This Thanksgiving will be my 4th without my son and the 31st without my daughter. With my son, I feel that I have moved past the worst of my grief and my daughter, I know I am well past it. Quite honestly, it is not the number of years that passed that is important, it is that I continue to move forward with life.
I accepted the changes of losing them by giving myself permission to grieve, permission to heal and in my sons case, learn as much as possible about suicide. I even learned about fear with grief and how to work through it. Finally, I believe in a wholistic approach to grief recovery. In order to truly heal and move forward, it is necessary to embrace your entire being with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
I know this to be true, my grief is a journey. All too well I remember those days. In the beginning, it seemed like it was all uphill, no break to the intense heartache or the fight to make sense of what happened.
Today, I want to offer hope after loss. Below is a snapshot of how I was doing with my grief from the first year after Connor died to the upcoming fourth year.
YEAR 1 –
Connor died by suicide in mid-December 2018, putting his death three weeks after Thanksgiving, so my first Thanksgiving without him was almost a year later. As I faced the last holiday that I was with my son, I already had other holidays under my belt without him, Christmas, New Years, Memorial Day, his birthday and all the rest.
Thanksgiving was different than the other holidays because it was the last time I saw him, hugged him, and saw his face in person. I was still quite emotional. I replayed the day in my head, the pictures we took, walking the dogs together as a family. I cried and missed him while spending time with my family. I wanted to be present and loving for them. However, it was critical that I did it for myself. I allowed myself to experience opposing emotions. I did not let my grief and sadness take over my joy.
YEAR 2 –
In year two, I set an empty place setting at the table to honor my son. As a family, we talked about him, and shared memories. On my Facebook feed, my sons post from our last Thanksgiving together popped up:
“Was able to get almost the whole Green family together in one place. Love and miss you all who aren’t around. Thanks for joining us welcomed guests, as we always have a seat for anyone who needs it. I have such gratitude for my family and the people in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am without you! I’m excited for the opportunity ahead of me and grateful I am where I am. That’s all I can ask for. Gratitude is an attitude. Happy Thanksgiving!”
This brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Even in his suffering, my son was grateful.
I wrote Life After Child Loss: The Mother’s Survival Guide to Cope and Find Joy to share about my journey. It was extremely gratifying and healing to put into words how I was working through my grief.
YEAR 3 –
In the third year, I was focused on gratitude. Looking back, I see a theme of gratitude even in my suffering. This is what I wrote about in the third year.
“Thanksgiving is important because it is a positive and secular holiday where expressions of gratitude are made. As someone who is grieving though, you may find it difficult to be grateful. However, gratitude has the power to help you rise above your loss. It is life-affirming and can provide hope and healing in your darkest hour.
“Gratitude reminds us that we can find
happiness even when life is painful and messy, as it often is,”
says Kingsley Gallup, MA, LPC and author of Project Personal Freedom.
Turn your grief into gratitude. Focusing on gratitude helps let go of the past pain and focus on the positive that surrounds you. In your grief, it may be difficult to feel an ounce of gratitude. You might even ask why you should be grateful for anything especially in the wake of the death of a loved one. It seems unfathomable!”
As I reflect on the words I wrote last year, gratitude has eased the pain.
YEAR 4 – THIS YEAR
As I mentioned earlier, I feel that I am past the worst of my grief. I miss my son and daughter, think of them almost every day. If I miss a day of thinking about them, I give myself grace. I don’t feel bad. I understand that it is part of life, moving forward, living in the present.
I continue to face changes in my life. Instead of the big family dinner, I am figuring out what to do. My youngest daughter has moved out of state, my oldest daughter and her family will most likely be away. My niece and her family will be the only ones around. I won’t be fixing a big turkey dinner. As an alternative to the big dinner and everyone gathering at my home, I will be establishing new traditions.
With that, I am eager to start new, start fresh and do something different. I will go for a hike, spread some of Connor’s ashes, journal, express gratitude and eat Cornish game hens! Change, whether caused by grief or life circumstances gives me the opportunity to grow into what I am intended to be. I feel that through my son’s death, it has become easier for me to embrace the uncertainties of life.
I am excited for what lies ahead. My third grandchild is on its way. I have turned my pain into my passion. My second book Survive Your Child’s Suicide: How to Move through Grief to Healing is available on Amazon, and I love sharing my story.
My you find peace and happiness this Thanksgiving.