by Angela Miller
There are some who believe that positive thinking and gratitude are the answer to most of life’s ailments. And perhaps it is the answer for most of them. But is it possible to be both grateful and grieving?
Sure a posture of gratitude can help many situations, but gratitude doesn’t always feel possible when grieving the loss of a child. Maybe it’s the quick fix, game changer for some things in life that aren’t as permanent, but all the positive thoughts in the world aren’t going to change the fact that my child is dead. It will not change the empty chair at my table on Thanksgiving, the 3T clothes my son never grew into, or the hole exactly the size and shape of him that is permanently frayed into the fabric of every moment of my life now.
Gratitude is great– really, it is– but it can’t fix child loss. Nothing can. The only fix for my pain would be to raise my child from the dead.
Bring to the table a cornucopia filled with my blessings and I’ll bring you one filled with my infinite pain. Let’s put them both on the empty chair next to me where my seven year old should be sitting, joyously stuffing his face with pumpkin pie.
Telling me to only focus on my blessings and not what’s missing this holiday season is like telling me to forget if I had lost all my limbs. Yes, I’d still be thankful for what I had left and yes I’d also be deeply sad for what is missing.
Both are true. It’s not one or the other. Yes I’m still grieving because I love and miss my son with every molecule in my body, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also deeply thankful for my blessings.
As bereaved parents we are forced to learn the art of holding infinite space for both/and– because this new life we didn’t ask for is now a heartbreaking juxtaposition of contradictions. Our hearts hold both the blessings and the trials, the joy and the pain, the white meat and the dark meat on the same blessed fork.
We are grateful and we are grieving.
The former can’t cure the latter, and the latter doesn’t negate the former. Nor were they meant to. Yes, grieving parents are incredibly thankful for every single blessing in their life, and that also doesn’t negate the truth of the sorrow in their heart. If only the world could learn to hold the space for both too so bereaved parents could catch a break at the table of thanks every once in awhile.
This Thanksgiving, be so very grateful if your table is as full as it should be, for that is truly the greatest blessing there is. And in your thanksgiving please remember those of us who come to the table with a grieving heart. Remember to hold space for us bereaved parents too. Leave room for the truth of how hard the holidays are for those who are missing our very hearts– and be thankful if you’re lucky enough to have every single one of your children sitting at the table with you.
Not everyone is quite so lucky.
When you see me this holiday season, pull up a chair beside me, and open wide your heart and ears to the truth of my experience. At first glance it might appear that I seem ungrateful, but I beg you, look again. The depth of my gratitude runs deeper than you know, for I know more than most how quickly my greatest blessings can be taken in an instant; I know the immeasurable pain of being robbed of my greatest joy. I don’t take a thing for granted, so please don’t patronizingly remind me to be thankful for my blessings when I share with you the truth of my sadness. I’m not sad because I’m choosing a negative frame of mind, I’m sad because I’m grieving the death of my precious child. Those are two very different things.
Trust me, I am thankful, grateful and blessed. And I am also still grieving, hurting and sometimes a mess.
Please don’t assume because I’m sad that I’m not grateful, or because I seem grateful I’m not still sad that my child isn’t here. And keep in mind once Thursday rolls around I may decide to close my eyes tight and not move from my bed until Thanksgiving passes. I may not feel very grateful for much of anything at all. And that is perfectly ok too. It’s more than ok– it’s the reality and truth of surviving the holidays after child loss. Grief is not a straight line, and the grief landmines of the holidays only amplify a grieving parent’s suffering.
Instead of assuming you know how I feel, simply ask me how I’m really doing this holiday season. Ask me what the holidays are like for me as a bereaved parent.
Ask me about the empty chair beside me and I’ll gratefully tell you all about the beautiful boy who should be sitting next to me, the one who taught me how to stretch my love far and wide enough to span the gap between heaven and earth. Ask me about the one who taught me how to gracefully keep my balance while juggling impossible juxtapositions of life and death, joy and sorrow, mothering the living and the dead. Ask me about the one who showed me how to love beyond all time and space, how to survive the unimaginable, how to live for both of us.
Ask me about my greatest blessing and my deepest sorrow– ask me about my child.
Remember him with me. Invite him to the table this year too. I need to know that you remember he lived. Share his stories, his memory, his life, his love. And if you’re open to blessing my aching heart even more, I invite you to say his name out loud with me. Often. And without hesitation. To hear his name is to hear the most beautiful sound there is. May it always be on the tip of your tongue like it is on mine. There is no greater gift.
