When your child has died, it is hard to feel 'wonderful' about anything....especially any days that suggest any type of celebration. Birthdays suck, holidays suck, every day is draining. High expectations are placed on the bereaved. People don't want to see you hurting, and they don't know what to say. Often, they expect you to be cheerful, and it's really the last thing you want to be.
When your heart is broken, there is no joy, and there is little hope. What was once 'normal' has been shattered. Nothing seems right, and even your most favorite songs, meals, movies and traditions lose their luster.
Last year, my husband and I realized, two days before Christmas, that we could not bear the thought of being home over Christmas, so we took a last minute trip to Las Vegas - a place where no one really seems to care what day it is. It was great - we were able to get away, and we didn't have to face the 'traditions' that used to be associated with Christmas.
This year, has been hard, too....I'd even say it's been harder than last year. Last year, our Christmas was "blessed" with the cover of shock as we tried to go through the motions. This year, we are still trying to go through the motions, but unlike last year, the shock has faded, so this year carries all kinds of Emotion as we face each day.
My heart is torn. One part of me has always loved Christmas. The decorations, the giving, the kindness and joy. The other part of me wants to ignore the whole thing.
Deep down, I feel like we need to do something for Catelyn, to remember her....even if our hearts ache, even if we don't feel joy.
We did purchase a small tree to set up in Catelyn's room. I think it's 18-24 inches tall. I found a few ornaments I had picked up last year, and I bought lights for Catelyn's tree this year. My initial thought was that we could write little notes to her and tie them to the tree as a special tribute to her...
I truly thought it was a good idea, and that it would be therapeutic to write to her all of the things I want to say, but to be honest, the tree is still in its box sitting in our kitchen, and I don't think it will be used this year, especially since today is the five days before Christmas, and we are heading out of town tomorrow.
At a time when so many are feeling joyful, I can't help but feel hopeless.
I miss my daughter. I try not to focus on the fact that she is gone, but sometimes I can't overlook it either.
Catelyn would be celebrating her 3rd Christmas this year, and then her 3rd birthday on December 30th.
She had one Christmas and one birthday with us. She was 360 days old when she celebrated that first Christmas, so it was fun watching her try to figure out opening gifts. Between celebrating with her great-grandparents, her grandparents (on both sides), and her aunt & uncle - not to mention my husband and I, she had plenty of practice! She was so dainty as she scraped the icing off her cake piece (quite possibly the cleanest 1st birthday pictures ever!!!).
She was so fun to watch, but we don't know what future Christmases and birthdays would've been like if things had gone differently.
It's heart breaking to wonder about, and yet, it's hard not to.
So how am I supposed to find healing or even joy in a time when I feel so broken?
Well, recently, I heard about a blog called Theo's Christmas Stocking. Theo died at 9 months of age. His family has spent 7 Christmases without him now. As the first Christmas without him approached, they decided to ask friends and family to help them honor his life by asking a favor.
I realize that it's not fair to ride on the coattails of someone else, but the idea was so beautiful, I could not help but want to do the same for Catelyn.
So, what my husband and I are asking is that our friends, family, and even strangers, consider doing something kind for others in Catelyn's honor. Simply send us a note telling us what you did via email or mail if you know our address.
We will save any messages we receive and read them on Catelyn's birthday (December 30th).
Please note, we are not expecting anyone to do anything that costs money - the idea is just to do good things for others, and to think of Catelyn as you do them. Besides, there are plenty of free things you can do for other people that are meaningful:
- shovel sidewalks or mow lawns
- hold doors for others
- smile at strangers (you can make a game of this and try to say hi and smile at everyone you meet!)
- compliment a stranger
- sit and talk with an elderly person
- go caroling
- spend more time listening to others
- give you (blood, time, talent, strength, etc)
- let someone go ahead of you in line
- give hugs
- be kind to people you aren't normally nice to
- pick up trash laying on the sidewalk, or road, or anywhere
- read books to kids (go to www.wegivebooks.org where you can read books to give books to other kids)
- give to important causes with the click of a button (The Hunger Site, The Breast Cancer Site, The Animal Rescue Site, The Veterans Site, The Autism Site, The Child Health Site, The Literacy Site, The Rainforest Site)
- say please and thank you
Please know that we are appreciative of anything and everything done in Catelyn's name. And, no matter what type of giving suits you best, it is my hope that each of you can find joy in the gifts you are giving to others.
We could not move forward in our grief without the love and support of each of you, and we are so grateful for everything you do.