The tree lights are twinkling as the soft sound of music fills the room. Laughter can be heard along with the cheerful exchanges of “Merry Christmas” between family and friends. While the holidays are a joyous occasion, a heartbreaking reality sinks in. The holidays are anything but joyous to you because you’re the parent of a child gone too soon. To the parent whose heart is hurting, please know it’s OK to grieve.
A few years ago, my life went in a direction I never imagined. I’m a mother of children both here on earth and in heaven. When I was pregnant with triplets I pictured a life full of diapers, chaos and happiness, not a journey spent balancing unbearable grief with joy. My triplets were born extremely premature, and from the moment they arrived, my grief set in. Within two months of birth, two of my children died, leaving me with one precious miracle survivor. In the early days, it was a struggle to even get out of bed. While my life felt like it was at a standstill, the world around me continued to live.
To the parent whose heart is hurting, it’s OK to let your emotions run wild. The holiday season is bittersweet. It’s time for family and traditions, but it’s also a reminder of your child who is no longer here. In the hustle and bustle of the season, so many of us shove our feelings aside. My first year post-loss, I hid my sadness, trying to be happy for all that God has given me. But, deep inside I was breaking; my heart physically aching for the two children who would never be there to see Christmas day. The tears streamed down my face as I rocked our baby, her petite little body oblivious to the weight of my grief. The tears eventually turned to cries as I let my guard down. Sometimes life isn’t fair and it’s OK to be sad.
To the parent whose heart is hurting, please know that you are strong. You may feel defeated; your mind in a cloudy haze of grief, but becoming a parent of child loss gives you a strength you never knew was inside of you. I learned that the day my son passed away. Not wanting to show him my heartache, I nurtured him with love and strength as he passed away in my arms. I somehow managed to stay afloat as my ship was sinking into the depths of sorrow. I may not look physically strong on the outside, but that inner strength is much more powerful. As you navigate the holiday season on a seesaw of hope and grief, please know your strength will appear when you least expect. Those tears are not a sign of weakness, instead, they show that you love with all your heart.
To the parent whose heart is hurting, it’s OK to be happy this holiday season. For too long, I felt guilty each time I laughed or smiled. I felt guilty that my body failed me; my lone survivor would grow up never knowing her siblings. Over time, those feelings of devastation subsided, giving way to peace and true happiness. This year there will be more smiles than tears as I watch my daughter experience the joy of Christmas. As she rips open presents under the tree, her brother and sister won’t be far away. Above her on the tree, two special ornaments hang, serving as beautiful tributes to our children in heaven. At some point, there will be tears as I think of my triplets, but that’s part of life. I’ve embraced those tears ever since they became my “new normal.”
To the parent whose heart is hurting, please know you will be OK. It may not be today, tomorrow, or even next year, but someday those tears will give way to a beautiful rainbow, showing the world you survived the storm.
Grief is a marathon, not a sprint. As a parent who has lost a child, please don't tell me how to grieve.
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