Remember that for some of us the holidays can be very painful and lonely– not the season of Yuletide cheer they once were. Take a minute out of the hustle and bustle of ever-gratefulness to simply be real with me. Climb into my skin for awhile. Feel uncomfortable with me as we wade in the waters of holiday grief. Embrace my grieving heart with tenderness, with compassion, with love. My heart will forever be broken. Remember to treat me gently.
It takes everything within me just to show up at the table.
ANGELA MILLER is an internationally known writer and speaker on grief and loss. She is the best-selling author of You Are the Mother of All Mothers, and the founder and executive director of the award-winning grief organization, A Bed For My Heart. After the death of her son, Angela founded A Bed For My Heart in 2013, and has given people around the world a compassionate and supportive community to express their grief and honor their children. Her article, “7 Things I’ve Learned Since the Loss of My Child,” has been shared over one million times. Angela’s website ABedForMyHeart.com has almost two million visitors per year, and has become a trusted resource for grieving families worldwide. She has been featured in People, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Blog Talk Radio, Love What Matters, Listen to Your Mother, and more. Angela’s writing has comforted millions of hurting hearts around the world. You Are the Mother of All Mothers is her first book, and is dedicated to grieving mothers everywhere.
Join Angela’s compassionate village at A Bed For My Heart.
Text and images © Angela Miller 2015. All rights reserved.
Jody Belcher says
Beautifully written from the soul. I relate to every single word. Wishing you comfort this holiday season.
Sue benson says
I am grateful for this article. It’s only been a few short months since I lost my little guy and you put into words my feelings! Thank you! I hope it’s ok if I share it with others in hopes it will enlighten them!
I lost my son 12 years ago and I still haven’t got over it
Marylene Rizzo says
This is my first holiday season without my son. I lost him in February, he was 23. Just thinking of Thanksgiving and Christmas without him makes me cry. I don’t know how to do it.
Chris Harle says
Shannon, my wife and I lost our 16-yr old son 8 years ago this upcoming July. The key is to not act like he isn’t gone. We always left an open chair and plate at our dinner tables with the family, and if you visit family, ask them to do the same. Bring him up. Talk about him. Hang his stocking at Christmas. It may be empty, but your heart won’t be.
It does get better, but you have to go at your own pace of grieving. My heart goes out to you.
Lost my 17 years young daughter this year in June. I also cry just thinking about the holidays coming. I’m not sure how i will be. The pain is unbearable. Hugs to you!
Sharyn Warden says
I am so sorry for your loss. Holidays will never be the same but eventually you will be able to give thanks for those who are still with you while still grieving for your son. Angela hit every note exactly right…especially “Ask me about my greatest blessing and my deepest sorrow– ask me about my child.” I will pray for you.
I lost my son in January…he was 20… I too am struggling through these days. It is helpful to know I am not alone with all these feelings..thank you, chris ..
Tammy Bowers says
Thank you for letting me know it’s ok to hang my son’s
Stocking and I do include
Him in my home, but my daughter tells me to stop that it just adds to my grieve & I tell her what adds to my grieve is how easy it is for you to forget about my son her brother, and I will
Do as I please
To make me
Feel better. I too lost my 16 year old son 9-11-2014 and he would be a senior in HS and graduating this school year and my son & I talked about this moment for so long about him graduating and how special it would be for both of for him I think it was morenodnhim being an adult but for mom it’s a special time to see him graduate !! Thank you for sharing I’m going to be sure to show my daughter this and that she should be mean about the way I choose to grieve and deal with my son’s loss, it
Has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with and I don’t want to just forget he ever existed, I told him the day I found on the floor and he already gone no saving hi’, after I came to me senses which was many days later that I would never forget him and he would live though me ! God Bless & happy Holidays and again thank you for sharing your story with me !
Shannon, I am so sorry and cannot tell you that just reading this article and some of the responses made me cry. Tears for you, and to everyone who has lost a child. I am without children but have had three friends over the years that have lost a child. I totally understand how all of you are grateful for the support and love from those around you but in such pain. I am at a loss for words but just wanted to reach out.
