It is the time of the year we all get excited about: holiday season. It is the time where it seems all the bad and evil of the world dissolves for a short time. A time for us to cherish moments with our family and our friends. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot that can get in the way of good times during these moments. As humans, we tend to thrive in this season as it allows us to reflect on the many blessings in our lives. We are given a time to be thankful for all the things we take for granted every day, and to rejuvenate our souls with each other.

Yet, despite all of these feelings of joy and fulfillment, many of us still face the reality of navigating the season with a piece of our hearts missing. No excitement of the season can take away the burden that is placed on families who have lost a child they so deeply loved. It is impossible to separate ourselves from the curiosity of what this season would look like had things gone our way.

For Ali and I, going through our first year since losing SJ has been one of many learning moments.

We have had to learn how to accompany one another through our different coping mechanisms, how to move forward with our loss, and how to ignore the inevitable feelings of longing for what so many get to experience. Learning to place our focus on what’s ahead has served as a huge challenge, as we often want nothing else than to remember the past feelings we experienced when our family was “complete”.

Entering this holiday season is going to be yet again another challenge we face as we prepare to face thoughts of what was supposed to be.

What should solely be a time of gratefulness and joy will unavoidably also be a time of emptiness and sorrow. With this, it will be difficult to avoid the shame that comes with feeling ungrateful for everything else God has granted us. However, this season will also serve as an important reminder of the following:

1. It is okay to be upset.

To think for one second that anyone has the capability to rid themselves of the frustration they feel when they experience loss is silly. Although these feelings are unwelcome, they ultimately indicate the extent in which we love. No one who truly loves and supports you would ever expect you to rid yourself of the frustration that comes with losing your child.

2. It is okay to spend time remembering our lost ones.

For me, taking the time to remember how it felt when we carried SJ is a painful experience and not one I necessarily enjoy. It feels redundant to my well-being, like I am taking a step back in my recovery process. However, remembering our time with loved ones reiterates the love that we never have to throw away. It allows us to continue to live with their spirit and make them a part of our everyday lives.

3. It is okay to talk about our loss at festive gatherings.

It can be easy to feel guilty after we bring up the loss of our child during a moment in which everyone is having a joyous time. However, in reality, the memory of our loved ones has every right to be a part of the joyous celebrations. There is no better place to grieve and remember your child than when surrounded by the same people who supported you through your journey. You are never doing a disservice to those who care about you when you open up about your feelings with loss.

Lastly, it is so important to take time to reflect on your personal well-being during this holiday season. Trying to handle your sadness and loneliness without help can lead down an unfortunate path. Lean into those who care about you, and let them share in your loss. Feeling broken and vulnerable is not an indication of weakness, but rather one of unconditional love. As hard as it may seem, you are never alone in your grieving. Moving forward is not the same as moving on; there is no shame in allowing God to help you see the blessings we still inherit today. My prayer for everyone going through these trials is that God would reveal a new light to them in this season, one that rejuvenates our souls and comforts us knowing our children are experiencing a joy we could never fathom here on earth!

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