How I Survived The First Christmas Without My Daughter

It had been five months since Lydia passed away and that dreaded first Christmas had snuck up on me. A festive holiday when it seemed there was nothing to celebrate, and it was here whether I liked it or not.  Had I forgotten about the real meaning of Christmas? Absolutely. Completely focused on myself and my pain, I hated to see this holiday come.

            With Santa filling every store shelf, every movie, and every enticing commercial, the broadcasting the coming of Christmas and all of its festivities was horrifying. But what does a mother do? She somehow endures the pain, with another mask to wear, another façade to play out, while attempting to put a smile on her only child’s face.  The excitement, fun, and anticipation waned as the first holiday came around without my girl.  Taking my son to see Santa proved to be a traumatic experience that I never wanted to do again. While parents were proudly snapping pictures of their children grinning with excitement sitting on Santa’s lap, all I could see was the last photo of my kids together on Santa’s lap, one year ago. Once again, regret consumed me and the mask, and the act became too difficult to continue. Seeing only my son with Santa, his other knee vacant, crumbled me and brought me to my knees in tears. How I hated life, hated myself.

The Santa photos used to be my traditional Christmas card, and now I wouldn’t send another one out for years. I became bitter towards those family photo cards, you know, the ones with all the smiles, milestones and happy times. For the next two years when we received them in the mail, one by one they all went straight to the garbage, sight unseen. Absorbed by jealousy, I wanted to rip them to shreds, and never wanted to see those joyful faces again. Sorry friends.  It became too painful, like a slap in the face, bringing to the forefront that pain I had worked so hard to hide. And I didn’t feel bad about it one bit.

Being the first Christmas without our baby girl, I hadn’t the drive or love in my heart to get a tree and decorate it.  Just the thought of the holidays without Lydia would make me fall apart and retreat to a solitary hiding place, just me and my tears. There was no tree, no Christmas cookies baking or decorations or laughter in the kitchen. This year was different.  Yet, because of our son Hunter, I knew we had to try to do something.  We opted for a live tree that we could plant after the holiday season. Jake went to Wal-Mart and bought a new box of lights to put on the tree.  I wanted nothing to do with those totes full of memories, so in their box they stayed and our tree without decorations.  I counted the days and “faked it ’til I made it.”  This holiday couldn’t be over soon enough.

It had been five months since Lydia died. How could that possibly be? Christmas was just hours away when my heart was warmed by an amazing gift.  In the car, where much time was spent, was a place where Lydia would compose her masterpieces – beautiful, one-of-a-kind, spectacular illustrations of creativity.  One rainy, winter day, I happened to put my hand in the back pocket of the driver’s seat, the one in front of where she used to sit.  As I pulled out multiple hair accessories, ponytail holders, and nail polish bottles, I was caught off guard and choked up with tears at what I saw.  Between my fingers came a neat white envelope and on the outside, carefully written it said, “To Hunter, From Lydia.”   Without hesitation, I gingerly opened up the top and peeked inside.  My hands trembling with anticipation as I pulled out this precious gift at just the right moment.

Christmas would arrive in a number of hours and I had found the perfect present for our son. Something to bring warmth to his tattered and torn heart, something that would provide him with the hope and love he desperately needed from his big sister.  It was a drawing of a Christmas tree, complete with ornaments and a star!

lydia tree hunter

Drops of love poured down my cheeks, what a gift! The pain my heart felt was indescribable, yet this little blessing provided a glimmer of hope and I couldn’t help but smile amidst the tears.

Friends, I know that deep pain of the first Christmas without your child. It’s the most heart-wrenching feeling ever. The blanket of hopelessness and fear is smothering, allowing no light to seep through. I wore those exact shoes once. Take care of you. Do what feels right. Cry, laugh, hide, embrace whatever feelings come. Hang on. One day at a time. Most importantly, remember the real meaning of the season.  Jesus. Focus on Him. Equip yourselves with the truth. You can do this.

Romans 8:18 “The pain that you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

griievinggumdrops.com

Matthew 19:26   Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

ps theres hope

~On the journey with you,

Daphne

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A Day in the Life of a Grieving Mother

I woke up this morning and sat up on my bed, legs dangling towards the floor.  The heaviness of my eyes was overwhelming. I was exhausted, yet weirdly refreshed and thankful to find that the stinging of my bloodshot eyes had subsided after a few hours sleep.

