Amanda the Panda, Child Loss Grief, Christmas, Holidays, Sibling Loss, Thanksgiving

Holiday Fear

The weather is gearing up, the stores are busy overstocking for the season of holiday celebrations approaching.

As you plan out your feasts and decorations and guests, sit back for a moment and look around you.  There is a child grieving a mother, a sibling grieving a brother, a mother grieving a child.  While the rest of the world is a flurry of anticipation and excitement, there is a heavy ache in the hearts of the homes where a chair will sit empty this holiday.

The celebrations of family and love hold moments of heart-wrench for those who have a loved one no longer present in the gathering.  Look around you this season, I know you will find one of those hearts;  the one that sits quiet in the crowd, that listens with eyes closed to the laughter, wondering how things would have been; the one who avoids the holiday aisles altogether.  Reach out.  Be brave, extend your love, and risk touching a shattered heart in a way they desperately needed.

The first Thanksgiving and Christmas after burying Ellianna were the hardest.  Well, they all have been in different ways, but that first one… the first time I realized there would be no gift shopping, no cooking her favorites, no tiny traced hand prints on Thanksgiving turkeys… well that was the toughest; a holiday season I never dared to imagine.

Much of the facade faded away.  Suddenly the decorations and the perfect Pinterest meal weren’t what my mind lingered on; it was simply the being with the ones I loved.  It became a season of wanting deep memories; the slowing of sweet everyday moments. I could care less if we make a turkey and all the fixings, or just drag ourselves to feast at Golden Corral; the importance is our souls meeting each other wherever we’re at, reveling in each other’s company, savoring the joy of knowing you are making a memory that will long outlast the pumpkin pie.

This is the first time my family will celebrate without my little brother.  There will be heartache when his name isn’t in the secret Christmas gift drawing, there will be sadness when he isn’t standing there in a ridiculous apron with a fresh baked batch of “kitchen trash” in his hands.  What there will be is a coming together of the hearts that love him, miss him, and remember to stop and say “I love you” on this day, this moment.

There is something you can do for the grieving hearts around you.  For many, this is their first holiday season without a cherished person in their lives, and it’s not just in death, it can be a child experiencing their first holidays having to split time between mom’s house and dad’s house, a wife whose husband has chosen another place to live, and yes, the mourning heart that has stood at the grave of someone they held dear.  Send them a card, let them know you are thinking of them and how things will be different this year.  Give them a sweet ornament with their loved one’s name on it.  Invite them to your celebration so they aren’t sitting at home grieving theirs. Sign them up for a holiday cheer box (read about it here).  It means a lot.  In a season where delight and festivity spill from everything around us, there is a pain that you can help soothe.

Let me know how you’re reaching out, I’d love to hear where your hearts are reaching!

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

Amanda the Panda, grief

A Bit of Cheer

We wanted to share something special with you that has been a blessing to us this month…

A few weeks ago we found two large boxes on our doorstep.  We dragged them inside, eager to see who they were from.  Inside was a letter addressed to us from Amanda the Panda.  It said this was a Holiday Cheer box, sent to us because a guardian angel had contacted them on our behalf.  Amanda the Panda is an organization that reaches out to families who have lost a loved one.  Inside the boxes were twenty-five wrapped gifts, one for each day until Christmas, to bring a smile on days that undoubtedly will be some of the most difficult. 

The first gift was for all of us.  An Amaryllis bulb.  A beautiful red flower with a single lonely stalk that with a little loving care will bloom year after year.  We tenderly tucked the bulb into its pot of soil and are anticipating the beauty of Ellianna’s Amaryllis when it blooms in a few weeks. 

Every morning after our advent devotion, the kids dash to see whose turn it is to open the gift for that day.  Smiles and cheers erupt, and for a moment there is a sparkle on faces that have been worn by frequent tears. 

People shrug and say children are resilient, they will be fine.  I disagree.  Children are wounded just as much as adults.  We spend many nights holding tiny hands, rocking small bodies wracked with tears and heartache as they try to mend the pain of their sister being torn from their lives.  It is a long and very painful road, which makes moments of joy and laughter mean all the more to us.  We are deeply grateful to all the people that had a part in bringing us some much needed cheer and something to look forward to on some of the hardest of days.

Please leave me a comment; it lets me know you’re listening!