Theresa welsh says
My daughter lost her 22 yr son April 19,2016 – her world crumbled & even though she has 2 other sons 11 & 8 She still lost a child & she, her husband & the families of both sides in entirety. Last Thanksgiving & Christmas was the first for everyone without Blake – son, grandchild, brother, cousin, nephew & great grandson. The bulk of the mother’s family lives a 3 1/2 hrs away & had together time with us & her in laws live close to them so they had family time with them… I miss my 4th daughter & her family being with us on holidays, but there is friction between the sisters & instead of her losing only her son she has lost her whole family…I can’t make the sisters understand that she lost her baby & if things were said after the funeral or not – suck it up & just be there for their grieving sister – no matter what was said or done – their sister needs them.
Rebecca Grant says
My heart is heavy for a family that is burying their 7 year old daughter, Gabby. She was attending a football game with her parents Saturday night, went missing for a period of 35 minutes and found in a creek behind the school, dead. Cause of death, MURDER by unknown subject. I gave a son when he was 2 back to God, I had for two wonderful blessed years, almost 42 years ago…I know the pain but the anguish, sorrow and misery they are dealing with is beyond my comprehension. Please join me in praying for these parents and the rest of family as they lay their sweet baby to rest. Help them, Lord, remember she’s in your angel choir now and they will join her again. In your Son’s name, I pray.
Thank you for your words of comfor. They touched my heart, may the Peace of our Lord fall upon you.
I lost my son May 16th.. Thanksgiving was his Favorite holiday followed by Christmas.. his Birthday is also.in Dec..Dec 21st.. these will be my first Holidays without him.. and I don’t want them to come..I don’t know how to handle them… he was 14.. he should still be here. . It’s dark, cold, lonely, scarey ,I’m lost and I feel like I wrestle with a demon… how do you get through this..the days seem to get worse. .
Hi Trista, I am so so sorry for the loss of your son. This may not mean much to you, but I will be praying for you. I know that prayers will not bring your son back to you…and isn’t that what we all want? To be with our precious children… But I would say that within this mess of a grieving life, I know that in Jesus I Belong, I have Hope, and I am Found. I pray this for you too, because for me, it has made all the difference. I really never write comments on blogs, but your message spoke to my heart and I felt that I had to respond. I lost my son on September 4 of this year (2016). I don’t know if you will even receive this message, as you posted in 2015, but I will be praying for you nonetheless.
Karen Stabler says
My son was 18 when he died on December 21st 1993 …I am still greving as I will until I take my last breath.
Then we will be together again ….what a joyful reunion it will be. God Bless our children.
From one grieving mother to another…thank you!
Angela, your story touched my soul and tears overflowed in my eyes. What is your son’s name?
Today 11/19 my son Hunter would be 15, how I miss him. Hunter lost his battle with mitochrondrial sickness on March 8, 2014. This poem is real for me. Thank you for sharing.
Peggy holdren says
My great niece died in Oct ‘ I believe the same disease she was 15 too
Graham's Mom says
Thank you! Gratitude does not solve everything! Your writing is so articulate and beautiful. I plan to print copies of this to share with others. I’ll also email it to friends and family. This is such a difficult time of year for those of us whose hearts are so broken because our children are not here.
Thank you. I felt every word.
This will be our first holiday season without my youngest son Johnny. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Nor do I know what to do.
Your article, although I was crying as I read it, made my heart feel lighter and made me feel better about the upcoming holidays.
Thank you again for putting my thoughts into your words.
Jennifer H. says
It has been six years since I lost my 24 year old son. This is the first time that I have actually read my feelings so eloquently put into word’s. Thank you for saying what my heart does not know how.
Maria Medina says
Angela, this is my 2nd Thanksgiving without my little girl, Brianna. She would be 9 and the shock of the first year has very much worn off, leaving in me a vast emptiness and pain – the Holidays are literally minefields for grieving parents. Just today I was crying outside of Whole Foods trying to stay in the moment of “gratitude” as I reflected on a presentation I gave to my son’s class about the Fund we established in honor of Brianna. I was/am grateful that my dialogue today was about how she LIVED and not that she DIED. Your article today touched my aching heart and brings a little peace and comfort as I let your words validate my internal daily struggle.
May the blanket of memories you shared with your precious boy be a source of warmth throughout this time for you. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom, and extending a helping hand to this community so in need of support and validation.
