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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A Gift of Gratitude For You-(Gift Inside)

 

So Thanksgiving is in just a few days, and what better time to warm our hearts with stories of gratitude than now.

I am over the moon excited to share with you our new e-book, A Gift of Gratitude, a community book project, just released on Amazon. A book of authors sharing their thoughts and experiences with matters of thankfulness.

With help from fantastic editor Donna Kozik, this book has become a fabulous melting pot of gold, offering appreciation, love, perspective, smiles and hope.  I am so honored to be a part.

As a special gift for all our loyal readers and supporters, A Gift of Gratitude is free all this week! So all you need to do is purchase it for free and it’s yours to download and read on whatever device you’d like.

Here is the Amazon link.    http://bit.ly/gratitude–book

Do you know someone who could use a little uplifting this holiday season?  Heartwarming and soul touching, this is the perfect gift! Did I mention this inspirational book also contains the favorite causes of all the authors? How cool!  I’m a big fan of philanthropy and always love hearing about how people give back to organizations dear to their heart.

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What are you waiting for? Go get it while it’s still free and enjoy!

http://bit.ly/gratitude–book 

With that, I pray you all have a Thanksgiving filled love, family and friends. As you gather around the table or reflect on your own, may we all take a moment and remember everything we have to be grateful for.

On the journey with you,

Daphne

 

P.S. Stayed tuned next week for another special announcement!

The Gift of Grief: How to Embrace Peace When You Feel Overwhelmed

Sharing my post today, published by a wonderful online site, Having Time, on finding peace and the gift of grief.

“It’s not the events of our lives that shape us but our beliefs as to what those events mean.” – Tony Robbins

She stretched her growing legs out, shoving back the pile of blankets that were keeping me warm.  Her leg then moved outward and kicked me just as I was falling into a relaxed state after a long and demanding day.

Grrrrr.  “Stop it,” I said sternly.  “Move it….’get out of here, go to your bed.”

I could feel my anger escalating. My tired self had no patience for wild antics of my children as all my body craved was sleep.

Her six-year-old, sixty-pound body was too much to move compelling me to bite the bullet and tough it out. My energy was depleted. She had won…

As a busy mom of four lively and spirited children, I yearned for sleep.  To sleep in my bed, without children, without unruly octopus legs interrupting my peaceful slumber would sure be amazing.

Wishful thinking. Was this too much to ask?

I can’t remember the last time I had a totally restful night’s sleep or five minutes to myself.  Just as my negativity began to creep in, it hit me.

What was I complaining about?  That voice became louder.  Stop it, remember, you have so much to be thankful for.   Your daughter is here next to you. Alive, healthy, sleeping in safety next to you, her mother who she loves with all her heart.

Gulp.

Reality check.

Again.

One would think that after having my oldest daughter die at the hands of a tragic accident and facing a life of torture and persistent heartache, would make me immune to such selfish behavior.  Guess again.

Had I forgotten? Absolutely not.  Most onlookers would think that someone like me wouldn’t need frequent reality checks.

Well, that’s the bold truth of this fleshly world we live in. I’m human just like the rest of us. I get worn-out, grouchy and take things for granted. I fail to see the beauty in mundane daily tasks at times and succumb to guilt, regrets and a serious case of bad attitudes.

 

Conversely, I know how awful it could be. I have experienced the worst and at times still, relive those gut wrenching soul-killing sobs and accompanied sharp pains. However, instead of that initial blanket of hopelessness, these intimate moments are followed by an overwhelming peace that embraces me, bringing comfort and healing.  This is the gift of grief.

I can honestly say that having lived through the trauma of the death of my child, my eyes have been opened to a new world. Initially, it was the world full of sadness and unending pain. It was struggling with heavy doubt and perpetual what ifs.

However, eight years later, it has evolved into a world of deep introspect and life lessons.  Grief is constantly developing and growing my heart of compassion while pruning my spirit and blossoming my faith.   Grief causes you to become authentic to yourself as you walk that fine line between past and present, delicately balancing the dynamic emotions that flood your soul, while reflecting on yesterday and pondering what the future holds.

I have learned that I cannot only survive this, but can thrive.  It humbles me to know that without grief, my life would have been entirely different and I would not be the same person I have become today.  For that I am grateful.

So, for now, I think I can handle a few more kicks and sleepless nights if it means I’m able to hold my precious child, feel her warm breath upon my face, and absorb the true blessings that life gives.