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.”

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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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Finding Faith When Your Soul is Empty-Part II

Finding and maintaining faith can be extremely difficult. However, one thing I have learned is that acquiring faith is even harder when you don’t love yourself.

First and foremost, we must find self-forgiveness and trust while opening our hearts to the idea of loving ourselves.  We all get to those places in life where we feel alone, anxious and uncertain of our future. Yet we can be confident to know and understand that He died for us. For me and YOU! He gave his only son, to die for US!

Whoa.

One day out of the blue while deep in thought, it hit me.

That is an incredible love, a love like no other. How was I worthy of such a gift?

Tears dripped down my face and I felt so undeserving. Was I really worth love like this? I had done so much wrong in my life. But in His eyes, I am worthy. You are worthy. That’s all that matters.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

On one of my first trips to my therapists office a few weeks after my daughter Lydia died, while walking in I heard a voice softly whisper, “it’s going to be okay. “ It repeated over and over again many times as I entered the room. Tears were falling down my face as I was unable to fathom my new life.

Right. I thought. How can that be possible? In one ear and out the other. I dismissed those words as I was certain my world would never be okay again. I hated myself.

After Lydia died, I was broken beyond repair. I hated myself and was desperate to see my little girl. The void of her absence and constant ache of sorrow filled by entire being. It made me physically and emotionally sick. Not being able to smell her strawberry scented hair, kiss the freckles sprinkled on the bridge of her nose, or hold her tightly in my arms again, was incomprehensible. The fear of never seeing her again paralyzed me in every way and I couldn’t live with the thought of it.

However, in my learning of the stories of Job and Esther in the bible among others, seeing their unwavering faith and perseverance during trials of life that made them rise above like no other, were deeply inspiring. These people were resilient and filled with faith. Even if they had moments of doubt, they always returned to their faith. If they can do it, why can’t I? I AM worth it.

Psalm 25:5- “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” 

Faith absolutely can get a little tricky in those murky waters, as the devil attempts to cloud our judgement and convince us of our wrongdoing and transgressions.

It comes down to this. We have a choice. When Satan attacks us with negativity, we can submerge ourselves in self-pity and doubt, wallowing in our faults and failures or we can cry out to Him for help, and study His word, opening our minds to the life He wants us to live.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.-Psalm 46:1

So why are we here in the first place?

We may not know all the whys. However, we can learn, sow and reap from our life’s lessons-before and after our trials and struggles. For me, my life will always be divided into before her death and after. Then there is the me, the person I was before and the person I am now. It’s really quite amazing. God has used the tragedy of my daughter’s death to bring me closer to Him. With confidence I can say that I am a better person because of what I went through. This doesn’t mean it has been easy or without strife but a healing and transformation of the heart.

Romans 5:3-4- 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

When we find ourselves smack in the middle of tragedy, we beg to know the why’s and how’s of pain in our lives and plead to know what the future holds. Yet we need to be reminded to be content and that God is more powerful than anything we could ever imagine.

How can I be certain this won’t happen again? I can’t.

However, I can trust and believe in the power of God and prayer. We must hold tightly to that unshakeable faith when circumstances are out of our control. We must realize that life on earth is not everything. It is just a sliver of what He has in store for us.

We get so consumed with ourselves and families, fueling our selfish desires that we don’t make time for Him. We act like we don’t need Him, but in all reality, He is our only saving grace.  We can look forward to living for eternity-forever and ever in heaven. And yes, for some it could seem like a long way off, something that doesn’t really matter in the here and now. Life is so busy and it’s all about us. But it’s not. This fleeting life will be over before we know it. That’s why it’s so important to live life with eternity in our minds, standing on those promises of God.

Faith is hard. We are so often battered and tormented by the evil in this world, making us believe that there is no hope. However hope is the light of life.

“Without hope, the human spirit begins to check out of life.” Sheila Walsh again. Oh my gosh yes!
I have seen it time and time again.

There is no doubt. He is with us. The enormous power in the name of Jesus gives us strength to overcome and thrive.  Faith is all-powerful. It must be nurtured and watered much like that of a freshly potted plant. Faith and hope provide a ray of sunshine when we need it most.

We need to live intentionally and seek our purpose and passion in this world that we were created to do. From the moment we were made, God knew the day we would be born and the day we would die. He knows our every move. Nothing is a surprise to Him.