Thank you for writing this…and I am deeply sorry for the loss of your son! The way you put such deep emotions into words will hopefully help others to understand grief & gratefulness better.
My mom lost my sister on Thanksgiving Day, and so much of what you said, I’ve seen my mom say and feel similarly.
Again, thank you for sharing your heart!
It’s hard to feel grateful when you have to remind yourself to breath because you are suffering a pain incompatible with life….just don’t tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t feel. Just don’t……
My feelings exactly…
It has been a few years since I lost my precious daughter. I struggle so with this time of the year. It is so hard when others do not understand how terribly difficult it is for us. Like all of you I would like to fast forward and skip the holidays. I catch myself watching others out shopping with their children and wondering if they realize how lucky they are. I want to stop them and tell them to slow down and enjoy each and every moment. Stress to them how precious time is, but of course I don’t. I try do what I can to make it thru our new normal and we move forward doing our best to celebrate the holidays. I’m so very grateful for my daughter and her husband who share these days with us. We share the memories and divide the tears and go on one day at a time.
Donna Mayes says
This is such an inspiration to read something you can share with your family so they can understand what is actually inside. I am one of The Compassionate Friends chapter leader and I know all of our members would love to read your book since this article seems to be spot on with everything we share at our monthly meetings!
Thank you for sharing your heart with those whose hearts are broken.
Susan Breen says
Every word is spot on. My son has been gone for 17 years. He was born on 12/29 so holidays are always hard. He passed on my 40th birthday so, celebrations are rare. How could I celebrate that day ever again? I try to lay low during the holidays, all my friends children are the age he SHOULD be. That’s the hardest part. Thank You, someone finally put my feelings into words.
Laura Morin says
This article touched my heart to the very core. It says exactly what I feel. I am so grateful that I found it. It was just what I needed to read at this very moment. This is the first holiday season for me since my son Andrew died on March 21 of this year. It hurts. So bad.
Pat Turn says
I’m crying. I too loss a son. It was 36 years ago. But my heart longs for the time we havent had.
As I grow older. With each passing year I also find myself grieving “the living dead” my childrenthat are living, Thank God,
Pat Turn says
My “living dead” children who are just to “busy” to spend holidays or time with me. How my heart breaks as I sit alone on Thanksgiving or Christmas, Easter, Burthday, or Mother’s Day. Yes, I smile, often even make excuses for them, but my heart crys out it is so very heavy. Im not alone so many of my friends with adult living children experience the same “living death”. Sometimes I think the pain is even worse. Lord Jesus help my children that thay may NEVER KNOW the pain I know! May Thanksgiving, Christmas, every holiday be a Blessing for them! Heartbroken.
Carolyn Cloyd says
I don’t know how, but you somehow got into my heart and into my mind and put into words every single one of my thoughts and feelings.
My precious boy, my only child, my Luke, died in 2008. I understand that it is different for me, his mother, than it is for others. They loved him, but their lives went on. My life, my old life ended just as sure as my son’s did. I do get that. But holidays are particularly difficult when my siblings are surrounded by their families. And while I know they loved my son, they never speak his name, it is as if he never existed. It is all I can do not to stand up and scream and ask them if I am the only one who sees and feels that gaping hole…
My heart goes out to you, and all of your readers.
Jan Masal says
Hard to find the words. Thank you for yours.
Angela, thank you for your thoughtful words. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my daughter Angie when she was 30 yrs old, 7.5 yrs ago. The loss of a child is something you never “get over”. Take gentle care and God bless.
Kris Strehlow says
Melanie, I know your pain,I feel your pain and my heart aches for you. I lost my Angie 7.5yrs ago at the age of 38 . She was 36yrs when diagnosed w breast cancer and lived 18mos. She left a 2 1/2 yr old. 4yr old and 7 yr The pain never goes away. I am sooo sorry for your loss and wii keep you in my prayers!!!
jan rolfsmeyer says
that is so beautiful, i lost my son, Bob December 15, 2014 at 43 years old, he was so good to me. i will miss him every day of my life, i love him so
Katie's Mom says
Thank you for this article. A friend who is a bereaved parent sent me the link to your site and everything I have read so far resonates with me. We lost our Katie two and a half years ago and the holidays are so painful. On January 2nd I breathe a big sigh of relief. I also love your blog post about Does It Ever Get Easier? For me, it hasn’t…it’s just become different. I will always have a hole in my heart, but I’ve learned that it’s OK to have joy and experience life’s beauty. The word “bittersweet” explains it all. Thank you for your honesty and support for us bereaved parents.
