Opening up the wound – when the grieving parent withdraws

This time of year can be fraught with emotion and grief for those who have lost loved ones, particularly if that is a child. For those whose birthdays are also this side of Christmas, it can seem like a double grief. Memories of Christmas past, thoughts of Christmas present, and worries for Christmas future. It is hard to find any joy in the season at all.

What I want to write about here is for those of you supporting and loving a bereaved parent at Christmas. You will have seen them though their bleakest times, the aftermath of loss, the pain and heartache as their lives, and very selves, shift and change to accommodate their new grief. It may have already been many years…

While you know that this time of year will be hard, when you see your loved one crumble in grief after a long time since their child died, it can seem somewhat odd. They were – are – OK. They’ve adjusted. Their life is changed but they seem to have recovered.

Now it’s Christmas. Or now it’s their child’s birthday. Or now it’s the anniversary of the day their child died. Maybe it’s all those events at once. And they have become withdrawn, pale, grief-stricken. It’s been so long since you’ve seen them like this. It worries you. You don’t know how to be. You don’t know what to say.

But, I ask you not to fear this pain too much. It’s necessary you see. Grieving mothers and fathers need to open up the scar to let the pain out, a bit like blood-letting of the old days.

On the special days we need to release the pain, the love, the sorrow for that one child, whether they died last month or years ago. We often don’t expect it ourselves, it just happens. It’s our way of connecting with them again. It’s our way of being a ‘parent’ to them again. It’s our way of showing them that even though we have laughed and danced and acted relatively normally, we still miss them to our core.

There’s no real way to reach someone on days like this, and don’t worry that you can’t, they don’t need you to. But, they need your presence. They need that silent love that needs no words. They need the strength of another to carry them through the days until the wound slowly closes over again.

No books, no quotes, no signs of hope are needed right now. Whatever that person needs, they will take. Even if it’s just lying on the sofa staring into space, or sleeping, or watching daytime TV while everyone is out being sociable and ‘family’. And give it to them, with grace and love and no expectations of ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘cheering up’. The parent’s love-pain will soon travel from the wound in the pit of their stomach back up to the heart, and they will return to the present. But, right now, they just need to be with them again.

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I refuse to give up on Christmas even though I’m grieving

When I’ve looked at the search terms people use to find my blog, my heart aches. These are just the Christmas-related search terms for my blog this week:

‘Coping with the loss of a child, on what should be their first Christmas’
‘Christmas loss of a child’
‘Christmas cards appropriate to send after losing a child’
‘How to get through our first Christmas since my daughter was killed’
‘First Christmas after the loss of a child’
‘Coping with death of a child at Christmas’
‘Coping through Christmas without my daughter’

These words have been typed by real people, parents, living with real and raw grief, most likely in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep, through tears, in desperation for some website somewhere to tell them just how – how on earth – they canΒ get through the next six weeks in the run up not to mention the actual days of celebration without their child. So many parents feeling suffocated by and lost in the hype and pressure to be excited.

Christmases past

Last year, I wrote this post about how to celebrate Christmas after the death of your child, which some readers may find useful, it’s certainly been read many times already these past few weeks.
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