Day 11 of HIKMT’s 25 Ways in 25 Days to celebrate Christmas.

Today’s Tip is sent in by Erin K Berndt

Surviving The Holidays while Grieving

I’ve been told by many that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that there is no right or wrong time frame. I’ve read it a million times and even heard it from a few close friends and my 17 yr old, who is so much older than her years. The rest of my family, they say nothing. My husband hates to see me cry, so I do that alone at night. He lives 1200 miles away right now, because our (my step) son, is still on probation until January in MA.

The fact that I have been alone for 98% of the time since my son died in August from a Heroin overdose, has been my first ever real death, and navigating all of those terrible feelings, were not easy. I didn’t know how to “deal” with this, or when I would be “better.”

I love my Mom, but we are not exactly cut from the same cloth. I am a very physical person, hugs, touches, kisses. Mom has NEVER been that person. A hug and kiss good-bye when you’re leaving is her limit. My only other really close experience with death was when her mother, my nana, died when I was 14. What I remember of that time, is my Mom always crying.

So, on Aug 28th at 12:13am the call came in that my son had died up in MA, five months after I left that state, outrunning his death, praying my distance would give him a longer life and me one too. We can’t outrun the inevitable, that was lesson one.

Lesson two was that besides Kaylee, my 17 yr old, I was on my own. Mom pulled away, not knowing how to handle my grief, she lost a grandson, she had never even gotten to know. Maybe the guilt is what it was and then my stepdad got sick. I wasn’t given that information until a few days later. They wanted no help from us, even though I longed to be useful. I called after he was home trying to reach out. Three weeks before Thanksgiving, my step-dad told me to “just shut up & be here for Thanksgiving”. I was in a place in which no one really understood what I was feeling and they all secretly, or not so secretly thought I had gone over the deep end.

I wish……. it seems that madness would’ve been sweet ignorant bliss.

God never gave me that chance. My first instinct when Anthony died was to search the heavens and beg God for a sign that Anthony was ok. I got my sign and everyone in the family, saw the same exact sign, a bald eagle, 1200 miles apart.

Then, I went through the process of repenting, forgiving and just turning myself over to God. He came to me and he saved me. He has inspired me to be the best me I can be and as a result, of course my attention has turned toward the addiction/recovery community. A place I understand and where I am welcomed without judgment.

I tried the family Thanksgiving at Mom’s. They invited their regular guests, a wonderful husband and wife, and her mother from across the street. Normally, I am so comfortable around them. Not that day.

They said a prayer in Spanish and I understand enough that I began to tear up. When I put that first bite of turkey in my mouth, it tasted like dirt, so dry I choked and started crying at the same time. I had to go outside to hide my grief. It turned out so awkward and my Mom complained that Kaylee had not been her upbeat self (because at my worse moments when she was terrified for me, my mother refused to answer her calls, leaving her utterly alone).

My husband does the best he can from MA, but truthfully, I don’t think I would be anywhere near where I am if he had been here to pick me up and coddle me. There has been no days in bed, no screaming, throwing things and little anger, except at being alone!!!

What has become of me in my grief, is a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I have learned to appreciate everything I have and I am more present than I have ever been in my entire life. My faith in God is unshakeable, although I’ve learned that he will still throw adversity at me, no matter what I’ve endured.

I am not the first nor last parent to lose a child. I accept this, no grandchildren for Christmas this year either, so I will make sure they all get awesome gifts and I will facetime them. I will miss my husband and son, but, they can go to my in-laws like every other year. We were invited to Christmas Eve at my Mom’s neighbors, but one awkward holiday was enough for me. Mom hasn’t even mentioned Christmas. I didn’t decorate inside, but I did decorate the small Palm trees outside, as well as the bushes. That is what I had the energy for, so that is my contribution.

What will we do for Christmas and New Years? We will do us, the new us, that go out and explore our surroundings, hike in the natural beauty, picnic there or maybe we’ll hit the beach and eat our holiday dinners at the weirdest places you can imagine.

I will not sit home and feel sorry for myself. I refuse to do that! I am living for my son too. I will laugh, sing and dance for him, because before he lost himself in Heroin, he did all these things every day.

I will celebrate Jesus’s Birthday, no gifts, except for Kaylee. She has been my rock and has picked me up more times than I can count. I couldn’t save my son from addiction, but, I saved both her and her brother from it’s deadly clutches and their lives are worth celebrating.

My husband and Devin will be coming after Devin’s release from probation on January 9th. That is when we will celebrate the holidays. My tight little family. Those that have stood by me every day despite the distance. You learn people’s true selves in a tragedy such as this. I am the lucky one because, I found strength and I found ME………lost my whole life, until my son’s death.

Although there is no greater loss for a parent, I choose to be the light. I choose to plan a future I never thought I was creative enough to achieve.  I choose to be part of the solution, not the problem.

My heart goes out to every person facing loss this holiday season. My advice is to embrace what your loved one would want you too. If you have small children, let their innocence and joy at the holidays sweep you up and hold you tight. Go outside or remove yourself for moments of sadness. You have every right to be sad. I hear it gets easier with every holiday, so I guess we will all learn this together, as each new first is reached.

Remember, we’ve been through so much worse. The loss is fresh and painful, but we made it through that first day and we have continued on. Be strong and please, feel free to get in touch with me for anyone who needs to talk or cry. I am always available. Also, if there are any charities that need extra help, please contact me!!

I hope that you all make it through the Holidays to the best of YOUR abilities, and really that is all that can be expected of you. We all handle loss differently, no right or wrong way, just the way that gets us through and on to the next day. God Bless.

I will pray for all of our lost loved ones. One day at a time!!!

Happy Holidays!

Daily Reflection:

For some of us, the idea that we were responsible for other people’s feelings had its roots in childhood and was established by members of our nuclear family. We may have been told that we made our mother or father miserable, leading directly to the idea that we were also responsible for making them happy. The idea that we are responsible for our parents’ happiness or misery can instill exaggerated feelings of power and guilt in us.

We do not have this kind of power over our parents – over their feelings, or over the course of their lives. We do not have to allow them to have this kind of power over us.

Our parents did the best they could. But we still do not have to accept one belief from them that is not a healthy belief. They may be our parents, but they are not always right. We do not have to allow their destructive beliefs to control our feelings, our behaviors, our life, or us.

Today, I will begin the process of (setting myself free) from any self-defeating beliefs my parents passed on to me. I will strive for appropriate ideas and boundaries concerning how much power and how much responsibility I can actually have in my relationship with my parents.

Shortcut to the Spirit of the Season:

Gift giving like the Wisemen… a gift honors another person. A symbol of love and respect. The joy of finging just the right gift will shine through when you consider the person and match your gift to them. Your thoughtfulness will shine like the lighted Christmas tree on a dark street. Make shopping fun this year by keeping a song in your heart.


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