My mind didn’t waste any time reminding me of how I felt when I laid down those short few hours ago.

Sad. Heartbroken.

As I got up, the corner of my eye caught a glimpse of my heart that laid conspicuously on the pink flannel pillowcase. Black mascara decorated the top, providing me proof of the love that was shed. The fragile threads that mended my broken heart had torn apart, the years of love and sorrow finally freed. Again.

It had been a while, months since I had succumb to those persistent and pesky dog pile of emotions.

Yet they come, sure as the morning sun.  Learning to accept and live with them is difficult, yet over the years, I have learned to embrace these precious moments.

The ten years have passed by so fast. How can that be? Ten long years without my little girl.  Without hearing her giggle, tucking her in, and watching her grow.

What would she be doing today? Lounging around like most 16 year olds, getting her driver’s license, sleeping in on a warm summer morning? Arguing with her brother, or would she be tending to her lamb or eager to get to volleyball practice?

The pain is indescribable. But when I try, I can tell you that it feels so heavy and it’s difficult to breathe. When you want to talk with her, hold her, tell her you love her and all you can do is mutter the words and fall into your pillow sobbing in disbelief.

What triggered it this time? Was it that her birthday is tomorrow? Was it while we were out on a Saturday night and I overheard a mom say, “would you like this sis? Come sit down sissy.”

Ahhhh.

My sweet sissy.  I haven’t said that word in ten years.  The name that is etched in her headstone, Lydia’s nickname, “Sissy.”

Instantly, she flashed before me and I could see her strawberry blonde hair blowing in the wind as she twirled joyfully in her purple sundress giggling, looking like the picturesque poster of childhood.  So innocent and happy.

Holding my breath as my eyes welled up, I shook my head, turned and walked away.

How did this happen? Why did this happen to me?

I cry and cry. Why do we feel so much pain after all these years?

I just want to wrap my arms around her tightly, see her smile and tell her I love her.

One more time.

Five years, seven months, and 19 days just wasn’t long enough.

My mind finds it hard to fathom life without her now, attempting to piece together the two worlds in which I remain a permanent resident.

When I’m alone for the night while on a work trip or at home, what do I do?  I try to make sense of my life before and after and it’s almost predictable that tears will fall.

Silence and solidarity brings me to a place of reality.

My emotions overwhelm me. Being alone forces me to engage those pent up feelings, letting them run rampant without interruption, allowing me to be present in the moment.  So I weep and sob some more.

I talk to her and tell her I love her and how much I miss her.  How I miss her messy bedroom, boogers she left above her headboard, and her beautiful artwork that decorated the house.

I am immensely grateful current life yet still quietly yearn for my old life. I miss her being here, when life was simple, happy and free of heartbreak.  When I didn’t have to worry about grief, or her grave, or about all the years of events and triggers that seek to ravage my soul reminding me of what used to be.

Am I weak? No.

Shouldn’t I be over this by now, after all it’s been ten years?  Absolutely some would think so, but the real answer is no.  I will never get over it.

Am I strange? No.

Weird?  No.

When my faucet runs dry, I lay my head on the pillow, taking a deep breath and exhaling while clutching my bible.

Strangely I feel a bit better.  Over the years, I’ve learned that nothing or no one can comfort me like Jesus.

I am silently reminded that we are meant for so much more in this world that to hold onto heartbreak and pain.  Could I sit and wallow in my pain and loss for the distant future? Without a doubt. However, I know my sweet girl would not want this, nor does our amazing God.  Our time here is limited and our capacity to experience the complex feelings that come with deep love is a remarkable gift.

The hope we have been given shines light into those dark places of my soul.  I can rest in hope knowing that beauty will come from the tragedy of my daughter’s death and one day we will be reunited.  Until then, I wait faithfully with perseverance.

Romans 8:24-25: “In hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

 

 

 

Photo credit: Unsplash @davidwhitephotography

Back to School-Examining the Past, Embracing the Future

As we wind down from Labor Day weekend full of activities at our local round-up and fair, I’m encompassed by a little quiet reflection this eve of the first day surrounds me.   I am exhausted from the hustle and bustle of early mornings and late nights. My days consisted of carnivals, nursing a twisted ankle, applying band aids to cuts, welcoming a spontaneous guest for the weekend, enduring the jaw dropping booby traps from my adorable five-year old, and did I mention the impromptu piglet that suddenly joined the family on Saturday.    Pig pen construction still in progress.  All I can do is laugh. Nothing really surprises me anymore.

