I hope beyond hope that this quote from the cinematic masterpiece, Christmas Vacation, is not the norm in your home. For 29 years of my life, this was not the norm. Christmas was a magical time, even when I was in college, Santa’s magic was in full effect in the Garner home. I never could imagine a time when I wouldn’t be bursting with joy from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. I also never imagined there’d be a day when I could talk on the phone and see people like the Jetsons did. I guess our imaginations can be scary.
I know that our grief during the holidays is probably more pronounced because we get hit with her birthday, her Gotcha Day, Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas, her death day, we buried her on New Year’s Eve, and then New Year’s Day is always a reminder of another year without her. However, I imagine that most bereaved families of children would say that these are some truths about holidays after you lose a child.
1. We don’t give a crap about presents. In fact, we would give back every present we’ve ever gotten in our lives to have just one more day with our girl. (Well maybe not every one. Once, I asked for a My Little Pony stable. Apparently Santa and Mrs. Claus got in a huge fight about it and it took hours upon hours to put together. I never touched it. I probably would want to keep that gift, otherwise they wouldn’t have anything to remind me about on Christmas Eve) Don’t worry about getting a bereaved family a gift. Go by their home. Visit them. Cry with them. Tell them that you miss their child. Ask if you can run any errands for them, because nothing is worse than going out in a small town and seeing happy people at Christmas.
2. For the first couple of years, we probably don’t want to see your happy, complete family smiling and being all precious on a Christmas card. Now, I hesitated to include this, but Molly ROCK is all about being RADICAL and OPEN. Here is the truth, there is no feeling as heavy as knowing you are approaching one year without your child, and the first Christmas without them. Instead of sending your jolly old card of your happy and alive kids, send a note. Don’t know what to say? Here’s an idea: “Dear People Who Used to be Happy and Fun, Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you approach the holiday season without your dear MOLLY. (Yes, say their name!) Please know we miss her so. Love, The People Whose Kids Are All Alive.” (Keeping it really real, my mom may or may not have gotten some pleasure from burning unopened Christmas cards that first year. Yes, my sweet Mama, who wanted to tip the man at McDonalds a lot of money the day, found PLEASURE in burning perfectly good cards.)
3. Traditions change. Yes, holidays are steeped in tradition. Traditions center around your family. When your family changes, traditions aren’t the same. They hurt. They are a glaring reminder that part of you is gone. So, if you know someone who has lost a child, help them discover new traditions. There are ways to honor and include their loved one, while forging a new path. If you were a part of their tradition, don’t get your feelings hurt that they can’t do the tradition anymore.
4. We may not go to church during the holidays. This does not mean that we don’t recognize Christmas as the miraculous birth of our savior. However, the scene that we create when snot is pouring out of our noses down to the floor and getting all over a stranger’s purse takes away from the beauty of an a cappella, candlelit version of Silent Night.
This is not a comprehensive list, but just a few things for you to think about. Before we walked this journey, we always wondered what we could do to help people in grief. Now that we won the golden ticket to be in this club, we want to help others. We want to help kids avoid making the mistake Molly did. (Her mistake was not sharing her pregnancy, NOT having sex before marriage.) We want to help adults avoid making the mistakes that we made in not catching Molly’s pregnancy. We want to help families who are a little behind us in their grief journey. We want to help people who love people in grief know how to help.
Keep MollyROCK in your daily life, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, Tuesday, National Doughnut Day, Flag Day, Thursday…. EVERY DAY.
More than meat loves salt,