Absolutely beautiful words angela miller, and your other books look really inspirational as well as therapeutic too. so i have to ask… will there be a book written from a grieving fathers point of view? Cause thats a view from the opposite side of parenting that can sometimes be easily overlooked i know this as i am a grieving father whos pride is too high to cry or show sorrow to anyone and is easily forgotten that its his loss just as much as a grieving mothers….
Kim Magdalein says
I am a grieving dad. Kristin died 5 years ago on November 22, 2010. I have no problem with crying. It actually helps to release some pressure. Sort of like a pressure cooker valve. It lets the steam out. It can really build up. Carol (Kristin’s mom) and I have experienced very similar puzzling reactions from others. There are a few who are very tender, concerned and attentive. They make great comments on social media, but it’s fading. Just a trickle now. A few of her friends still comment but most have moved on and expect us to do the same. Even her siblings have criticized us for our continued expressos of grief. We received some advice from a pastor who lost a 14 year old to suicide. We adopted his advice and it has changed our environment. We were expecting way to much out of others. We now understand that no amount of explanations, similes, stories or pleading will help someone who has not lost a child to understand. We came to a crossroad a few months ago. Our other five children had a meeting and decided to confront Carol and I with their grievances about the loss of Kristin. They clearly don’t get it and never will, thank God. They would have to lose a child to understand and we don’t wish that on anyone. So, we have accepted the fact in order to function normally with our considerable family and friends, the loss of our child had to become a very private matter. Even though we haven’t changed how we feel or how we grieve or how we hold onto memorabilia, we have changed how people perceive our grief. We have changed our countenance, our expressions, our discussions and have restricted those things to people who have demonstrated a real heartfelt, caring attitude. The difference is amazing. We are still not healed, but the scars aren’t showing. We don’t seek others pity and don’t need it, so it’s alright. It has been much more difficult for Carol because she is naturally more emotional. But, she’s a real trooper. Just don’t try to console her with, “move on”. Those are fighting words. I have been compelled to write about what has transpired and how we have traveled this road so far but we don’t feel competent and would be reluctant to offer advice that could hurt others. We already had an incident where we tried to help another couple who lost their child. Just because we lost our daughter doesn’t make us experts. Different people apparently have different views on how they are going to deal with this. One thing I do understand. It’s personal.
Kim Magdalein says
I just read what I wrote. Sorry about the typos. However, one clarification. I clearly understand the desire of “screw everybody, I’ll feel any way I want to feel”, but if we actually want to interact and function in a world that doesn’t get it, we are the ones who have to take it on the chin one more time. In addition to losing a child we have to be the ones who understand that they don’t understand. Sort of like pouring salt in the wound. Perception is what they understand, not reality. We don’t lie. We just don’t bother to bring it up. We let the ones who care do that.
brenda campbell says
Thank you for sharing just a portion of your grief. I hear your pain in the written words you presented. </3
My heart hurts for all of you. I have a close friend who lost her daughter & granddaughter. Ive never known how to help. Your writings will help her not feel so alone. Bless you all
I lost my son 16 yrs. ago & there are days that it feels like it just happened. I, just like a lot of other grieving parents , understand how difficult the holidays can be. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us feel.
Lora Callihan says
This is so absolutely true. Our son Matt died at the age of 18 in 1997. He has now been gone longer than he was here. That just breaks my heart again! I am blessed to have several people in my life who have never stopped saying his name and I appreciate it more than they will ever know. As I read this I can say that the tears just kept falling and yes it is still ok to cry after all these years! Those of us who have had a child die can understand the word bittersweet and that is what the memories truly are. I am grateful that I have those precious memories to pull out when I need to.
My step mother shared this today. I don’t know her exact pain because I didn’t give birth to her angel Marissa but she’s my sister and the emptiness I feel has never healed either. I’m broken hearted every birthday, holiday residual Christmas. I’ll never celebrate the same. I miss her with all my being. I used to feel robbed of memories I never got to make with her. Watching her grow, seeing her off to homecoming and prom after doing her hair. All the things I wanted to do for my lil sister. I just can’t fully wrap my head around losing her and is been years. Grieving parents and siblings.