Luke 12:7-Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

I want others to see the hope in Jesus that I have discovered. I don’t want anyone to go through the pain of losing a child or a loved one, thinking that they have no hope and that life cannot continue.

It most certainly can. Even though it won’t be the easy road we all hope for in life, it can still be a joyful life filled with beauty and wonder.

I used to be annoyed with those bubbly, upbeat and overly cheery individuals. What did they have that I didn’t? Were their lives always perfect? I doubt it, however, I became eager to be one of those people. The ones that always seem to be happy, never having a bad day. Those that seem completely content with life, positive and joyful all the time. No one’s life is perfect or free from trials, however, finding faith and having perspective makes it possible.

We weren’t meant to suffer on this earth alone. Ask Him for strength. Remember, this life is not our own. We are not here for ourselves.

A few days ago, I found my mind racing, inching towards that path pain and sorrow. I caught myself fanning my face in the midst of traffic trying to keep my tears from ruining my mascara on the way to work while trying to keep my anxiety at bay, when I said to myself out loud, “I’m such a boob.”

Really. It happened. I felt so ridiculous.

But then I was reminded of all I’ve been through and understood that I was reacting normally while telling myself the anxiety and shortness of breath would subside. Inhaling deeply and slowly, I waited for the moment to pass, trying to keep my mind occupied until the next obstacle in life surprises me.

This is not a sign of weakness, just an illustration of the vulnerability and rawness of the human heart. I am a human. A mother who has endured unfathomable loss, inexplicable trauma and had to bury her first-born child.

Yeah, it’s been hell. Not going to lie. Nine years later, those unbearable moments still come over me so unpredictably.

What do I do? I remind myself of my faith and know that I’m not alone. God is with me. Self-talk and positive thoughts can make all the difference. I wipe my tears, adjust my sunglass and head on down the road.

Ecclesiastes 3
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

If you missed Finding Faith When Your Soul is Empty, here is the link:  https://grievinggumdrops.com/2017/10/19/finding-faith-when-your-soul-is-empty/

Photo credit-Larry Turner, Oregon, USA

Stop Running and Find Your Way

I turned on Joyce Meyer a few days ago…my late night battery re-charger. It was all in the  message, STOP RUNNING FROM GOD… really? I felt like it was without a doubt tailored exclusively just for me.  I wanted to pull the blanket over my head and hide, so no one would notice… but I noticed…I was alone… and she was talking to me.

Today matters….Stop running.

This totally resonated with me.  It caught up with me and smacked me in the face…I have been running, in a non-stop, purely chaotic way of life. Bouncing from one thing to another…work, football, soccer, meetings, cleaning up flooded basements, tending to bruises and whines,  raising wild chickens and children for that matter, which keeps me endlessly circling on this roller coaster of life, forcing me to put off my writing and try to make sense of my scrambled thoughts.  (Totally normal, mind you, when you have a grief-stricken mind, over commit yourself and have four kids going in different directions!)

Totally consumed with children and their activities, I had reached a stagnant point in my life, losing sight of the big picture (Now that I think about it, seems like I’ve been here for nearly a year now.) Time to get moving.

“Running away never sets us free,” said Joyce.   What was I searching for?  Waiting for or running from?  Tired of the mundane and disconnect, I began praying daily for God to speak to me, to show me my path and whatever I was to be doing and to revive me, because I just was not able to focus or find my spot in life and had absolutely no clue what to do with my disheveled self, wondering where God was…Was I too wrapped up with myself and too busy to hear him?

Absolutely.

And then I remembered….

This is the day that the lord has made…  let us rejoice and be glad in it…..I kept telling myself…..

Fix what you can today…Appreciate the moment. Live in the present…Yes, a reminder I desperately needed.

Matthew 4:4    Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

I think at some point, we all go through phases like this in life, where our focus leaves our faith, and we inadvertently refuse to allow time for God, which pulls us away and fogs our mind, creating seasons of anxiety, stress, and confusion.     When you’re busy madly taking care of others and incessantly tending to tedious daily tasks, you unintentionally put your own needs on hold, not knowing what you need until you reach the point of a complete meltdown and realize it’s time to regroup.

Let us not forget, we can’t do this alone. His word is like medicine….

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May you all see the light unto your path…..