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

Advertisements

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

How I Heard God on a Sunday Morning

Do you every wonder if God is there? If He really hears what’s in your heart?  I just had to share this morning how God was speaking to me.

My first clue was the dream I had last night.  It was the most amazing.  So here it is……I found it easier to write it in form of a letter to Lydia.

 

I found you singing in your room with your pink microphone, ever so softly and sweetly, of course you were dressed in pigtails and mismatched clothes.

“Lydia?” I said in disbelief. “Is it you?” You glanced at me with that sweet little smile and those piercing blue eyes. It really was you.

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I ran and picked you up in my arms squeezing you so tightly.  You were beautiful.  I got to hear your voice. Something I was so afraid of forgetting.   Blonde hair and pigtails, you looked just like before. Soft skin, adorable giggles.  Your Strawberry Shortcake pillow was there too, laying in my closet, just the like the matching blanket I have on the bed.

You never left the bedroom, so I rushed out to get your brother so he could see you once again, hoping you wouldn’t leave. Grabbing him by the hand, we ran back to you. As we entered the room, you smiled so big and continued singing, with your great grandma sitting next to you. You were both smiling and laughing-clearly full of joy. Oh I love you so much sweet pea.  And then, I kept hearing.   “I am alive. Just believe.  I’m always here.”

Whoa.

What gift God gave me this Sunday morning. It had been forever since I had a dream of Lydia. Seriously, it must have been well over a year. Was it real? I didn’t want to forget. I tried desperately to go back to sleep to find her again. Regrettably, I was awake and there was no going back.

Why does it always happened like this?  He allows us little glimpses and then we are forced back to reality.

Once awake, I let it all soak in. Feeling content, I glanced over at my phone and a new notification popped up, telling me of a new memory today of portraits over the years.  It’s a slideshow the phone somehow puts together and notified me of this morning.  Strangely, I don’t recall receiving one of these before.  As I pushed play, photos of my second daughter in the past years rotated.  My heart warmed with gratitude as I watched photos of my precious Sadie, the rainbow little girl He had given me.

Looking at the pictures, I became overwhelmed with love and thankfulness. God has given me another chance to love a different daughter. What a gift.  It’s as if I was subtlety being told that it’s okay.  Lydia is at peace and okay, but here on earth I have this wonderful other daughter to love and grow with.  Incredible really.

Blessed and grateful I am this morning. And then…..

Something prodded me to check my email for the daily bible verse. I get them in abundance in my email, but rarely read them every day.  Today was different, and I knew I must open it.

Staring at me was the verse John 7:37-

Eagerly, I turned to my bible and there it was.

37: On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”   38: He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Amazing.  It was the promise of the Holy Spirit in today’s scripture.  Reminding me, and I’m reminding you…that we must Go to HIM,…Not anyone else, but Go to Him and we will be satisfied…He will meet our needs like nothing else.

When we are thirsty, when we get that crave for coffee, energy drinks, soda, alcohol or even bottled water, we lunge for the superficial instant gratification.  We too often reach for these temporary physical quenchers, yet they do nothing for our spiritual thirst.   We can search and search trying to satisfy our inner needs, yet, in all reality, to improve the quality of our lives, we must be still and seek Him.  Quit the façade.  Quit diluting and distracting ourselves with people and activities as we perfect the art of avoidance so we don’t have to feel the pain and sadness life can bring.

We must dust off those bibles that sit near our beds unopened for months.  We must be vulnerable, exposing out hurting hearts and imperfections to Him, as only He can bring healing and wholeness to our lives, filling the emptiness in our souls.

The key word is come. We must come to him and He will meet us there. He will be there waiting. Meet him, seek him and he will quench our thirst. We need to acknowledge our need for Christ, extinguishing all self-reliance by opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit, welcoming peace and love on an entire new level.

Be reminded, He suffered and died for us. He is alive and with us in every moment. He knows and understands our weaknesses.  When we are feeling down, when our souls need replenished, just go to Him and he will satisfy our aching hearts.

Talk about powerful. He was speaking to me in so many ways this morning, it was wild.

The promise of the Holy Spirit…

Isaiah 58:11  

And the lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

As our faith strengthens and we grow closer to God, our eyes will be opened to His blessings. Some days I’m too self-absorbed to notice, but today it was vivid and clear.  I knew I must share these little glimpses of God.   May you all find God’s presence with you this week.