Lorraine Thorpe says
My Beautiful Son crossed over April 28th, 2014. Your words are Truth and I am so sorry you have to even write this as I wish your Son was still here with you. Before my Son crossed over, I used to think about if someone lost the Love of their Lives, why would Holidays be any different than any other agonizing day. The Holiday’s are a different agony than the other days. Besides going to Church to Celebrate the Birth of Christ or to Church for Easter, I really want nothing to do with these “special days” anymore, But then I feel I am ruining it for those I Love who are still here. I was told last year “We have to make new memories”. No, I don’t and I can’t. I cannot even process what has happened yet, much less think about making new memories. I only see what used to be at any family gathering and my heart and Soul is screaming inside. I wish everyone Wonderful and Beautiful Holidays but Please don’t make me feel ungrateful for not being able to do something I CAN NOT do, to include me DOES mean so much to me and maybe someday I hope it won’t hurt so much and I can share in the special days again, but for now I know my limits. Everyday I fight not to think of what was and what could have been, I have only ONE reason to be here and that is my Son’s Child, but on the ‘special days”, it is a fight I surely lose.
Lorraine Thorpe says
Just to Clarify, my Grandson lives in another State, I facetime him and act like everything is good, including the Holidays. My Heart and Soul can scream all it wants, I will not put him through anymore pain than he has already gone through.
Jan Masal says
Hard to find words. Thank you for yours.
I’m sharing this beautifully written and heart filled message. I understand the feelings of grieving and never being the same again. I lost my husband of one year Dec.2 2012 my heart goes out to those who are grieving their children. Children grow inside you for months, you eat for them you breathe for them you fell them come alive inside you. No other person in the world could understand the connection between you. But you certainly were able to help express the feelings in to words that just aren’t always there to speak, but every heart and soul does. I’m so deeply sorry for the loss for each of you, my heart aches from the thought of how I would feel if I lost my child. Grieving is permanent. My prayers are with all who have experienced the loss, for us who already in this holiday season that already don’t want to get out of bed. Memories are what get me through this 4th holiday season. Hold on to them, we will see them again and my husband is still with me I feel him,see him,smell him, I see the twinkle of his eyes in the stars and his touch in the wind. It keeps me going now. I hold on each day that way. Do the best you can each day and don’t when you know” not today.”
I didn’t lose a child but my Husband was murdered in March. I love what you wrote. I do plan to set a place for my husband at my table. I will set one next to him for your son. Thank you for your words. God Bless.
Kim Winkler says
I unexpectedly lost my 18 year old son Tommy in October, the pain horrible I feel I lost part of my heart..it went with him when he died. I have grieved the loss of a sister as well as grandparents, Aunts & Uncles but nothing compares to the pain when you lose your own child.
All the words in the book match my exact feelings, I want people to ask me about him, but so many ignore speaking of him as if he never existed. That hurts, I often wonder if I’m going to survive this, because this grief his consume my entire life
Grace Young says
Thank you so much for your beautiful words, and shared heart. I lost my son Jack Young, Jr. to suicide on his 27th birthday, May 8, 2007…. our hearts will never recover from the tragic loss of his precious life. Our family holds an annual music festival in Putnam, CT called “Particle Accelerator, in memory of Jack Young, Jr.” to bring families together to teach them the signs of depression and suicide, and donates the proceeds to our local mental health agency, United Services, Inc. in Dayville, CT.
I like to think that God knew our Jack’s time on Earth would be short, so he was given the opportunity to choose his parents. He chose us <3 and your precious child chose YOU, and is now safe in the arms of God. Much love to you and yours this Christmas.
Particle Accelerator, in memory of Jack Young, Jr.
Kim Magdalein says
One of the most amazing things has happened as a result of losing our daughter. A church friend showed us something called a tract. We created one similar to it and it has been well received. 250,000 copies have gone to 50 states and to 15 foreign countries. It has been printed in English, Spanish and Italian. Hundreds have corresponded that it changed their lives. We felt that Kristin’s life needed to have meant something beyond memories. It has! You can see the tract at kristinsfriends.com and get some for yourself. They are free of charge.
Let me tell you. We felt the same way. We lost our son in July 2007. The holidays were SO hard. These are the things that helped us.
#1 ALWAYS have an empty spot at the family table, whether you do immediate family or extended. It seems like it would bring more sadness, but it doesn’t. It’s a remembrance of his life! It also helps others in the family remember what you are still going through.