Among the laundry, cooking and house cleaning to come, getting back on a schedule is something to look forward to.   Yet as I scroll through social media and texts, my mind is overwhelmed by first day of school pictures of all these children.

For a mother whose child has died it hurts.  Honestly, it’s bittersweet and sucks really. Part of you longs with envy at those parents of children getting to revel in the excitement of classmates, lockers and team sports and those whose kids are healthy and happy.  Of course we’re delighted for them, however, we grieving parents never get over it. While I am grateful for my other four children entering school, no matter how many years have passed, this time of year we are involuntarily given that dreaded reminder that our child is gone.

Today Lydia should be starting her sophomore year. Wow. That is so hard to imagine. However, I do find myself wondering how she would dress and do her hair. Would she wear make-up? Still love dresses? Be playing volleyball because of course she would be so tall?  Would she be driving?

I can’t help but to think of my life ten years ago.  Lydia had just passed away six weeks earlier, 7/16/08.  It was time for Hunter to start preschool.  I wanted to keep him with me, but knew he needed social interaction with kids his age.  Staying in his depressing dungeon of a home alone was not the best place.

Months of driving him eight miles one way to preschool, I would cry every morning on the way there and on the way back home, sobbing at the wheel as I felt the eeriness of an empty car seat behind me, saying softly to myself “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”    Sadly, I would drop him off, then weep and wail uncontrollably all the way home, crawling back into bed alone where I would remain until it was time to pick him up.  For months this was my routine.

Completely heartbreaking.

Yet I vividly remember those days in the trenches, nearly six years ago, home as a single parent to a two month old, a two-year old, 3-year-old, and six-year-old, while my husband began a new job and relocated to a new town.  It was crazy.

There were times when I didn’t think I could do it.   Working part-time while up to my ears in diapers and potty training, spills and refereeing sibling rivalry, while laundry and housekeeping didn’t stand a chance.  Reruns of Dora the Explorer and Barney the Dinosaur played incessantly.  Fueled by coffee and chocolate, daily mocha’s became my saving grace.

To say I was exhausted was an understatement. The circles under my eyes were evidence that could not be dismissed.  To say I didn’t enjoy it would be wrong, because I did.  But in all seriousness, it was so hard.

I used to fantasize about the day that all kids would be in school and I could actually have a moment to myself to do my own thing, to even clean the house and go to the bathroom alone.  To just breathe.

Baby after baby came, life was busy.  I put my grief on hold, focusing on these new blessings in my life. They were indeed a much-needed buffer to the pain I was holding on the inside.  Yet as the years progressed, and gradually each child entered school age, I was left with my baby who is now five.  The last couple years, we have enjoyed our togetherness, special activities and 1/1 time.

The day I had been eager for the last four years has arrived. Now my youngest enters kindergarten.  This little spitfire who makes me laugh all day, telling jokes, yet generously gives hugs and kisses, always wanting to protect and love his mama will be on his own.

Another chilling reminder of the day my Lydia anxiously awaited for, the first day of kindergarten she never got to see, her youngest brother is now experiencing.  Bittersweet for sure.

The day has come I am once again alone, but this time it’s different.  Looking back, I cannot believe how fast time went by. The day I begged and pleaded for in my desperate moments has arrived and now I am not quite sure how I feel about it.  In a way, I’m sad for me but excited for him.  The new world that awaits, he is sure to find fascinating.

I have come to a different kind of sadness. It’s not one of sorrow, but one filled with hope and expectation. Remembering where I used to be and seeing how far I have come, I look forward to starting a new chapter laced with endless possibilities, embracing change and knowing this journey I’m on is not my own.

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future-Corrie Ten Boom

In the meantime, I will enjoy what’s left of summer and eagerly anticipate the days of autumn to come. My favorite time of year.

No matter what season you are in, brighter days are ahead. Just hang on-one day at a time!

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

https://pixabay.com/en/users/Victoria_Borodinova-6314823/