This year I have been selfish. This year I have written very little for this blog. Why? This year I truly have turned the page. Last month I was honored to be invited to participate in a medical mission trip in Guatemala. While I was in Guatemala holding a small child after surgery, I realized an extraordinarily great thing. I realized how proud that Logan would be of me for making the decision to live. Even more importantly, I was proud of myself.
As the holidays approach, I have not wanted to write about grief. It is the first year that I have walked through the stores and have not felt the deep dread of Christmas. I have even purchased a few gifts this year. This year I realized that Logan loves me so much that he would be devastated if I had died with him. For many years, I was miserable. This has been a tough and long road. Honestly, I love feeling joy again. This is not where most of you are today, and part of me feels guilty for writing about it.
As I looked at some of my previous notes, I found the following email that I had written a few years ago.
So I have had a lot of thoughts, as always... this is what is most recently on my mind.
Last year-- the day before Thanksgiving, I wrote this and put it on Facebook.
"The holidays are a big magnifying glass. When you have a "perfect" feeling family, it feels joyous. When you have that crazy aunt or uncle that annoys everyone, this crazy feeling is magnified. When there is a death in the family and that loss is there, that loss is magnified. When there are unmet expectations in life, such as divorce and loneliness, the feelings associated with that event are magnified. Holidays magnify the best in us, such as our charitable side. Holidays also bring out the worst in us, such as when we see life's disappointments.
Humans disappoint us because they are human. Sadly, when life has dealt trauma and drama and permanent separation of normalcy as well as grief, the holidays have a flavor of sorrow.... Reflect on what this holiday magnifying glass shows you personally this year. Blessings!"
That was a few years ago. The following note was a few years down the road.
My first Thanksgiving and Christmas without Logan are still so painfully memorable... for someone who was in a fog. Those who know me well know that I grieve many different things during the holidays. The loss of your child is the "Primary Loss." It is the "Secondary Losses" that I grieve now.
In speaking with many of you recently, I have noticed that many are feeling "anger" right now. Like I have said before, NONE of this is "Normal" but all of what we are feeling is "Natural." I think that it is "natural" to feel anger when there is the empty chair at the holiday dinner table and no one will mention our child that isn't here. I think that it is common that the BIG invisible elephant is in the room.
Often people are fearful of mentioning the absence and loss of our child (every day but especially on a holiday). This makes many of us angry at times! Why wouldn't it make us angry?
But... when looking at their side, they don't KNOW what to do or how to support us. If this is your first holiday season without your child, you will probably notice people whispering in the background - "How is she doing?" If this is NOT your first holiday, everyone is still wondering how to respond. Before my Logan died, I had no idea how to support people who were enduring the very long process of grief. I THOUGHT that I did, but I failed miserably. When people ask "How are you doing?" Answer them honestly... "Today is hard for me. Thank you for asking."
Know that this is a time of MUCH emotion and that we are oversensitive to people's actions and words right now. Protect yourself by taking care of YOU and your family. But mamas, YOU are the backbone of the family and you must MAKE yourself relax. Carve out time to have a long bubble bath. Maybe go have a massage or a pedicure. Lay down and take a nap. You don't HAVE to make dozens of cookies.... cut down on the "celebration" part if you need to.
BREATHE.... relax those shoulders down...
One of my friends who lost a child several years ago - him and his wife went to the movies on Christmas. "Some things you cannot do again." It was too painful to "go thru the motions" for them... but now that there are grandchildren, they are trying Christmas again.
So to wrap this up...
- You are oversensitive
- You may feel anger... try to not let it get so big that you BLOW up
- Protect yourself
- People do not know what to do to help, so TELL them
One more thing... During the holidays it is especially important to "count" your alcoholic beverages. In the past you may have been able to handle a few alcoholic beverages, but now you are in a dangerous place. Count to one and (at the very most) two on special occasions. Cut yourself off. Be aware that this is a pitfall that you do NOT want to fall into. Statistically, one year after the death of a child, 40% of parents have a drug or drinking problem. (Compassionate Friends data obtained from the book *Surviving the Loss of a Child*)
I will end with a positive note... THIS is what I try to focus on during the holidays. I focus on the incredible gift that the birth of Christ was for us... and now that I have a child in Heaven, it means even more to me. This gift was sent to us so we will be able to have an eternity with our children one day (as a reunited family).
Now-- today, I celebrate Christmas future. This new season in my life is filled with contentment and joy. When I think of Logan, I think of his LIFE.... Not as much his death. I know that Logan would be proud of me as I believe that I am finally learning how to grieve forward. Deeply thankful for our loving Gods continuous gifts. Hang in there friends....