#2 Encourage others to talk about it. Talk about the fun times. Talk about the good times. Talk about the hard times as he was growing up. Tell others that you would rather grieve remembering him, than hurt thinking others have forgotten about him or don’t want to talk about them. This also helps others through the grieving process as well!
#3 (relates to #2) Remember that everyone finishes grieving at different times. It’s been eight years for me, and just this morning I saw a couple of posts that made me cry. As a parent, you will never “be over” it. However, the waves of grief that you experience will begin to diminish, and will become less severe as time goes on. How much time? Everyone’s different.
#4 If you feel it is overwhelming your life, look into a local Grief Recovery program. It works for most, doesn’t help for some. However, you may find someone there you end up connecting with that can become a sounding board/helpmeet. it also wouldn’t hurt to look into a local psychologist. We found a wonderful Christian doctor here in the Salem, OR area that helped us a lot, and another doctor in the same practice that worked with kids helped our son’s 10 yr old brother come to grips.
#5 YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! We are everywhere. No one knows what it’s like to lose a child unless you have lost one. Check out Compassionate Friends on Facebook as well! It’s a great site for those that have lost children.
My prayers are with you, and I wish you the best as you go through the natural grieving process!! Let me know if I can help at any time!
Different Kind of Christmas by Mark Schultz very sad but true song. I lost my son Hunter he was 13 March 8 2014, life for me will always feel half sad half try to find new and be OK with it. God is so good, I am blessed to have been chosen to be Hunter’s mother I will see him again. My son was sick , now he is not. Merry Christmas may God comfort you for the rest of your day s .
a fellow traveler through the valleys of grief says
a fellow traveler through the valleys of grief says
Thank you for putting your feelings into words so many of us also feel. God be with you.
Kim Magdalein says
There’s not enough room on your comment section to express how losing our daughter five years ago has affected my wife and I. We have six others kids (all adults now) who do not clearly understand the impact, but they try. They are grieving too, but not the same way. We have read many books, devoured our Bibles, attend church three times a week, get the compassionate friends newsletter for our area, and the consensus seems to be “unexplainable”. We are saved and devoted Christians and don’t grieve for her eternal condition. WE MISS HER!!! We don’t wish to “move on”, “compartmentalize”, not talk about her, blah, blah ,blah. It’s not the same as losing your dog, your cat, your wife, your husband, your mother, your father, divorce, financial ruin, a heart attack or anything else. We have experienced all of those things but none of them caused us to cry uncontrollably, have sleepless nights years later, get too fat or get too skinny, lose our tempers, or just want to quit. I clearly understand why you write. Your way of describing your loss certainly relates to me, but we have come to the conclusion that it’s hopeless to try to explain it to those who haven’t experienced it. My prayer is that they will never understand.
We have also learned the hard way, that people expect you to be OK! The best advice was that which we received from a Pastor who lost a child thirty five years ago. We asked how we could function in a world that doesn’t get it. He said that he grieves alone with his wife and that he “appears” to be OK. That way he functions well in his interactions with everyone else but he doesn’t have to give up his son to do it. We have switched off our appearance of grief and made it just personal. We have kept all moments intact, like her room and car, etc., but it’s less obvious to others. We allow others to bring her up, but we don’t introduce the conversation. Others will not join you in your grief, so we stopped inviting them in.
We had to toughen up. We didn’t like suffering the loss and the additional pain of putting up with people who don’t get it. It’s like piling on. We are extremely grateful for the blessings we have and the blessing of having had her for 19 years. Again it’s simple. WE JUST MISS HER!!!!
Cynthia Walsh says
WOW!! Everything you have said here is EXACTLY how my husband and I have felt for the last 11 1/2 years since our 16 yr. old son, Shawn, passed away very suddenly (16 days after diagnosis) from leukemia. After the first year, people expected us “to be over it” little do they know that we still grieve every single day. We can now function again and we put on our social mask but we will be forever heartbroken.
My counsellor lent me your beautiful book this past week as she senses I am getting closer to being able to balance grief and gratitude. My son, Lee, came and left us on Nov. 17, 2015, the day this post went up. He was 21 weeks gestational age and his “supposed-to-be” birthday just passed yesterday, March 28, 2016. I have so much still to learn about grief and gratitude but this is a start and your words help. They really, really, do. Thank you.
