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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Announcement-Book Coming Soon!!

It’s here. Today Lydia turns 16 years old.  It’s one that’s been on my heart for years, strangely.    Wow! It’s so hard for my mind to wrap around her being 16.   Has it been that long?

I have been thinking, wondering what I could do to honor her and make this day special and all about my girl.  To start, I will share some writing focused on Lydia throughout this week, many photos as well as my special announcement. But in all honesty, I just want to sit in my fuzzy pajamas, drink hot chocolate and watch hallmark movies all day by myself while remembering my girl. Unfortunately, amidst all my duties as responsibilities, that’s not in the cards today.

Nevertheless, I’m so excited to share with you a project I’ve been working on.  Something that arose seemingly out of the blue, but came together without a hitch.  A book, to shed a ray of light in the darkness for those who find them in this unbearable reality.

COMING SOON!!  Barely Breathing: Ten Secrets to Surviving the Loss of a Child

 

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I want to share with others, newly bereaved and those who have been struggling for years on this unpredictable journey.  Being a “bereaved mother” for over a decade now, I have unveiled those hidden treasures that have helped me get to where I’m at today, and have written my ten secrets to survival plus some bonus secrets for YOU.  This is the book I wished I had when Lydia died and I want all those parents out there with aching hearts to know that if I can do this, so can you!

How do parents who have lost a child move forward when they don’t know what do to next and are barely breathing?  How can we live this life when reality tugs back because the fear of moving forward is so gut wrenching and hard? What do we do when we feel like we can’t take one step further and we want nothing more than to be with our children? Let’s face it-our dreams and hopes have been shattered.   We feel like outcasts, like we don’t belong anymore because the only identity we have ever known has been stripped away in a second.

As I already said, there are no words and no fixing this devastating reality.   However, what I can offer is some hope and encouragement.  It’s my desire that this book will leave the hearts of grieving parents planted with seeds of hope that losing your child is survivable and joy can be found again.  Together we got this. Beautifully broken, yet united. We are stronger together.

Thank you so much for all the loving messages and emails you have sent me. You guys are amazing and full of compassion.  God’s love is so evident.  In the meantime, in honor of Lydia, I think I will enjoy some chocolate milk, cantaloupe, chicken strips and brownies on this fabulous day while reminiscing through the photo albums.

Be on the lookout for weekly updates about the upcoming book release. To stay informed, be sure to subscribe to my mailing list at https://grievinggumdrops.com, and received your free copy of the eBook, “Everyday Joy.”

Also, connect with me on social media!   #barelybreathing
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