daughter my wife and I decided to give back. My wife created a Facebook event called “Z’s Birthday Bash”. We asked people to participate by buying items from the Amazon wishlist for the NICU where she was born. Today we made the delivery to the NICU of the many different items that were donated such as clothes, blankets, toys, and more all in our daugthers memory.
My heart still aches and I miss my daughter so much today but it was good to continue my daughters legacy for giving. I recieved a Christmas miracle last year when I was able to take my daughter home and today while it may not be miracle, we hope that the gifts that were donated will help others during this holiday season.
Thank you so much Kelly for giving us this gift of sharing. You have helped my wife and I get through a rough year and look forward to the future, especially the coming of our second child due two days after the one year anniversary of Zayana’s passing.
Merry christmas to you, your family, and the other dads and families facing this holiday season after losing thier children. I hope that everyone can find some bit of peace.
Thank you for your kind words. I am honored to be one of the people that has able to help you and your wife through this very difficult year.
I understand the aching heart feeling you mention. I would describe it as this intense feeling of love that just needed to be let out and I didn’t have them to give it too. The love and the pain were so deep.
I applaud you for the work you are doing with “Z’s Birthday Bash”. What a fantastic way to honor Zayana. To know that you may be able to provide some level of hope to someone else provides some healing. I never understood this before my losses, but there is healing in helping others.
I hope this past Christmas weekend was kind to you and your family. I know there are a lot of memories from last year that will everything they can to haunt you.
Thanks for sharing Ernesto.
First and foremost, thank you for your caring, support and friendship throughout this first year without Colin. I appreciate all more than you know. Funny thing is that if he were still alive I would probably never known your or every other grieving dad out there ever existed. And, honestly, I would have been ok with that. However, since I had no choice in my son dying, at least he left me a path to find you, Ernesto, Bryan, and many others to help guide and support me this year. For that, I am forever grateful.
Second, from my family to yours, a very sincere and thoughtful Merry Christmas to you all. May it be loving and peaceful for you and your wife.
Third and lastly, to answer your question, we are going to enjoy the company of friends who love and accept us for the people we are now, and we are going to do our best to remember Colin in a way that makes us cry tears of love and remembrance rather than guilt and sorrow. I will let you know if we are successful.
Thanks for the holiday wishes, my wife and I spent the weekend just enjoying each other’s company and relaxing, it was very peaceful.
As far as thanking me for the support, you are welcome. It is my pleasure to be able to help grieving parents as much as I can. I know I cant take away the pain, but hopefully I provide insight into issues that help others not feel so alone on this journey.