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

7 Amazing Gift Ideas for Your Kids That Won’t Cost You a Dime

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” ― Amit Ray

I was enjoying getting lost in the large store, books piled high on every shelf. It seemed it didn’t have an end as I navigated my way through the vast categories of books.

As I sat perusing my fingers through some pages, I felt something staring at me.  I peered over the top of the pages, spotting a pair of eyes outlined with royal blue accompanied by an adorable little smile.   Dressed in black pants and a striped shirt, I noticed he had drawn a mask over his eyes with a blue sharpie. No doubt he had to trace it a few times to get the full effect.

Waiving softly, I mouthed hello and smiled.  His superhero face and mischievous grin warmed my heart. Instantly it took me back to those days when Lydia painted herself with make-up. The bright blue eyeshadow you couldn’t miss and the hot pink lipstick covering her mouth, chin and almost up to her nose, made you want to laugh. But she felt beautiful.

Wiping my eyes, I smiled in awe. So hard to believe she is gone.  Oh those years, what I wouldn’t give to rewind time and go back, just to have one more chance. To share those gut-busting giggles, kiss those sweet freckled cheeks, to build that snowman, to do it all again.

The days of our lives are fast and furious, passing by ever so quickly. Years fly by in a second, making us look back wondering where the time went.

You see my daughter Lydia, just turned fifteen and lives in heaven. She passed away when she was five. In hindsight, there’s so much I would do differently. When she was here, my focus wasn’t where it should have been.

Of course, I would want to shower her with gifts and all her favorite things, especially during Christmas, however, I have learned that that only brings temporary and superficial happiness as well as empty pockets.

Now as my daughter’s 15th birthday came and the holidays draw near, her absence is ever so present. My heart is heavy and tuned into to what matters most.

Take it from a mom who knows, here are 7 gift ideas for your children that don’t cost a dime.

7 Amazing Gift Ideas for Your Kids That Won’t Cost You a Dime

1. Give them your time.  Give those precious kiddos the last minutes before bedtime, the first minutes in the morning awakening them with hugs with wide open arms.  Take time to push them on the swings, play cards, or attend that special event.  Give them your undivided attention when you walk through that door from work, greeting them like they are the best gift ever, because they are!

2. Give them your ear. Listen to them.  Put down all the technology that we are chained to and really hear what your children are saying. Listen to the stories of their day, the drama with their friends, and the excitement about their activities.  Listen to their adorable giggles, what makes them smile and what hurts them.  They will forever be grateful for this.

3. Give them unconditional love. Tell them you love them daily, even when they mess up.  When they spill a bag of flour all over the kitchen floor, or when their grades are not as good as they should be, let them know how much they mean to you.  When they overflow the toilet or paint on walls, embrace their uniqueness and make sure they know they are special.  And when they get on your last nerve, take a deep breath, and be thankful that they are there alive, and always end every conflict with an “I love you.”

4. Give your kids the gift of teaching them about the true meaning of Christmas. It’s so easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of presents, shopping, and Santa Claus.  Let them know that Christmas is about love. Let them know they matter, that they were created for a reason and are beloved in the eyes of our heavenly father.   Show them and teach them that faith is everlasting and provides guiding principles for life.

5. Give them the gift of giving back.  Take them to volunteer at a homeless shelter, purchase a gift for a child in need, or other philanthropic acts, being sure to explain the challenges and difficulties so many endure.  Let them see life from a different perspective. And as a bonus for all you parents, your children will gain hearts filled with compassion for others, guaranteed.

6. Give your children the gift of gratitude.  As they learn to be thankful and grateful for everything they have in life, they will gain maturity, responsibility, opening their eyes to the value of hard work.

7. Give them encouragement. Make sure they know how proud you are of them. When they pass a test, get dressed by themselves, clean the house, or make the sports team, tell them how delighted you are. This will empower them with confidence and give them the courage to explore and try new things.

These seem so simple, yet they are gifts that I have neglected to give my children on many occasions. Things and times I have taken for granted, which have haunted me with regret.

I too have been guilty of showing my children with tangible gifts that go unappreciated time and time again, soon to be forgotten.  As parents, I know we all have.   So before you hit those sales in the stores, this year, I challenge you to give your children something they will never forget, making those memories that will remain with them forever.   Your heart will thank you and so will they.

Can Christmas Be “Merry” After Losing A Loved One?

Merry Christmas! (Sharing an updated post from last year)

For some it will fall way short of “Merry” this year but it will still be Christmas nonetheless. No doubt Christmas has changed since Lydia died. The excitement, fun, anticipation waned as the first holiday came around without her.  Taking my son to see Santa proved to be a traumatic experience that I never wanted to do again. Like most parents, proudly snapping pictures of their children grinning with excitement while sitting on Santa’s lap, all I could see was the picture of my children together, the last Christmas she was here while my memory filled with regrets.

www.grievinggumdrops.com

My favorite…..

That next year, seeing Santa and the coming of Christmas was horrifying…But what does a mother do? She somehow endures the pain, a facade, while trying to put a smile on her only child’s face.  Seeing only my son with Santa crumbled me and brought me to my knees. How I hated life, hated myself.  The Santa photos used to be my traditional Christmas card, and now, I haven’t sent out a Christmas card since. I became bitter towards those family photo cards, you know, the ones with all the smiles and happy wishes… For the two years when we received them from “friends” in the mail, after opening the first, one by one they all went straight to the garbage, sight unseen. It became too painful and slapped me in the face, bringing to the forefront that pain I had worked so hard to hide.

Yet, over the years I can see God’s grace has given me a new start. I’ve learned that it’s not about me or my children…It’s about Jesus…the most precious gift of all..You see, only through him, do we have hope of a better tomorrow and spending eternity with our loved ones. The pain of loss, yet so intense, is just a sliver of a moment in time, as our eternal home has no end.

As I approach our seventh Christmas without Lydia, tears are still shed and my heart remains scarred.  I miss her with every grain of my being, yet I look forward to experiencing the joy and wonder of the season with my other children. As we wake up Christmas morning and the children hurry to see what Santa has laid beneath the tree, I imagine Lydia being here with her brothers and sister celebrating in delight.  Wiping the tears, feeling her physical absence saddens my heart, but knowing that we will be reunited someday gives me hope. For now, we are celebrating together this gift that He has bestowed upon us all.  God’s love for us is amazing! For this, I give thanks.

So remember those who are new in their grief, navigating those unchartered waters this season and celebrate Jesus and the gift of eternal life this Christmas.  It is definitely something to be Merry about!

Book Giveaway Update.
Congrats to winner Janet Wolken- Please contact me.