My hope for you for 2016

As a grieving mother, I find the need to hold on for dear life when the holidays approach. It is such a long stretch of time and so many milestones and family traditions take place during that time frame.  It often feels like a tornado of feelings, and I am desperately trying to find something to hold on to and keep me from being sucked into the depression of it all.  Here’s the thing about the holidays- its not just Christmas.  The holidays start with Halloween and end with New Years Day- it’s a two and a half month stretch of emotional grieving.

I know I’m not alone.  And as we (finally) come to the other side of this difficult stretch of time, I thought I would offer some ideas about how my family coped this year and let the rest of you know that you weren’t alone in finding it hard to get through. 

Halloween was for me the least difficult to get through- but tough nonetheless.   I tried to imagine what Hayden would choose to become this year- a superhero, a Disney character, or a power ranger just to be like his big brother (of whom I am sure Hayden would be the biggest fan).

Thanksgiving always is and was again especially hard.  We have hosted the past eleven years since having our own home. Having him not at the table with us rips my heart out each and every year. Watching his cousins and his brothers enjoy being together and knowing he should be running in the mix is so bittersweet. But, like everything else, I have found a way to survive it. This year, we did a thankful jar for Hayden and we asked family members to write something they were thankful for having had Hayden in their lives. It was my way of making sure that he wasn't forgotten that day and that he was honored.

The entire month of December has been difficult. Watching Hayden's younger brothers at different stages- excited by blow up Santas, advent calendars, and making Christmas cookies and wondering what he would be getting excited about is all so painful. Watching them open their presents in their Christmas PJ’s with their sleepy eyes,  tearing through their gifts with smiles from ear to ear, was tough – while I am happy for them and with them, I desperately miss Hayden . This year was no different from the last three- I stared in wonder at what that little 3 year old red head would look and act like in the midst of it all.

There is just no sugarcoating the holidays. Christmas is difficult beyond words. And then New Years just marks the start of another year without him.  I'd like to tell you that it's gotten easier as the years have gone by but I'm not going to tell you something that isn't true. My purpose for writing these blogs is to provide an honest, yet hopeful picture. And to be perfectly honest, it hasn’t gotten much easier. I have however found ways to incorporate Hayden into our holidays and that has definitely proved to ease some of the pain.

Every year, my three best friends make ornaments with their kids for Hayden. We decorate a tree just for Hayden's ornaments and it is truly a bright spot in the season. Last year, I started a tradition with my kids and my sisters’ kids where I asked them to draw a picture of what they thought Hayden would like for Christmas that year. They decorated them and put them in Hayden's stocking. Then together we “opened” his presents and spent that time remembering and honoring him.

Our foundation also compiles care packages for four different cardiac pediatric floors during the holiday season in Hayden’s name. We love knowing that he is spreading holiday cheer for families spending that time in the hospital.

These are just a few things we have done as a family for Hayden during this difficult time.  My hope for you, other grieving families, is that you allowed yourself time to grieve your angel this holiday season and found a way to honor and remember them.  I hope you made new traditions while remembering them during your old ones. And throughout it all, I hope you remembered you are not alone in this.  Find comfort in knowing that even though your friends and families might not have the right words, or even sometimes no words at all, they are with you- thinking of you and your angel every step of the way.  

If you struggled this year to find ways to honor your angel, here are some ideas you might think about for next year from other grieving families:

  • Decorate his/her final resting place;
  • Have family and friends hang an ornament on their family tree in honor of your angel;
  • Light a candle on Christmas Eve and Christmas day;
  • Fill your angel’s stocking with toys that other siblings can enjoy;
  • Include some special items from your angel in a photo for your Christmas card;
  • Send care packages or gifts to the hospital where your angel was cared for; or
  • Make a meal for the staff at the hospital where your angel was cared for on holiday.

My hope for you is that you survived the holidays by finding ways to remember and honor your lost love. And my hope for 2016 is that you and I will feel our angels with us each and every day.