Holidays are coming and I am trying to prepare myself for what feels like the apocalypse. I feel like I should be stocking up on food and weapons for the war inside my head but I struggle to when I can’t find the strength. It’s this pending doom that is thrown in your face. You stand up and something kicks you to the ground. You go to protect yourself but your usual tools are defenseless in this battle of grief. Christmas was our favorite time of year…the one time of year everything was about our want to make others happy and our excitement for truly spending time making other people smile but most of all our traditions and our time together. 15 years of the same things tweaked and perfected. Holidays were something that we would look forward to and planned out months in advance now seem like to the most horrible and traumatizing experience one could face after the loss of a child/loved one. While everybody wants to be happy and cheerful and do good things for others while grieving parents are left feeling lost, broken, envious, jealous, angry, frustrated, and filled with more emotions than one can really handle. For the last 15 years that Sara was alive, we have built traditions upon traditions. My earliest memory is of her and I during the holidays. More than half my life, I was a mom. Now at the young age of 34, I no longer was a mom. I feel as though someone has taken that from me. Now I am faced with holidays and first….but how can this be how can my beautiful smart daughter be gone…..Some of our holiday traditions would be to go to the Oak Park mall and pick out ornaments with our names on them…one for her, one for me and one for us it usually turned out that there would be five or six in our cart before we left the mall but we didn't care we loved Christmas ornaments and we love spending time together. We loved personalizing the tree with things that we liked. Another tradition lost is that every year we would make hundreds of chocolate covered pretzels, tons of pumpkin fudge and hundreds of cookies to deliver to everyone we knew. We would even ship yummies to people. While we were baking, I was Mrs. Clause, costume and all. She was Elf 1 and my very dear friend was Elf 2. We have hats and aprons to match. There hasn't been one Christmas Eve that I've spent without her. There hasn't been one Christmas morning that I haven't seen or experienced with her. She was my other half…my mini me…she was everything; she was my world, as I grew up as an adult she grew with me. She made me a better mom and a better person. Christmas Eve- we would have Grandma’s special recipe hot cocoa and open up a few presents that were always new pajamas.
This year there will be no pajamas under a tree. This year there will be no tree full of ornaments that we picked out together.I just cant find the energy to do any of it. This year every tradition is broken and tainted with regrets and what ifs. Memories are replaced by flashbacks. Sara had a huge heart and wanted to make other smiles with treats. We would do everything we could to give back to others. One year we even dressed up as Mrs. Claus and an elf at Wal-Mart as bell ringers, we raised over $250 in 2 hours. We just wanted to make an impact on people’s lives. She was always baking and cooking. We were always trying to do for others and help people see that there was good in the world. I am struggling to hold on to that good in the world. When I tell people I'm not doing holidays the look at me shocked or decide to tell me 10 reasons why they think I should do them. I try to explain that the world is not as bright right now for me anymore. That this world has lost someone so great it's doesn't see the full impact of the loss yet. Usually I get asked how did she pass, I do not feel ashamed to share my story and she is worth every bit of effort I have left and I often say I am not doing holidays this year which prompts people to ask why. I explain that I lost my daughter this year and I’m just not feeling it. Then the “oh I'm sorry. Was it cancer?” At first I would struggle with this question as it creates an uneasy feeling when I say nope, I wish. And then say no she died by suicide. It’s then that I could see the stigma associated with suicide cross there face. So now when someone asks me how…I say she lost the most courageous fight against her brain. She lost the battle in July because she didn't tell anyone. She fought in silence and finally succumbed to her illness. She died by a self-inflicted wound. She died by suicide. As I'm telling them this, I see their eyes change. It's at this point that usually they want to share a story of their struggles or someone they love lost to this epidemic called suicide. It’s a small win when I can see a bond made between two people sharing a heartfelt moment and bringing light to suicide. While I will never agree with her choice and I don't agree with her remaining silent. I also don't agree with somebody pre-judging the situation or the little girl they may not understand. So I will be happy to educate them. So as you are preparing for your holidays, remember that it’s about the moments and memories, not the gifts and the greed.
Remember that there are people out there with holes in their heart and nightmares in their minds. Remember that you can make a difference if you choose to, doing nothing just hurts and makes us feel more alone and rejected. Don’t ask us what we need as we cant tell you. What we need is gone. Maybe ask us what we could use or just do something? It could be really simple or really hard but you will never know unless you try. Trust me Words and actions matter. What difference will you make this year for someone else? Ask yourself what can you do to help the loved one who is hurting…What does someone else need that you could do to help through this rough time…send them a card with a favorite memory of the loved one who was lost (we won’t get any more memories of our loved ones and our memory right now isn’t working, write them down for us so we can read them later), send them a text or a picture, send them something that reminds you of the loved one, say there loved one’s name (we feel like they will be forgotten), prepare them a meal (cooking while your heart is broken is hard, help them out), send them a small token to show them that you are there, make a donation in their name or honor. Just don’t do nothing. Nothing hurts and depression lies to us. It lies to me every day. It tells me that I failed as a mom. It tells me that no one loves me. It tells me horrible things that I know are not true. I have to fight those little lies which I am not equipped for most days. Little tokens help those who like me struggle. Even if they push you away, that small token means a lot and when they are in a good moment they will go back to that. It will make them smile. Maybe send a grief Survival Kit. I came across and thought it was a nice token. It included items with little tags attached to each thing. These are just ideas you can do more or less. I read about this lady doing this for someone else and leaving it on their front porch.
A bag of gold coin candy- "You're worth more than gold"
a bag of cotton balls- "To soften the road ahead'
A package of erasers- "to fix all the small mistakes"
Package of ear plugs- "to block out the things you don't want to hear"
Bag of rubber bands- "to stretch beyond your limits"
Giant paperclip- "to help you hold things together"
Bandaids- "to cover what hurts"
box of Kleenex- "to wipe away the tears
A book by Gary Roe called Surviving the Holidays Without You (any book really would help)
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