Grief Holiday Series-

Handling Grief at the Holidays After Suicide Loss

Healing Through the Holidays

Nine years. 3,435 days.

Umpteen breaths exhaled grieving. The impossible journey to learn to breathe in again. To breathe past your exhale. To breathe in because it’s in the inhale that air floods senses, whooshes down the windpipe, pumps air into filling lungs and language, words that wrap and shape around sounds. Only because the inhale makes them so. To live in-between the final exhale and the forced inhale of life carrying on is to gasp and choke constantly, caught on confusion—am I breathing 0ut or in? Is it even my breath at all that catches on all these half breaths, shallow breaths, the breaths in-between?

Still I search but cannot find you, cannot save you, cannot stop time, neither reverse its course in rewind nor cease its relentless momentum forward. My world heaves, spins, chokes, gasps—and love—did I mention love?

Life is so beautiful, little one—I only wish you’d stay to share it with me.

Healing When You’ve Lost a Child

Healing is a mixed bag. Such a nice idea in theory to think one can heal a heart broken by the death of her son; such a clever idea to entertain the notion of the brokenness letting the light in, that somehow in brokenness, we’ve been broken open. Such is the stuff of fodder for best-selling, self-help, well-intentioned books.

But the grief from losing one’s only child to suicide at the tender age of barely turned 20 exhumes, transcends, to satisfy, to necessitate a complete healing. At least now, this eve of the last day I was ever to see you alive. My grief still descends to enshroud me when your memorial day approaches. My heart still bears the heaviness of missing you as we bear down on the holidays. It’s as though there’s been no healing in the moments in-between. And yet there has been.

I can see healing in the photographs I take trying to capture a beauty that is only ever fleeting. I see healing in the color palettes I choose, the way my vision leads me to turn my camera’s lens just so, capturing the moments I know to be fleeting, the moments when time stops, just for a breath, a split second just long enough to snap a photograph.

And in early grief? When the pain that pierced my heart and the grief that wouldn’t let go pummeled my all? Those first few days, weeks, months, even years when I thought I couldn’t make it through? I simply held on. I lived on that you might live too. And along the way, in-between early, acute grief and now, 9 years out from losing you, I find “healing” in respites along the way.

Dark pink and light colored phlox surrounding a stone creating the shape of a heart. water pond is in the background

Poems About Losing a Child

by a mother who lost her only son

No, my pain has not ended, my missing you has not ended, and there’s been no marker to proclaim “Healed” throuout these past 9 years. But in the end? Grief is a deep expression of love, and so it is, I both feel the pain of losing my son to suicide and the joy in loving and remembering him. Art, writing, reading, playing guitar and piano, photography, practicing self-care, and honoring my grief when the holidays come around are “healing.”

It’s okay not to be okay when you’ve lost your son or daughter. It’s enough to make it through, to take care of yourself, to say “No” even when you’ve said “Yes” to the demands of the holidays. It’s okay to take of you. The “Holiday Bill of Rights for Those Experiencing Grief” has helped me-perhaps it will help you too,

a close up of a red Mr. Lincoln tea hybrid rose in full bloom

“If Only a Mother’s Love Could Have Saved You”

A Poem About Losing a Child to Suicide-(by a mother who lost her only son)

Holiday Bill of Rights for Those Experiencing Grief

Special occasions such as holidays can be difficult, including for those who have experienced a suicide loss. Here are some tips and resources to support your healing through the holidays. Above all, bear in mind that there is no “right” way to handle special occasions — you and your loved ones may decide to try several different approaches before finding what is best for you.

Adapted from other sources, this list reminds you that you have a right to experience your grief on your own terms: 

American Foundation for Suicide, Healing Through the Holidays”
  1. You have the right to say “time out” anytime you need – to arrive late or step away from family gatherings early, to be alone without explanation when you need to grieve in the quiet, to walk outside when you feel overwhelmed.
  2. You have the right to tell others how you are feeling with honesty – you’re not obligated to answer the way others might expect or want.
  3. You have the right to not be joyful every single moment of the holiday, but if you look for and feel joy and love during the holidays you have an equal right to that, too.
  4. You have the right not to send out holiday cards.
  5. You have the right to not listen to holiday music or participate in gift exchanges and/or holiday celebrations.
  6. You have the right to be excited about going holiday shopping then change your mind when you get there, or buy a present for your loved one and do what you want with it.
  7. You have the right to laugh at unexpected times.
  8. You have the right to be angry.
  9. You have the right to long to have your loved one back, to have the life you once had.
  10. You have the right to find a way to honor and remember your loved one during the holidays by whatever ritual you feel comfortable with.
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