There is an empty seat. An agonizing hole in our heart, in our world. Others may be blind to the place we hold for our children during the holidays (and every day) but we feel it. Something is wrong. People still laugh and find pleasure and meaning in purchasing gifts. How can that be? How can everyone else’s world go on without our children in it? How can we be expected to go on? Yet we are.
I am many years “out” from the trauma of Daniel’s death, but nowhere near through the trauma of losing him, if you know what I mean. However, I have made a life where he is carried in my heart instead of in my arms or walking by my side, and I think I have adapted to the situation, if not to the loss. Then, at church, we’re invited to buy a poinsettia in honor of our dead. That simple thing pulls off the scab and causes my heart to bleed again. I ask my husband to pick it out and to make the arrangement because I know I would cry at the florist’s shop or get caught up in picking a blemish-free plant, strong and healthy, because if it wilted, it would crush my spirit even more. A plant. My son’s “presence” at church on Christmas has been reduced to a plant on a shelf.
But we have created new traditions, and that has helped. Last year, I played hand bells for a Christmas Eve service — something I never did when Daniel was alive. I don’t want to do the same things I did, so I've gone caroling with choirs. I've helped a rural town launch a parade of lights, and worked to bring Santa back to the town's children. My children are grown, we’re well beyond the stockings and those first Christmas holidays without him. Now I try to help other children find joy in Christmas.
And so will you. That’s my gift to you this year — the assurance that you can and will make it through. It will take a toll and you need to be patient and forgiving if you don’t feel like buying things or cooking or caroling. You can set boundaries for others and especially for yourself. But open your heart (it will, in fact, help with your healing).
Do what you can. Don’t shy away from what you can do. It helps to be as charitable as possible, as focused on others as you can manage. Reach just a bit beyond yourself, and then be happy with yourself.
I am with you in spirit as we go into our respective holiday celebrations, just as my son is with me. I do pray for your peace and that you can find some measure of joy in the season. It is possible, please know and have faith -- it is possible. Let your child’s love shine through you.
Kindle that flame. It will shine again, with time.