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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Sacred Words-The Sweeter Side of Grief

“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.” ~Elizabeth Edwards

The past two weeks I have received two heart stirring emails from people whose lives were touched by Lydia. Unexpected and completely random, I was caught off guard but in a good way. Today I wanted to share with you one that my aunt had sent a few days ago of her last day with Lydia, just a couple weeks before she died.

As I read her email, her vivid and picturesque descriptions made the pages come to life. I actually felt like I was reliving these last moments with her again.  Her quirky sense of humor, boisterous and sassy attitude, yet loving and gentle nature seeped through.  Smiles, coupled with a laugh and lots of hot tears appeared simultaneously.  Needless to say, this made my year.   What a gift.

Have you ever received letters or stories from others about your loved one?  Being on the receiving end, I know how valuable these sacred words are to a grieving parent.   We crave them. It’s like keeping that connection alive, to hear their name, and seeing how they touched another’s life.

So before you head off shopping, to the gym, or any other place I strongly encourage you to write those notes to hurting hearts, letting them know what their loved one meant to you. Stop hesitating and just do it-myself included. Think of the enormous impact you will make in the life of someone whose heart is full of sorrow.

The best gift we can give a grieving parent or any grieving heart, is to share those soul touching memories about loved ones.  This my friends, is the sweeter side of grief.

Here are beautiful words, etched with love from my aunt whom Lydia adored.  I hope you get to see her personality shine as much as I did.

~On the journey with you~

LYDIA GREER 2008
Oh to be five again…
            When we called ahead on Sunday, July 13th to let Lydia and family know that we were only 15 minutes away from arriving for our visit, Lydia and I agreed we’d start with a manicure. I had learned to keep a bottle of pink nail polish in the car because a few months previous we had a rainy day rendezvous at the gun show.  Wishing for some little girly-activities, we strolled table to table asking the vendors if anyone had nail polish, but no one had a display of beauty products.
             So on this summery day in Redmond, we arranged ourselves in the shade and brightened our fingertips with pink. Pink was THE color of that day…from her toes to her nose, I admired her pink shoes, pink shorts, pink sun top, and especially the pink roses in her cheeks. …and now we pampered our hands…all the while recalling the fun we had in deer camp with her hourly offer to freshen up my nail color. “Of course it needs that little chip re-painted”. Her funny-bone was delighted by talking her Dad, brother, uncles and Grandpas into having a bit of color on THEIR fingertips too! She loved her people.
            In a while, she joined the dinner preparations: setting the table just so, asking for help to turn the doorknob, “cause my arm doesn’t like to turn that way”, then shucking corn, snacking on cheese for the burgers and exclaiming “SIT BY ME! And then filling up on chocolate milk so she couldn’t get in one bite of her dinner…unswayed by predictions of night time hunger…she announced, “I’m full”
             The summer evening was toasty-warm for a stroll hand-in-hand around Uncle Danny’s neighborhood. “Let’s see if there is a house for sale and get one of those papers all about it. Let’s stop and visit everyone who gave me candy last Halloween. Let’s knock on the doors and ask each house if they’ve seen the dog on the poster that disappeared on the 4th of July. Let’s blow these dandelion tops and make a wish. Let’s wiggle through this fence and see what they’re building over there. Let’s go home and I’ll sing.”
            Returning to the yard and finding the guys sitting in lawn chairs visiting, she had a perfect stage. She plucked leaves from the big willow bush as “Tickets” to enter her theater and launched into her repertoire: Hannah Montana, High school Musical and her standard:  “…..I’m cool, I’m cool…Some people say I’m hot, but I’m coooool!” Her encore was a charade of animal actions and sounds as a quiz for the audience.
            Must she make time for a bath? Reluctantly departing to wash off the prickly grass of the outdoor stage she soon dashed back to report she had a little more time to visit ’cause  “Mom’s just laughing and amazed!! Danny’s gotta learn to clean the tub.”
            The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast out and once again I was honored with her wish that we could sit side by side. Ordering confidently, she subbed link sausage for bacon and announced, “yes, I eat the crusts” of the French toast I helped her cut.
              Afterwards, sending Daphne on her errand with the request for blue nail polish, Lydia explored our motel across the street and sat right up to the telephone to begin dialing her family.  Every number memorized for Grammies, aunties and cousins, she stayed in touch … if a phone was at hand, I learned she was ready to place a call. Since this time was pretend with phone cradled in her shoulder she listened, replying  “uh huh…uh huh…uh huh…” all the while taking copious notes.
            Back at the dining room table, drawing and visiting and tending to a pedicure, she pointed out her ruffled sun top for the day was a loaner from her friend…how nice to be the same size and share. I learned she had mastered the swimming strokes and “I don’t even need the noodle to hold me up now!” 
            Packing up to return home, we hugged goodbye, planning for another grand time together. Now, as I imagine God’s heavenly Welcoming Committee enlivened with the enthusiasm of Lydia, I must say it helps to feel good about arriving in heaven for our next Grand Time Together.  In her short five years, she learned to embrace us at a full run …her arms outstretched for hugs of joy. I know I wasn’t the only one she loved. It was her practice, and she made us all feel like a million dollars!
            Remembering her rosy cheeks which completed that snappy outfit of pinks clothes, today it seemed like pink roses were a good symbol of the delicate color and softness of Lydia’s happy face. 
            I watch roses grow from bud to full expansive bloom, bursting with beauty and then gone, the petals scattered away on breezes. I am sorry to see the flower go, but I know the petals will nourish the garden and help new beauty come to life. Lydia was a beautiful gift of God. She knew she was God’s child and that Jesus loved her. She delighted in doing the most important job God can give us…loving others. God bless her generous and accepting heart.
Auntie M’ loved Lydia…
LydiaHunter1

 

 

 

Cover image photo credit-Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash