Parents and even Grandparents of those that have lost a child, need for you to understand a few things during the holiday season.
My son, Joseph passed away on Halloween 2014 at the age of seven. My son had food allergies and I am still very much attempting to get out of what most parents call “day one”. It is facing a very different world after we no longer have our child. Many think of life as before and as after. Two different lives are the best way I can explain it. It is very hard. Even the basic things that you might do without thinking, is a battle.
What do I mean by, basics?
“Basics” I will attempt to do my best to explain that further. Let’s start with time does not heal all wounds. That is complete non sense to a parent that has lost a child. Period..
It is not just within the first year or two, it carries over for many more years. I know a lot of grieving mothers that are into their 20th year and this holds true. So, compassion and understanding are a great gift for the holiday to start.
Still, invite them and share with them like you would do normally, but keep the following in mind and heart.
It might have been sometime since you heard from them, when normally they would be planning things with you, right?
Do not take it personally. Your friend is very much still there, but covered with what I call a blanket of grief that they place on and off more frequently then you can imagine.
We now plan everything in our minds ahead of time alot more. This is needed to get us to do as we had before. Planning ahead is a must. I call it, an emotional peep talk, I give myself, often.
So don’t walk away to quickly. They still love to be part of the planning, so please still ask, but just listen with an open heart.
So many parents have told me after their child passed, most of their friends disappeared as well. This is more common than one can imagine happening, but it is true.
The healing process, is one that comes and goes, during different times of the year or even days, or weeks. Again, it is a roller coaster. It is not you, trust me they never wanted to be in the place they are in today, and sometimes they venture inward to regain. I know I do it often. Good days and bad we call them.
I might want to just crawl up in bed under that blanket on the day I had agreed to go to a ball game with a friend. It is my battle to fight through the process. Even up to that morning, things can change quickly. I might have had a dream or nightmare. Sometimes I win, sometimes I do not. When I do not I just hope I am not losing a friend, since I feel even worst to explaining it all.
We are still grieving and there is no time limit to the pain. Healing is endless. It is our new norm. Be greatful this aspect is one you do not have to personally understand deeply, but just awareness of it helps.
We are still coping daily and will for the rest of our lives. It is not the same grief that many would think comes with losing a loved one, this was our child. This was a part of our soul. We saw the world through their eyes and each step as a parent we did everything as any parent can understand. Our careers, our running around to making everything so perfect and safe for them, especially for the holidays.
Flashbacks of those past holidays we are working through. Most of the time, we can smile at the memories once the cycle passes through. It is thinking of the could have beens that does us in most of the time. So never stop talking about the memories, those are treasures.
Many might still have kids but are too weak to keep it going, when inside they are battling so much, but need some help even when they are not asking for it.
Things that might be overlooked, such as sending out holiday cards, or gifts or even coming to one of the normal gatherings we had attended annually. It is not that we do not care, it is because we are not ready.
That goes for employers, too! No, it is not a requirement to attend holiday gatherings, so please have the understanding. Yes, it is a great time to network, but understand, it might be a harder time for them to do so. If they do, give them some extra gratitude for being there. Do not be that Grinch!
- For myself, sending holiday cards was a time I would send out a picture of my children, altogether the family, greeting and wishing you all a loving safe holiday. It is not that we do not wish the same, it is just hard for us to take that family picture when our child is no longer in it. So look past the cards, it is not that they no longer want to wish you a blessed holiday, it is harder for them to get to the basics of creating one. It feels to some that it is a lie if that makes any sense. A “From our family to yours” just is not the same meaning to them.
- Finding the energy to head to a store is another battle for those during the holidays. The music can bring anyone to tears, even if we are just a few states away and missing home, now place yourself in the shoes of a parent that has lost their child. It is hard to do shopping in the stores, even for food during the holidays. If they do, be over appreciative because it was a very hard battle for them to get there and walk through. This I know first hand.
- Wrapping gifts, well to most it was a time of late night happiness to see their faces in the morning. Understand that wrapping gifts might be a reason they said no to that secret Santa gift holiday celebration. The emotional strength is a balancing act during this time.
- Holiday gatherings can be such a battle to coming to. We all must plan ahead to every detail. Finding that escape time, to break down is a fear. Do not feel bad if they just stop by to say hi and head out. No, they do not have anywhere better to go, just be grateful that a few moments was so hard for them. It is hard to say no, to those we love and we attempt for days to prepare, even up to walking in the door. If we are at the event understand how much it took for them to get there. It is hard on some days to even get out of bed, especially around the holidays.
- Welcome, them to saying no. It is okay to let them stay alone if you know that they are with the care of another. Sometimes just being present with the grieving person and saying nothing can be most helpful. If that is what they need. You are doing exactly what the holiday is about. “Giving” so offer to be that person to stay with them, even if they will be in bed and you are sitting on the internet alone but checking in with them now and then. They need that support.
- Talk about their loved one.. including them is so special…keeping them as part of the love is so very helpful to so many. Remember the times together if they are comfortable to talk about them. You will know. They are always looking for signs from their little ones, even if you think they are not. Their faith has grown beyond this world. Even staring up at that magical star in the sky! Bring light and love..
If ever you feel that they might be suffering from severe depression or Complicated grief, take the time to understanding what they are and the signs. You might save their lives.
We never want to just be too busy not to check in, ever. We all have a lot to do during the holidays, but it is the “giving” spirit in which the holidays are about. No one wants to feel as if they did not give the support another might need, even if it is a daily phone call or a quick social media message or email. Any communication that you can get in touch with them. Remember they might just turn it all off, the whole world that is! When it gets really bad, so if all other attempts fail, Stop by, (bring cake or a deck of cards, just my suggestion avoid self-medication gifts such as wine). Seek to call and staying on top of them, it might dampen some of your holiday plans, well suck it up! You are their friend and loved one, understand some people might need to seek extra help or counseling during this time, and they have no strength to find it themselves. Yes, it gets that bad. So listen more to them around the holiday, and maybe a stopover to see how they are doing and always make sure if you feel they are in need of help, to seeking such for them, IMMEDIATELY. No, you are not being pushy, remember Sometimes just being present with the grieving person and saying nothing can be most helpful.
A great way to understand Complicated grief and depression that require professional help can be found here: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/end-of-life-care/grief-and-loss/depression-and-complicated-grief.html
Remember everyone grieves differently and nothing that you can do can bring them happiness, so do not give up. Just hold compassion, love, and understanding and never make plans for them that they have to feel bad not to keep. Always understand even up to the day of the party, it is okay for them to not go. It is not you, and they really need your understanding… and most important love!
Never give them more grief! Don’t push them to much. Trust me, they are now filled with more pain and might feel they are letting you down, just be understanding and make sure they know that!
My love to you all…
Julianne Riceputo DeNicola
A mother of an Angel…