Thank you for your beautifully written words. It’s so hard to know how to reach out as a friend to someone dear who has lost a child. I know you hurt. My heart is with you, and that empty chair.
Oh my goodness !!! Just beautiful. Thank you so much for this beautiful post. It brought me to tears. We lost our premie daughter just over two years ago to cancer. I share so many of these deep sentiments that you shared. Hugs for you and your family ❤️
Sheryl Fowler says
I lost my 49-year-old husband, not my child, but everything you say here applies to those grieving a spouse as well. And I can tell you that although their son was a middle-aged adult, his parents till grieve deeply. The 2012 holidays and beyond have been very difficult for all of us, and we have unruly outbursts at the most inopportune times, as emotions suppressed for the sake of others suddenly erupt. But I will not apologize for outburts, or for my ongoing grief, as it will be an integral, defining part of me always. And yes; say their name!
patti smith says
I grieve and am also thankful. I grieve because six years ago on Thanksgiving was the last time I saw my adult son. He has not died, but I am dead to him. He has not contacted me at all, moved away, no forwarding address, no phone and no email. I don’t know why he is estranged and after years of trying to find him, he has disappeared. I often just tell myself he no longer exists and never did just do I can deaden the piercing pain in my heart. I still pray for him and I still hope that someday he will just call me. The other day, I was in a store and saw in the distance a young man holding the hand of a 3 year old. I thought — is that my son? Is that my boy? And this l ittle girl, is that my granddaughter? As they came closer, I realized it was not my son. But I felt like I was punched in the stomach because I may never know if my son got married or had children. I may never see him again and for that I grieve.
Elizabeth Garrison says
I will always grieve the loss of my daughter Candace Elizabeth ???????? but I am forever grateful for a God who is, has and always will be caring for me in my times of weakness and celebrating in my joy. In my life now I have learned to juggle the sadness that will always be in my heart. You can see it in my eyes. The pain is forever there. I can smile again and laugh. I’ve learned to multi-task in life’s emotional downfalls for I have loss my daughter who meant the world to me as all my children and grandchildren do. Every day is a day I treasure because I know God ‘s presence is there in my pain and when I feel so alone in it and feel no one understands it He does. I am a survivor like many other mothers and dads who lost a child. They are as I am…1 day to 40 years there will always be a tear ready to fall…we wipe our tears and we step forward again. Learning to live without Candace in my life…I’ll never ever “get over it” just “through it”. When I see a child or my grandchildren grow up without a mother it tears at the seam of my ❤️. Happy Thanksgiving to my beautiful family and to my beautiful Candace Elizabeth in heaven this Thanksgiving. I am thankful for you and your children, Skyler and Jaden.
My beautiful 6’4″, full of life, son died by suicide on 1-13-12 at the tender age of just 25. Shane suffered greatly the last 27 months of life & I helped found a website to EDUC & warn parents http://www.momsstrong.org
It’s true the grieving for your child never stops, but the pain is less intense as the days, weeks, months, & years move forward. Shane always delighted in living & I believe he would want us to keep his memory alive & celebrate the years we all shared together,
These words from another commenter truly resonate:
We can now function again and we put on our social mask, but we will be forever heartbroken
I am so grateful for your stories that resonate with me. They have helped me on my journey since losing my precious daughter, 2/14/2017. I read your book Mothers, etc and have passed it on to other grieving mothers.
You stated beautifully the essence of what kind of person I was and the conflict of the person I have become since my son’s death in May. Thank you for writing in words what my heart has been crying out for weeks.
Beautiful. We recently lost our infant son and my heart aches daily for him. These first holidays without him are so painful. The grief is still so deep and fresh that I go from thankful for anyone mentioning his name to shrinking away from others because I can’t handle dealing with their intrusive dialogue. The need for a balance between honoring our baby but also reestablishing our lives, the new norm. Thank you for sharing!
Megan Devine says
Love every word of this. Thank you (and sharing it).
Cynthia "Tia" Reilly says
Thank you for expressing truth with such fluidity, beauty, and tenderness. We lost our 24-year-old daughter just three months ago, and in spite of all the head-knowledge of peace, the heart does not always follow–especially in these days when we celebrate together as a family. Your words are spot-on, and I hope to share some of this so that others close to us can understand better.